County high school football standouts head to annual Chowder Bowl
You don't have to remind Gary Campbell Jr. of the Western Massachusetts football team's success -- or lack thereof -- in the Shrine Chowder Bowl Classic.
He knows it off the top of his head.
"We are 1-10-1 overall," the Wahconah Regional head coach said Thursday. "It's certainly something that's in our mind as we practice. It's something we rally around. We're here to win this game."
Campbell, the West's outside linebackers coach, will be joined by four Berkshire County seniors in the June 21 game at Doyle Field in Leominster: Wahconah tight end/linebacker Jordan Fiske, St. Joseph defensive back/running back Jon Bianchi and running back Lavante Wiggins, and Lee wideout/d-back Nick Sitzer.
Wiggins is the second member of his family to play in the Chowder Bowl in as many years; brother Joe was a wide receiver for the West last year in Springfield.
Lavante had plenty of questions for Joe. First and foremost among them: How close to the next level -- be it prep school or college -- is the pace and style of play in the Chowder Bowl?
"He said ... it would be exactly as good as the players I'd be playing against at the next level," Lavante said. "They're big, they're fast. It's going to be fine."
The Berkshire School-bound Wiggins said he's taking repetitions at both running back and tight end -- a position he's never played -- for the West squad. To learn the new position, he's been picking Fiske's brain.
Fiske's biggest catch this past season came in the Western Mass. Division II Super Bowl, setting up Wahconah's go-ahead score in that December game in Foxborough. Campbell said Fiske is heading to Great Barrington-based East Coast Prep for a postgraduate year, and will attempt to play college football after that.
"It's a great experience for the kids," Campbell said of the Chowder Bowl. "They really get to get in and find out what it's like at another level of football."
And for Wiggins, it also means one more game with longtime teammate Bianchi.
"Our season didn't end the way we wanted it to, but we get another chance for a big opportunity, and make our last game memorable," Wiggins said.
As for the lopsided record? Campbell said the West players will simply have to stand their ground physically if they're to win the game for the first time since 2003.
"If you're more physical and more assertive, the kids that step up really do a good job," he said.
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