High School: Division 1 – Springfield Central 56, Xaverian 22; Golden Eagles waltz into D1 semifinals

SPRINGFIELD — The senior class for the Springfield Central program has accomplished a lot over these last few years.

The Golden Eagles won a Division 3 state title over a strong Duxbury team. Covid took away its chances at another crown in Fall II. But then Central won the D1 state championship in 2021.

So, Friday night, that group had a chance to play its last game on its home field in a D1 quarterfinal showdown against Xaverian.

Needless to say, the Golden Eagles were not about to waste the opportunity.

Despite facing some early adversity, Central responded like the champion it is and eventually rolled to a 56-22, running clock rout of Xaverian.

Central improves to 9-1 on the season and advances to the D1 Final Four. Xaverian drops to 7-3.

“I always have trust in the offense,” Central coach Bill Watson said. “I’ve got trust in the whole team, all three phases. I think we have some great athletes that are really locked in, and have been locked in for a long time. I’m not talking about just this year. These guys have been locked in since middle school. They’ve been doing all the things they need to do to be great. This is their time. You’re seeing it, the ending to all that hard work.”

Nebraska-bound quarterback William Watson was tremendous in the win. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores in the second quarter. Tariq Thomas added 53 yards rushing and a late touchdown.

The defense was just as impressive, as defensive end Josiah Griffin (Boston College commit) and defensive tackle Bryce Gentry Warrick (Merrimack commit) combined for five sacks, with the former getting three and the latter two, respectively.

All in all, Central looked every bit the favorite to repeat as D1 champs, taking down Xaverian in much more convincing fashion than did Catholic Memorial in the regular season.

“Speed. You either have it, or you’re chasing it,” Xaverian coach Al Fornaro said to sum up his opponent Friday night. “Obviously, the quarterback is just dynamic. We didn’t tackle well. We had a few injuries, but maybe the score would have been closer by maybe a touchdown? They’re better than we were, period.”

The Central lead was just 20-14 at halftime, but it did not stay that way for long. Kymari Latney returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.

On Xaverian’s next possession, Shaun’dez Buckhannon returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown as Central took a 34-14 lead. The visiting Hawks were unable to recover.

The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 40-14 late in the third when Watson hit Connelius Patrick for a 26-yard touchdown.

The Hawks kept fighting, as Henry Hasselebeck (10 of 15 passing for 163 yards) ran for his second touchdown on the ground, but those were the last points Xaverian got.

Watson hit Mattias Barbour for a 34-yard touchdown on the next Central drive, and Thomas scored a 1-yard touchdown late to help close the scoring.

Watson was pleased with the offense, but also with the defense and special teams touchdowns.

“Oh, yeah, most definitely,” said Watson. “When the defense and special teams are scoring, man, listen, it’s going to be a whole different ballgame. A whole different ballgame.”

Xaverian scored first in the second quarter when Hasselbeck hit Jonathan Monteiro on a 14-yard touchdown. Monteiro was a bright spot for the Hawks with 88 yards receiving on four catches.

But as it did all night, Central had an answer. The Golden Eagles scored the next 20 points, as Watson rushed for two scores and threw another on a 24-yarder to Barbour.

Xaverian cut the deficit to 20-14 late in the half when Hasselbeck ran in a 4-yard score.

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