That’s definitely not how the story was supposed to be written. A 43-40 loss against MIT, no post season.
No bowl game.
But, it did.
In a post game interview, senior quarterback, Chad Shade, hit it right on the head when he said, “We are not defined by this [loss].”
I don’t even know where I could begin to explain to team 129 how they are defined.
If there was one more game, I think the lot behind Blake Arena would pack out, trunks would unload tents and portable grills, just as they always do. Little siblings and cousins alike would play catch with their dads and older brothers in between the rows of cars, and it would be a sea of maroon and a faint aroma of tailgating food from passing on King Street.
The townhouses would empty for one more Saturday midday football game and students would line the chain-link fence across from the stands and pressbox.
I think students, families and faculty would still show up because what defined team 129 went way beyond a win or loss.
I walked up and down the field for three years. I spent more Saturdays in the four fall semesters of my college career on a football field taking photos and videos for the Springfield College Athletics page than anything else that could have possibly been worthwhile.
Spending time on a college football sidelines created some of the best memories of my college days for sure. But, this column isn’t about me. It shouldn’t be, it’s about the moments I witnessed over the past four years.
There’s just so many I really don’t even know where I could start.
When I think of a defining moment of the football team, I think about the first ever New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Champions.
Although it was two years ago, it happened on Springfield turf, a 43-7 win over MIT. The football team was undefeated that year leading into the final game, all they had to do was squeak by and the title was theirs.
And yet they still pounded away in a “look at me now,” fashion.
Banners dropped open and celebration was so sporadic over Stagg field. Everyone started putting on those white T-shirts that everyone wants so badly.
The ones that read ‘NEWMAC CHAMPION.’
President Mary-Beth Cooper walked out the first ever NEWMAC trophy on Stagg and let me tell you, seeing the trophy up close and in person, just made it all the more surreal.
When I think about defining moments I think about later that same year, Jordan Wilcox being a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, which recognizes excellence in athletics, academics and community service.
That alone is an accomplishment itself. But, when traveling down to the trophy presentation, many members of the football team traveled down with him to rally behind him and his accomplishment. He was one of the only nominees in the room to be accompanied by members of their respective teams.
And speaking of showing up in the name of Brotherhood.
Luke was drafted as a Team Impact player in the spring of 2013 after first being diagnosed with Leukemia in 2011.
And over the years, members of the Springfield football team would call Luke on their off days, in their spare time just to hear about his day.
Most would shoot him texts just to tell him to keep on fighting when he found himself in the hospital a couple years ago, clinging to life. The support went far beyond a telephone for the Brotherhood. Members of the team took a trip to Boston Children’s Hospital to see him in recovery after relapsing with leukemia in April of 2016.
And still, despite surgery, despite an almost lost battle, Luke sat on the sidelines that upcoming season to greet the seniors who played their last game this past Saturday.
That is brotherhood.
Those are defining moments.
Mr. Bradley, Luke’s father, gave the keynote address at the 2016 Team Impact Gala and he spoke on the relationship Luke has formulated with members of the Brotherhood over the seven years he’s been apart of the Pride.
Mr. Bradley opened his keynote address by saying his son, Luke, stopped breathing several days before. After being resuscitated, he soon contracted bacterial meningitis.
He said it’s a miracle he is alive.
And Luke has been on the sidelines of every season since.
In the wake of no bowl-game and no postseason, it might be easy to overlook that every year, the Springfield College football team raises hundreds of dollars towards childhood cancer research by shaving their heads.
That is a continuous moment that defines a program over and over again.
A defining moment was when Taylor Jackson, a member of the Springfield College Gymnastics team, took to the block ‘S’ in the middle of Stagg Field to sing the national anthem before the 2019 home opener against Kean University.
The audio kept cutting in and out, noticeably and without sugar-coating it, totally botching the national anthem as a whole.
It wasn’t Jackson’s fault at all, she was doing great, but the technical difficulties were really masking her performance.
I mostly ignored the situation and just quietly murmured the remainder of the national anthem to myself like anyone else would do. But, my personal choir was interrupted by the soft singing of the football team.
That is a testimony to the program.
That is a defining moment.
These are just a few among many.
I could start with the brotherhood challenge, the fact this program builds athletes that have potential to be future NFL prospects and earn invitations to Rookie Camps with the Saints. This program sends their players to the XFL.
A defining moment was moving the starting halfback to starting quarterback and still winning. The entire 2018 season is a testimony to what this group is really capable of. Hunter Belzo literally led team 128 to a winning season and through a New England Bowl Game.
So many memories come to mind.
However, in response to Chad Shade, his defining moment was his entire career.
And I’d like to note those aren’t words of my own, but the words of the few I’ve asked.
Emerging through the ranks his freshman year to pull a comeback victory over WPI for a 28-23 finish. Shade totaled 164 yards, two touchdowns and completed two passes for 76 yards and a score.
Junior year, Shade brought the Pynchon SAW, a cross-town rival game between Western New England and Springfield, home after a jaw-dropping performance rushing 247 yards and scoring all six of the Prides touchdowns.
That was just a couple short months after setting a new program record on the baseball diamond for runs scored in a single season with 49.
Springfield football has been defined many times through some of the memories I mentioned before. This loss, although not how the season was supposed to end, does not define a string of years that have been foundational in defining a program and those who pass through it.
I know this to be true by just being in short association with the group. My contribution was almost nothing, other than taking pictures and videos that makes these stories come alive.
And if I never stand on the sidelines of a football game again, at least I can say the sideline I once stood on was for a class act organization with a disciplined, driven coach who absolutely breathes the Springfield College mission into his players and lets them bleed maroon onto Stagg Field on a couple Saturdays throughout their college years.
Photo Courtesy Daniela Detore