Division II Super Bowl: Wahconah's football march is headed for Gillette today
The backdrop of a National Football League stadium won't be the only dazzling sight the Wahconah football team sees in tonight's Western Mass. Division II Super Bowl.
Once the Warrior defense takes the field at Gillette Stadium, South Hadley's offense will show them quite a bit, too -- namely, speed and a lot of motion before the snap.
"Because their spread offense is so multiple -- in other words, they give you a lot of eye candy, a lot of things to decipher quickly -- we need to decipher what sets they're in right away to align us," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. "That might be the key to the ballgame."
The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. kickoff in Foxborough.
Wahconah (8-3), looking for its first Super Bowl victory since 2003, faces a South Hadley squad that hasn't lost a Division II game all season. The Tigers (9-2) won their last Super Bowl two years ago.
If the Warriors are to prevail on the state's biggest stage tonight, they'll definitely have to change at least one part of the game plan that got them to Foxborough. In a 22-0 semifinal win over Hoosac Valley, Wahconah quarterback Lane Grogan only attempted two passes.
"I thought we would have to throw a lot more, but that was a credit to our offensive line, I think, more than anything," Campbell said. "Field conditions dictate that, too. For artificial turf, it was as bad of conditions as you can get. Sloppy, wet, cold. Those types of things. It ends up being a ball-control [game]."
South Hadley coach Eric Scammons expects more than just a strong run game from the Warriors. He sees a lot of similarities in the teams' spread offenses, and has a lot of respect for Grogan, a throwing and rushing threat on offense.
"I think it all starts with Grogan," Scammons said. "He's a multi-threat. You can tell that just by reading his statistics. It really stands out when you watch him on film.
"They don't run a ton of different plays, but they run a lot of different formations. I think they try to find a way they can get an advantage ... and when they find that, they attack it."
Campbell believes the Warriors' offense will keep the Tigers honest, as he said, and expects a more balanced game out of his team tonight.
"Defensively, they will, if we get into any of our power sets, add guys to the line of scrimmage," he said. "We're used to that. I think, in Berkshire County, you get used to eight-, even nine-man fronts."
The Tigers can put plenty of points on the board, as evidenced in wins over Ludlow (49-0), Cathedral (67-16) and Amherst (49-7). They beat Commerce 28-8 in Tuesday's semifinals to reach Gillette.
South Hadley's strength is in its ground game -- namely wing backs Bryan Shippee and T.J. Fitzell -- but the Tigers threw three touchdown passes in the win over Commerce.
Scammons doesn't expect the turf of Gillette to give his speedy players too much of an advantage, though. After all, Wahconah's fast players are on the same turf.
"It's all relative," he said. "I know our guys like playing on the turf, so if that makes a difference psychologically for them, that's a slight advantage."
Scammons was South Hadley's offensive coordinator in the early 2000s, and has lost to Campbell's Wahconah teams twice. He expects the Warriors to have outstanding linemen, and thinks the game will go to the team that controls the line of scrimmage.
"We were fortunate against Commerce," he said. "We put the ball on the ground a little too often. Some of those, we got back. [Wahconah] can dominate time of possession if you can't take the ball away from them.
"Our offense isn't really built for third and long or second and long."