Keeping Score: A little high school gridiron guidance

Published: 11/11/2022 8:30:18 PM

Good morning!
Early this week a veteran high school football official went on the record about the gridiron talent he’s seen this fall, provided he remains anonymous. “Officiating is about the players and respect for the game,” he explained. “It should never be about the officials.”

One of the thrills of being on the gridiron is seeing good talent up close, and Will Watson III is tops on his list. The senior quarterback at Springfield Central has already won two state titles and was gunning for a third in the MIAA Division 1 quarterfinals on Thursday against Xaverian High School of Westwood – a 56-22 win that put the Golden Eagles into the semifinals.

Central is 9-1, its only loss coming against the 25th-ranked team in the nation in September, St. John’s College High School of Maryland, 41-24.

In July, Watson’s father Bill was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach after Valdamar Brower left for UMass. “I’ve known Bill Watson since he graduated from AIC and played in the Springfield touch league,” the official said. “He is a strong competitor, fair and level headed and his son is the same. He has great wheels and a rocket for an arm. At the coin toss and during the game, he’s well spoken and self-effacing.”

At this writing Watson had passed for 1,672 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions, and rushed for 746 yards and 19 TDs.

“I don’t like to fly the flag all the time, but I feel he’s the best in the country at his position,” his dad told the Boston Globe.

Watson was recruited by Nebraska OC Mark Whipple and committed to the Huskers last winter, but coach Scott Frost was fired in September and Nebraska’s lost six of nine.

“I’m not sure he’ll be the starting QB at Nebraska, but he’ll definitely be an asset to a college team somewhere,” said the ref.

“The Chicopee Comp quarterback Ja’Cyion Cox impressed me and their linebacker Treyton Brunault played hard to the whistle and then helped up his opponent after the play — impressive for a high school kid.

“The Northampton QB (Ben Sledzieski) is also very talented. He throws a bullet from any arm angle while running in either direction, like Patrick Mahomes.”

These players’ skills are the result of youth football organizations like the Suburban Amateur Football League. The Division I Super Bowls are this morning at East Longmeadow High School starting at 10:30 a.m., and the Division II Super Bowls are at Agawam High School starting at 5 p.m.

Congratulations to the coaches and players, and to the parents whose children play for the Franklin County Bulldogs and Frontier Redhawks. They’ve been taught respect and sportsmanship. The national anthem is played before each game, the kids hand the football to the refs after scoring, and both teams shake hands afterward.

The Franklin County Pee Wees play South Hadley at 5 p.m., the Frontier Juniors play Easthampton at 6 p.m. and the Franklin County Seniors play Northampton at 7 p.m.


UMass sports lost a great fan this week with the unexpected passing of Sunderland’s John Zewski. John went to the coaches’ luncheons, bought season tickets for all the teams and always had the latest gossip. His smiling presence will be missed at the Mullins Center, Sortino Field and anyplace else UMass was hosting a game. His absence has hit a lot of people hard, including his former colleagues at the Franklin County jail where he worked for three decades. My condolences to his family for losing such a solid and genuine citizen.


Any doubt that Frank Martin is the right man for the UMass basketball job was dispelled on Monday against Central Conn. State. The bellwether moment happened during a timeout late in the first half when 6-7, 259-pound forward Isaac Kante sauntered back to the bench. TV viewers heard it first, then saw a wild-eyed Martin in Kante’s face. The replay showed him glaring at Kante, asking “Whattreyadoin?” and unloading a stream of unpleasant words at Kante while his stunned teammates watched.

Last year’s coach Matt McCall would’ve just looked at his clipboard. Indeed, Martin’s the kind of coach UMass has lacked since Steve Lappas stormed around the court. He’s passionate, the players respect him and win or lose the fans are in for a show.


Eduardo Perez can’t decide who he feels owns the single season home run record, the clean Aaron Judge with 62 or the dirty Barry Bonds with 73. Perez played in the Senior Circuit when Bonds was mashing. “I don’t want to erase that from my mind,” he told Steve Phillips during their morning satellite show. “I saw it. I witnessed it, and I played with those guys. It’s hard for me to erase what I saw and say that didn’t happen. These guys were special. As a broadcaster I’ll say Judge has the record. As a former player he does not.”


No sport generates memories like baseball, just ask Turners Falls’ Gary Earles. “I grew up in Oxford, N.J., west of the City and saw Mantle, Maris, Berra… When I was a kid I was at Yankee Stadium with my father and his best buddy Al and his son Glenn. We brought another kid, he didn’t have much and we wanted to treat him for the day.

“About the fifth inning Glenn and I had to go hit the head and when we came back everyone was beaming. The kid had caught a foul ball off the bat of Rocky Colavito. Here’s this kid who doesn’t have much and he’s sitting there holding a Colavito foul ball. That’s my baseball story.”

Indeed, that’s baseball Suzyn.


SQUIBBERS: The Powertown’s Mike Cadran says Springfield Central “could very well be the best team in modern WMass football history” and added that WMass teams were 2-8 in the first round of the MIAA playoffs. The Golden Eagles beat Shrewsbury, 60-14, and Wahconah beat West Bridgewater, 35-15. … The late great Carl Beane was remembered by WFAN’s Al Dukes and Jerry Recco during a recent riff about stringers. Beane did 20-second blurbs from Foxboro, Fenway Park, the Garden, Whalers games and wherever else for radio anchors who needed quick updates in the age before the internet. .… Reader Paul White of Providence informs us that a UMass pass-and-catch against UConn on Friday made No. 8 on ESPN’s Plays of the Day. …. Adam Vinatieri’s son AJ committed to UMass but switched to Ball State where he’s been behind grad transfer Ben Von Gunten who’s 15-of-19 between the uprights. AJ’s warmed the bench all season. … Hockey East boasts the top four teams in save percentage — Northeastern (.943), UMass-Lowell (.942), UConn (.937), and surprise, surprise, UMass (.933). …Kentucky Derby longshot Rich Strike finished fourth in the BC Classic behind Taiba, Olympiad and Flightline to fill out a 4-7-1-8 Super that paid $69.16 on a dime bet. Trained by John Sadler, Flightline won by eight lengths; “romped” wrote the chartwriter. … Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard on Mac Jones: “They don’t know how to fix Mac Jones so they’d rather deal with Bailey Zappe who’s a blank slate.” … Nick Castellanos’ foul fly ball had barely settled in Kyle Tucker’s glove when the 2023 World Series odds were posted. The Dodgers, Astros, Braves and Yankees are 5-, 7-, 8-, and 9-1 respectively. The Red Sox are 40-1. They don’t have starting pitching, a bullpen, catcher or right fielder but other than that they’re good. … Like Yogi once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up someplace else.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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