Senior Bowl returns for 3rd edition

  • Greenfield tailback RJ Byrd is one of 10 local players on The Hills roster for tonight’s third annual Western Mass. Football Senior Bowl, to be played at Springfield College. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Turners Falls quarterback Kyle Dodge is one of 10 local players on The Hills roster for tonight’s third annual Western Mass. Football Senior Bowl, to be played at Springfield College. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2019 10:01:39 PM
Modified: 6/20/2019 10:01:28 PM

Ten local football players will put the finishing touches on their high school careers tonight, as the third annual Western Mass. Football Senior Bowl kicks off at Springfield College’s Stagg Field at 7 p.m.

The event has taken the reigns for the old Shrine Chowder Bowl All-Star Classic, which ran from 2001 until 2013 as a fundraiser for the Shriners Hospital for Children. That event folded following the 2013 edition due to a decrease in interest and lack of agreement in future plans. The latest iteration got the top high school seniors back in an all-star game beginning in 2017, and this year’s third edition is loaded with Franklin County stars.

The game pits players from The Hills against The Valley, with the local players suiting up for The Hills once again. The squad, coached by Wahconah’s Gary Campbell and Hoosac Valley’s Dayne Poirot, is seeking its third win in a row in the series. In last year’s game, the team withstood a goal-line stand in the waning seconds to hold off The Valley, 10-6, at American International College’s Abdow Field.

This time around, The Hills will rely on a roster loaded with Franklin and Berkshire County stars.

There will be plenty of explosion tailback options, as Pioneer graduate/Turners Falls standout Wyatt Keith and Greenfield’s RJ Byrd are both on the roster. Both rushers toppled the 2,000-yard mark in their senior seasons, with Keith setting Franklin County’s all-time single-season yardage mark of 2,355 yards. Byrd finished with 2,092 yards in his senior year, putting his career total at 4,768 yards — third on the all-time Franklin County list.

Athol fullback Dylan Castine is also on the roster, and provides a strong presence in The Hills backfield. Greenfield’s Danny Vega and Turners’ Tyler Lavin are both receiving options that will look to make plays, while quarterbacks Kyle Dodge (Turners Falls) and Matt Hildreth (Frontier) are also in the mix for snaps. Easthampton’s Nick Pellegrini and Wahconah’s Tim Clayton are other signal callers on the roster.

There’s plenty of muscle up front for The Hills from the area. Athol’s Connor Arpide as well as Turners’ Dom Carme and Reilan Castine will occupy the trenches one last time as high school representatives.

In addition to the local players, The Hills roster features graduating seniors from South Hadley, Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Hoosac Valley, Lee, Ludlow, Palmer, Pittsfield, Taconic and Wahconah.

The Valley, coached by Chicopee Comp’s Evan Berneche, will look to win the event for the first time in its three-year history. The roster is comprised of players from Holyoke, Longmeadow, Chicopee Comp, Putnam, East Longmeadow, Central, Minnechaug, Commerce and Westfield.

The Bianchi-Barbarotta Foundation, rooted in Berkshire County, is sponsoring the event and was expected to purchase uniforms for the seniors participating in the event yet again. In the inaugural event, players wore their high school jerseys, before switching to special Hills and Valley uniforms last year. They’ll still wear high school helmets during the game.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the gate.

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