Wahconah football team gets rare treat in Division II Super Bowl
DALTON -- Gary Campbell Jr. is going to enjoy Wahconah's football experience at Gillette Stadium long after Saturday's Western Mass. Division II Super Bowl has been played.
He wants his Warriors, though, to take it all in this week.
"When I do review it later this year and later in life ... I think I'll enjoy it more," the Wahconah coach said. "Right now, I'm a football coach. Now I also see a game."
There's a lot to be done on and off the field before Saturday's 6 p.m. kickoff against South Hadley in Foxborough. The players only have to worry about things like blocking assignments, pass routes and blitz packages.
Of course, those weren't the first things on their minds in the 24 hours after the clock read 0:00 in their semifinal win over Hoosac Valley. In a postgame huddle at Westfield State University, the players began to chant, "Gillette! Gillette! Gillette!"
"Thinking about stepping on that field is pretty crazy," Wahconah senior Joe DiMassimo said. "You're standing on the same place the Patriots play. I can envision it right now. It's going to be awesome playing there."
For the Warriors, it's the biggest stadium in which they've played. For many of them, it's also the workplace of their athletic heroes, the New England Patriots.
"The majority of our kids are Patriot fans, and see it on TV every Sunday," Campbell said. "They know they're going to be running out on that field. I think it really, really has sunk in now. They were sky-high today. Their next goal is to do well on that field.
"Hopefully [today], a little bit of that sky-high [feeling] will simmer down, and it gets back into football."
While the Warriors had a brief walkthrough and a film session Wednesday, co-athletic director Ken Pease was concluding the first of a number of busy days this week.
For Pease, the work began Tuesday morning. Kraft Sports Productions, which will produce Super Bowl broadcasts from Gillette on Saturday, emailed Wahconah administrators looking for things like phonetic spellings of names, records and back stories on players and coaches.
Wednesday, Pease handled emails, phone calls and text messages on issues like fan bus possibilities, as well as preparing for the upcoming winter sports season at WRHS -- while still tending to his job as head custodian at Craneville Elementary.
"Suffice it to say, today was hectic, to say the least," Pease said.
It doesn't get any easier today. Pease will join Campbell, Wahconah's captains and other school personnel in Foxborough this morning for the MIAA's 9 a.m. Super Bowl breakfast, followed by coach and captain media availability at 11:30. Then he heads back to Dalton for the annual winter-sports meeting with coaches and players, before tying up loose ends Friday.
Pease may need a serious nap at week's end, but he doesn't mind the work. He knows his co-AD, Campbell, has other things on his mind.
"I want Gary to focus on football, and the coaching part of it," Pease said. "I told him, ‘I'll try to make everything else happen, and if I have a problem or question, I'll run it by you and see what you think.' "
True to his word, Pease ran issues by Campbell and his staff twice within an hour of saying that.
Campbell, in his second stint as Wahconah coach, has led the team to Super Bowls before. They've never, though, been held in an NFL stadium. He knows these opportunities are rare, so he wants his players to enjoy the moment.
"We're going to allow them that time, a couple hours in pregame, to walk the stadium, take pictures with their phones, do all their things that every kid would want to do," Campbell said. "It would be a travesty if I were to arrive 45 minutes before game time, warm them up, get them on the field, off the field and not enjoy this."
The key for the Warriors, though, will be getting over the magnitude of the setting, and focusing on what they're on the Gillette turf to do -- beat South Hadley and win the program's first Super Bowl championship in nine years.
"The nerves are going to be really intimidating," DiMassimo said. "We're just going to have to act like we're playing at our field."
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