‘Super Bad’; Northbridge High rocked in Super Bowl…Once Again

advice-homer.0

SUPER SATURDAY, DEC. 6, 2014

 It’s that time of year again, Super Saturday. This year, Massachusetts State Championship Super Saturday fell on December 6th, and twelve high-powered high school football teams from across the state gathered at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, home of the New England Patriots, to decide the fate of six state championships; one for each of the six divisions here in Massachusetts.

For the third season running-and eighteenth in their rich history- the Northbridge Rams were one of the twelve teams on hand vying for a title, and for the third straight year, they failed…and once again, it was pretty miserable sight to behold.

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WHAT DID THE COACH HAVE TO SAY?

“It was a little embarrassing, you know?” explained the straightforward and legendary Northbridge High head coach, Ken LaChapelle, who just-so happens to be the winningest high school football coach in Massachusetts history (331-107-6), following the gut-wrenching and heart-breaking defeat. “We got outclassed; we were outplayed and ‘out-toughed.’ And I really don’t know what else to say.”

The Northbridge High School Rams Head Coach Ken LaChapelle.on a much happier day than this one happened to be.

It’s funny Coach, because apart from maybe commenting on your inventing a new word to describe the putrid performance, we don’t really know what to say either. It seems as though one of the most storied schools in state just can’t win the big game anymore.

Now just 10-8 in championship contests, the Rams have looked, well, embarrassing on the big stage in recent years. Losing these last three years by a combined score of 85-6 says one of two things: Northbridge just hasn’t been that good, or, Eastern Mass. teams are just a whole lot better than Central Mass. teams. Set aside their Super Bowl defeats, and you’ll see that the Rams have amassed a combined 32-6 record over the last three seasons, so it’d be awfully difficult to say that this team just isn’t all that good.

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QB Kobe Schofer shows his disappointment during a 36-6 loss to Abington on Saturday, Dec. 6th.

OH KOBY, THAT, MY FRIEND, WAS REALLY BAD

Junior quarterback Koby Schofer, who was NOT himself under the relentless pressure of the Abington defensive front (9-27, 80 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT’s) is surely sick of losing ‘the big one.’ Such sentiment can be clearly seen in the above photograph, which was taken at the conclusion of the 2014 Super Bowl State Championship game, a 36-6 loss to Abington High on December 6th.

In each of the last three years, Northbridge has been totally embarrassed in the big game, sadly after putting together terrific regular seasons and spirited postseason runs. So the question is: why and what happened? Losses of 21-0 to Grafton High in 2012, 28-0 to Bishop Fenwick in 2013, and 36-6 this year to Abington just cannot be explained away by mere ‘bad days.’

(Follow the maroon, blue and lime green links for game-specific stories covering the Rams repeated ‘Super’ defeats.)

327 AND COUNTING…BUT WHAT DOES THAT MATTER?

Nevertheless, the state’s winningest high school football coach with 327 wins, all at Northbridge High, cannot tell us why his team can’t get over the hump, despite having a squad brimming with talent and tradition.

“We’ll reflect on the season in a few weeks, but right now, we’re very disappointed. You go in 12-0 and if nothing else, you’d like to have had a little better showing than we did.”

The entire experience could be summed up during a during a nightmare, four-minute sequence at the start of the third quarter. The poorly timed combination of bad Northbridge luck, and easy Abington points that took place, quickly ended any and all championship hopes for the previously undefeated Rams.

“That was just a bleeding, poor animal, out in the woods, getting eaten up by wolves; that’s what that ended up being,” said an animated LaChapelle.

The  heart-breaking stretch saw the Green Wave lead balloon from 15 to 36, ending the Rams championship hopes.

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A little Rams fan cries during an embarrassing Super Bowl loss to Abington.

SO, WHAT, HA-HAPPENED WAS…

The bottom line is simple; it’s heartbreaking and inexplicable. Northbridge will only graduate six players from this year’s team, so in all likelihood, they will be the odds-on favorite to represent Central Mass in the 2015 Super Bowl State Championship game.

Should they get back for a fourth straight year, they will not only face becoming the Buffalo Bills of high school football (Buffalo went to, and lost, four straight NFL Super Bowls in the early 1990’s), but they will also have the chance to be first team in the state to reach the championship game four years in a row.

One has to wonder if the Rams will ever even want to go back to Gillette.

What do you think? If you’ve got your own opinion, please, leave a comment and let me hear all about it. Let’s keep it (fairly) clean and respectful everyone, lol. 
Check out the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Central Mass sports 
page,'Hometeam,' to find out more about the Worcester County sports 
scene. 

For links to other Northbridge High football coverage head on over 
to Stonebridge Press, Inc., for stories and photos by yours truly. 

Also, check out my Twitter feed, @jon_gouin, and give me a follow 
for crying out loud. In exchange I promise to give you live updates
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When ‘Tweeting’ Goes Wrong

crying girl

A Valuable Lesson to be Learned

 As you can see in the above photo of Stephanie Rice, an Australian Olympic swimmer, Twitter can be bad for your career if you aren’t doing it right. It’s good to be sure that what you’re sending out when you hit, “Tweet,” is truly what you want the world to know about exactly ‘what’s happening,’ in your world.

