SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The transformation of Springfield Central football began a year ago, after the Golden Eagles defeated super power Longmeadow twice — once during the regular season and later in the Division 1 Western Mass. Super Bowl.
The Lancers' gridiron stranglehold, not only in Western Mass., but statewide has dwindled some.
On Friday, Longmeadow was looking to regain some of that magic of yesteryear, when they were winning Super Bowls at random (20 appearances since 1984 and 13 titles), against the Golden Eagles in the semifinal round of the Division 2 Western Mass. playoffs at Fred Berte Field.
But as Central proved once again, it’s simply more talented, much faster and overall, just plain better than its AA Conference rival. The Golden Eagles secured a big lead early and went on to post a 35-12 victory.
Central (8-1) will host Westfield next Friday (7 p.m.) in the final. The Bombers crushed East Longmeadow in the other semifinal, 49-26. The Golden Eagles drubbed Westfield a week ago, 52-14.
The Golden Eagles out-gained the Lancers 371 yards to 197, with most of it coming on the ground.
"Longmeadow is a well-coached team and their kids play hard," Central coach Valdamar Brower said. "Tonight, our offensive line played their tails off I thought. Our receivers on the edge did a great job blocking. Tonight, we took what was there. It was nothing fancy. It's all about moving the chains and finish drives."
Central found the end zone three times in the opening half to race out to a 21-0 lead.
Senior Cody Williams, arguably the best duel-threat quarterback in the state, put the Golden Eagles on the board midway through the first quarter with a 1-yard dive over the goal line to cap a 54-yard drive. Following a Lancer punt, Central took over on its own 14. A 38-yard pass and catch from Cody Williams to Ju'an Williams would lead to another Cody Williams dive over the pylon from two yards away with 8:17 to go before the half, putting Central up by 14.
Longmeadow's offense did little to help the cause on its next possession. A fumble by junior running back Keegan Barry was scooped up by Central's Tyreque Estrada-Crapps at the Lancer 35. Sticking primarily with the running attack, Troy Morrow finished the eight-play drive with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to make it a 21-point game with 1:35 remaining before halftime.
"Longmeadow played us great earlier in the season (a 19-7 Central triumph)," said Cody Williams, who finished with 56 yards on 7 carries and passed for 77 yards, completing 4-of-6. "They're a tough team and time consuming team too. “We were able to get on top and keep it going from there."
Longmeadow (5-4) got on the board late in the third quarter. A ball-control drive ate up 67 yards before Barry busted through for a 26-yard scoring run.
But Central continued to flourish once the ball was back in the hands of its offense. A Ju'an Williams 18-yard catch was preceded by a Cody Williams 16-yard scamper. DaQuan Clemons, a senior back, finished things off with an 11-yard run into the end zone to up the Golden Eagles lead to 28-6 with just 12 seconds showing in the quarter.
Give the Lancers credit. They could've easily rolled over, but that isn't their style.
On the ensuing possession, behind the running of Barry and senior Max Chipouras (104 yards on 22 attempts), Longmeadow moved down field to set up a Chipouras 23-yard carry across the goal line, cutting the deficit to 28-12 with 8:10 left.
But thoughts of a comeback were soon diminished after Morrow (12 carries, 106 yards) blasted through the Lancers defense for 41 yards with under three minutes left to seal the deal.
"We made some mistakes in the first half that hurt us," Longmeadow second-year coach Nick St. George said. "We lack some intensity. But I thought we bounced back in the second half and played hard. We just couldn't climb out of the hole we created in the first half."