By Gage Nutter
Nearly two years ago, then-freshman quarterback Chad Shade entered the Pride’s game against WPI with Springfield trailing 17-0. By the time it was all said and done, Shade had led Springfield to an exhilarating 28-23 comeback-win against the Engineers. A game in which he scored two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air.
Most Springfield football fans had the same reaction after the game:
That kid is going to be good.
Two years later, in retrospect, “good” might end up being an understatement.
Junior quarterback Chad Shade scored six touchdowns and rushed for 247 yards on 22 rushing attempts to lead Springfield to victory over Western New England on Friday, 42-21. AJ Smith led the Pride defensively with 11 total tackles.
Shade credits his huge performance to the hard work that his teammates do to put him in positions to be successful.
“Personally, it’s just about having confidence in the guys around me. Our offensive line, half backs, wide receivers, fullbacks; we all prepare for everything that is ahead of us. To be able to go out and have a good day is just a credit to the guys up front and the guys around me. They make my job easier. They open up the holes in front of me and I just have to run. The work that those guys have put in is the reason we were able to come out with the victory today.”
Springfield head coach Mike Cerasuolo feels that Shade represents some of the qualities he is looking for in a Pride football player.
“I think anybody we put on the football field we are expecting to produce and to do it at a high level, Chad is no exception. He is a tremendous athlete in both football and baseball. We are very fortunate to have him on the team. He exemplifies what we are looking for.”
From the beginning of the game, it was evident that the Pride were going to need a big performance out of the team’s defensive unit.
On Springfield’s first offensive play, Shade didn’t get a good hand on the ball after the snap and fumbled. Western New England was able to pick up the ball and start a new drive at the Pride’s 18-yard line. Five plays later, the Golden Bears Peter Hoff scampered in from five yards out to put the game’s first points on the board. After the extra point, Western New England led 7-0 early in the first quarter.
“[The fumble and blocked punt] put our defense in a bad situation,” said Springfield head coach Mike Cerasuolo. “But [the defense] hung in there and kept fighting. They did what Springfield guys do. We are really proud of their effort. After that the offense started to pick up.”
Although the team’s defense was on the field for a good chunk of the first half, sophomore linebacker AJ Smith says he and the team weren’t phased by it.
“It all comes down to practice. It doesn’t matter what situation we are running into. If we have to be on the field all game, that is our duty. We just executed and adapted. We had a lot of injuries on defense and we had a lot of guys step up. That is what we prepare for every week.”
Springfield was without Co-Captain Marlowe Scott in the secondary due to an injury suffered during practice in the week leading up to the game. Cerasuolo is proud of how sophomore Kyle Niehr stepped up in Scott’s absence.
“We had to make some quick adjustments at the end of the week due to some unfortunate injuries,” said Cerasuolo. “[Kyle Niehr] ended up having a really nice game. Once he got accustomed to the speed he really fit himself in there. There is a lot of responsibility in [AJ Smith’s] position and Kyle’s position. They both stepped up and played major roles on the defensive side of the ball.”
In the third quarter, Springfield led 21-7 with around 13 minutes to go in the period. Although Springfield had a two-possession lead, the team’s advantage did not feel totally secure; Pride fullback Josh Thomas helped solve that problem.
Thomas received the ball from Shade on a fullback dive from the team’s own 38-yard line. Thomas collided with a would-be tackler at the goal line, but dropped him like a bad habit. After chugging around 15 more yards’ down field, another would-be tackler emerged in front of Thomas. The senior fullback helped introduce him to the ground with a mighty stiff arm. Pairing his brute strength with deceptive speed, Thomas turned a two-yard carry into a 57-yard run down to the Golden Bears three-yard line. Shade ran the ball in for a touchdown on the next play.
“That was a great run,” said Cerasuolo on Thomas’ impressive third quarter carry. “[Western New England] were starting to pull in a bit, but Josh’s run gave us a bit of breathing room. We just kept grinding. Offensively we just hung together.”
It was evident early-on that Springfield had the athletes in the backfield to make defenders miss, but the Pride’s talent on the offensive line became more obvious as the game wore on too. Most of Springfield’s men up front have played a good amount of snaps together (Nick Bainter, Brennan Fleming, Tim Christensen, Jeremy Lipsky). This has led to a strong bond between players in the group.
“Those guys [the offensive line] click,” said Cerasuolo. “They work hard and work well together. They are a special group and a close-knit group. They have to be, considering how much they have to talk and communicate before the snap.”
With it being the season-opener and a rivalry game, there were a lot of Springfield Football alumni in attendance, including former Springfield quarterback, Jake Eglintine.
Shade served as backup to Eglintine for two seasons before this year. The junior quarterback feels like he learned a lot from Eglintine in those two years.
“Playing with Jake for two years was a good experience for me,” said Shade. “He did a great job running this offense and taught me a lot. I remember last year after the Husson game him telling me ‘This is your team,’ from an offensive perspective. Having him and a bunch of guys come back to support the game today just shows what a Brotherhood this team really is.”
Coming into this season off of an undefeated campaign last year, most teams will be marking their calendars for when Springfield comes to their campus. Shade says the team doesn’t feel like the program has a target on their backs, actually quite the opposite.
“We don’t really look at it as having a target on our back. We look at it like they have a target on their back because of our preparation. We just worry about what we do here at Springfield and going 1-0 every day. Whether it is practice or a film session, that is what we are focusing on doing, then everything will take care of itself on the field.”