Social media outlets are a fairly new and wonderful thing in our online lives and for the most part, there are plenty of positives which they present. But sometimes in the world of sports, the incredibly powerful 140 characters of Twitter can go terribly wrong. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots…

On second thought, don’t ask Coach, don’t ask Coach anything…ever.

The Danger of Social Media Flubs

So instead, let me fill you in on just how wrong things can go when we let the world read our thoughts in 140 characters of un-checked opinion.

A quick search of the web can land you on page after page of news regarding ‘tweets’ that have landed rich and famous athletes in gallons upon gallons of hot water. The most troubling things you’ll find, is that no one seems to learn the one lesson at hand; Twitter is open to the public!

When posting 140 characters of opinion, be ready for the blowback.

What NOT to Do on Twitter

I recently learned myself just how badly things can go when you tweet the wrong thing and the wrong people see it. Upon the completion of a football I was covering at Westfield State College in Westfield, MA on November, 22, I made the biggest mistake of my brief Twitter career.

  • The short version of the story goes a like this. My tweet announced the final result of the game, “Shepherd Hill falls in Div. 4 State Semifinal, 36-20, to a classless Wahconah squad here in Westfield, Rams will certainly be back in 2015.”

Having used information I got via my on-field access and contact with coaches and players, I was informed that the Wahconah squad had behaved rather terribly throughout the contest, pre-game, and postgame and that their head coach even refused to shake hands as is customary at game’s end.

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Just One Word

This was a terrible mistake on my part. I took for granted the fact that I was there to cover Shepherd Hill, a team from nearby Dudley, MA, not Wahconah, a squad that plays nearly 100 miles from my home. Well, needless to say, when you’re tweeting, the world finds out, and they find out quickly.

  • It only took one search for “Wahconah” by a parent looking for game info to start the avalanche that ensued. “Shots fired from CMASS! RT @jon_gouin…” the angry parent wrote, while retweeting my post to all of his friends in Western Mass, including to the Wahconah Athletic Director and the school’s Twitter feed and fan support feed.

“The phone blew up like we were having a f-ing telethon”- Dave Chappelle

What followed closely resembled a telethon on my iPhone. Every few seconds I’d get a Twitter notification of a new direct message from another angry parent, who, in reality did not have the inside information that I did, only the ‘shot fired’ from my Twitter feed, but, that was all it took.

  • Needless to say, it took a lot of explaining, and an awful lot of apologies for that one word, ‘classless,’ and while in my heart I felt that I wasn’t entirely wrong in what I said, I knew deep down that perhaps I should have said it differently.

Lesson Learned.

In the end, the mistake cost me, just like a professional athlete may feel the blowback for his untimely or even despicable tweet. Sure, I wasn’t suspended, fined, or crucified on national television, but I suffered enough bad publicity in one night to really make me see the depth and capacity of Twitter’s reach. It really made me wonder, how can these athletes keep doing this? I know I’ll never make such an error again!

  • The moral of the story is this: know your audience. And when you’re on social media, especially instant media like Twitter, your audience is everyone. Everyone you’re considering, as well as everyone you aren’t. It only takes one person to link your circle to theirs, and their friends circles to their friends. Before long, you’ve angered dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people just by speaking your mind, whether right or wrong.

    Just know who you’re dealing with when dealing with social media, as you truly never know what one little word may be the ‘shot fired’ that can ruin your day, week, month, or career!

Other Works Cited
Belichick Vine courtesy of: http://notsportscenter.com/vine-bill-belichick-scoffs-at-question-of-a-qb-controversy/
Silvers, Adam. (15 July, 2013). The 50 Most Controversial Tweets in Sports History. Complex Media, Inc. Web. 28 November, 2014. http://www.complex.com/sports/2013/07/the-50-most-controversial-tweets-in-sports-history/
Spongebob Vine courtesy of https://vine.co/v/On7KYbMv5Qe
To read about the Shepherd Hill Rams versus the Wahconah Warriors from the Massachusetts High School football Division 4 State Semifinals, at Westfield State College, on Saturday, Nov. 22, please check out the latest Webster Times, of Stonebridge Press Newspapers, at: http://www.webstertimes.net/pdf/WEB.2014.11.28.pdf.

How the MIAA is killing our Thanksgiving

Rams defeat Uxbridge for title

Northbridge celebrates a win in the D5 District E Championship, on Friday November 14, over rival Uxbridge.

Isn’t Thanksgiving Day Football Supposed to be the Pinnacle of Our Local Sports Love?

If you’re from New England, or even more so, Massachusetts, you may feel you have a certain inalienable right to claim Thanksgiving as your own. It was, as many know, Plymouth, Massachusetts where the Pilgrims landed, and in turn, eventually established the very tradition of Thanksgiving through a chain of events we’ve all come to know through years and years of school and family tradition.

Here in Massachusetts, there’s a little something else which we tie to Thanksgiving, something many sports fans feel they have an inalienable right to: Thanksgiving Day High School football. That’s right, high school football. This is the point in the blog where you, not being from these parts, has a nice chuckle while thinking I may just be crazy. Well, I’m not.

hulkTurkey and Touchdowns

Thanksgiving Day high school football has its tradition rooted deeply in the culture of this great state, and it goes back, in some cases, over 100 years. Rivalries between neighboring towns, neighboring schools, and in some cases, just places that don’t much like each other, highlight the schedule of games which grace the typically muddy, barren and beaten football fields across Massachusetts, in late November.

The list of games to be played on Thanksgiving could go a mile, and take up several posts in reality, but to boast the nation’s oldest, and the nations fiercest rivalries, is already quite enough.

First, the oldest, where the Needham High Rockets and Wellesley Raiders have carried on this time-honored tradition since 1882, a whopping 132 years! And secondly, the fiercest.

This is sort of tricky, because the answer really depends on where you are, or who you ask. You see, because in Massachusetts, every Thanksgiving Day football rivalry, is the fiercest.

That, is Where the Fun Lies.

Turkey

Were you to ask your faithful narrator/writer, he would tell you that the Northbridge Rams and Uxbridge Spartans is by far and away the fiercest high school rivalry in all the land, and he wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Honorable mentions would likely include Boston Latin versus English High (est. 1887), Malden vs. Medford (1889), and East Boston vs. Southie (South Boston).

Today, these rivalries mostly live on, but with the MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) and its’ new playoff structure, Thanksgiving Day football has become something much less revered.

Even sadder, they’ve become much less important.

Gone are the days where a Thanksgiving game could mean the difference between a playoff appearance & the end of a tough season capped by a loss to your most hated rivals.

You see, Thanksgiving falls at the end of the traditional schedule, right around Week 11. With a ten game regular season, then your T-Day game, the playoffs would rightfully start in Week 12.  It was all just so perfect that someone, or something would have to come along and mess it all up.

Enter the MIAA, and their new, seven-game regular season schedule. With such a change (instituted in 2013), Thanksgiving Day games have been rendered all but meaningless, and that, for many, is both sad and infuriating.

These days, teams play seven games, then enter into an 8-team, three-week postseason tournament to decide a District Champion (there are 4 Districts in the state, North, South, West, and Central). Each of those 4 winners play in a semifinal, and the two winners meet at Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium- this year on December 6th- to play for a “unified” State Championship.

That’s all well and good, but what about Turkey-Day?

Let’s look at Northbridge-Uxbridge. These are two very good teams, and that showed this year particularly, with the Rams and Spartans meeting in the District Championship game this past Friday night, Nov. 14.

Northbridge went on to win the game, without much ado, 25-7, earning their spot in the state semis. Meanwhile, the Spartans are eliminated from postseason play; their season over and completely meaningless from here out…except that in ten days, they’ll have to strap on the pads one more time, as these two teams meet again, and that typically historic Thanksgiving-morning clash will be played…for nothing.

Admittedly, Uxbridge will arrive, back at Lasell Field to play for the pride they lost the first time around, but the win will mean nothing to their season, except as a mere bookend to a 13-game season of what-ifs, and what-could-have-beens.

i love uxy

“I don’t always urinate on team names, but when I do, it’s typically Uxbridge High School.” – The Most Interesting Calvin in the World

In the meantime, Northbridge prepares to play this coming Saturday, Nov. 22, in a gargantuan test versus the Western District champs from Pittsfield High School; this coming a mere five days before a rematch with Uxbridge looms; which to them the Rams, amounts to little more than a high-profile scrimmage.

Storied rivalries, dead in an instant.

Northbridge may not even play the majority of their starters this Thanksgiving- which would not exactly go over well for the hundreds in town to be with their families on the holiday, and many, specifically arriving early to catch a 10:15 a.m. kickoff that morning to see their alma-mater battle its’ hated next-door neighbors from Uxbridge.

Should they defeat Pittsfield, they’ll have bigger fish to fry than the already fallen Spartans, with an impending trip to Gillette Stadium just nine days the latter. If a starter or key contributor to get injured in a meaningless contest, and be lost for a state championship contest, how could one be happy?

How could a team prepare for a situation like this? Too often, high school athletes are looked at like professionals, especially around here. I realize we didn’t invent football, and we’re not the only place that has Thanksgiving Day football, but we’re certainly the only place who disregards its importance, albeit for just the second year ever.

Just play the game and deal with it

Uxbridge vs Oxford fb, 9-13-14 038

They could, but if it were your son, would you want him to miss the chance of a lifetime; playing on the same field as the New England Patriots for a state championship, all because of an injury suffered due to some years-old tradition that the 70-somethings in town care more about than the teens? Something needs to be done, a change needs to be made.

We want our Thanksgiving football to mean something again. MIAA, I’m looking at you, and the ball is in your court.

Should you find yourself interested, you can read all about the specifics of the game mentioned in this post, Uxbridge @ Northbridge, from 11-14-14, in the latest Blackstone Valley Tribune. Please visit: http://www.webstertimes.net/pdf/BLA.2014.11.21.pdf.