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Despite the loss, South Hadley football will remember trip to Gillette Stadium

  • South Hadley exits after losing in the state finals to Wahconah, 24-21 at Gillette Stadium Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    South Hadley exits after losing in the state finals to Wahconah, 24-21 at Gillette Stadium Saturday.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • The South Hadley Tigers gather in the endzone at Gillette Stadium Saturday before their state final game against Wahconah.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    The South Hadley Tigers gather in the endzone at Gillette Stadium Saturday before their state final game against Wahconah.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley fans cheer  their team during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Wahconah won 24-21. JOSH KUCKENS

    South Hadley fans cheer their team during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Wahconah won 24-21. JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley's Nicholas Watkins gazes up and soaks in his surroundings at Gillette Stadium Saturday before his team's state finals matchup against Wahconah.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

    South Hadley's Nicholas Watkins gazes up and soaks in his surroundings at Gillette Stadium Saturday before his team's state finals matchup against Wahconah.
    JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »

  • South Hadley exits after losing in the state finals to Wahconah, 24-21 at Gillette Stadium Saturday.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • The South Hadley Tigers gather in the endzone at Gillette Stadium Saturday before their state final game against Wahconah.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • South Hadley fans cheer  their team during the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Wahconah won 24-21. JOSH KUCKENS
  • South Hadley's Nicholas Watkins gazes up and soaks in his surroundings at Gillette Stadium Saturday before his team's state finals matchup against Wahconah.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

FOXBOROUGH — South Hadley football coach Eric Scammons, who is a lifelong New England Patriots fan, could not help but being a little bit in awe at times before, during and after his team’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

“I had to pinch myself a few times and refocus myself on the game,” he said. “Before the game, when we were standing behind the end zone and waiting for the previous game to finish, you just look around and say ‘This is where the Patriots play. This is where Bill Belichick coaches.’ The stage doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

The Tigers were visibly devastated following their 24-21 loss to Wahconah Regional, but Scammons knows that eventually the disappointment will wear off and be overtaken by the appreciation for the opportunity and the memory of playing on the biggest stage in New England.

“Even in a loss, obviously it’s disappointing and I’m disappointed for our seniors because they’ve worked so hard and earned the right to play here,” Scammons said. “I just wish we could have gotten a win for them. But I think when they look back on it, after the disappointment wears off, they will really cherish the opportunity they had to play here.”

The game was the fifth of six at Gillette Saturday and an overtime game earlier in the day made for a tight schedule.

“You cannot compare this to any experience they will have in sports ever again,” Scammons said. “Logistically, it was very intense because they are trying to get six games in here, so there was no warm-up time in here. We warmed up in the bubble, which was great, but it breaks your normal routine.

“Once we started to walk to the field and the kids got to get in the stadium, they were on cloud nine,” he added. “I don’t think anybody’s feet hurt the turf until the first kickoff.”

While the Tigers and Warriors were fortunate to reach the Super Bowl the year Division 2 was in the rotation to be played at Gillette — the other three western Massachusetts games were played at Westfield State — every team from the region has the potential to get there in 2013.

All six state championship games will be played at Gillette and if a western Massachusetts team is good enough, it will play on the Patriots’ home field regardless of division.

“Even though it was a loss, it was a memory these kids will always have,” Scammons said. “No one can take away the fact that they made it this far because there are a lot of teams at home that would have been happy to play here, even if it was in a loss.”

Wahconah able to enjoy the best of both worlds.

“Let’s face it, these kids are predominantly Patriot fans,” Warriors coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. “For them to come here in the place where (quarterback Tom) Brady plays and all their heroes run around — and then win — they will hold that forever. Forever.

“They may not remember a certain play or certain thing, but they will be able to say they played on that field,” he added. “Their kids will say ‘Really?’ and they can say ‘Really, and here’s the field.’ I guarantee that DVD is going to be (in their collection) forever.”

ORIOLES SENIORS — Asked following Saturday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 Super Bowl if he honestly thought his team would reach the final game, Belchertown coach John Mayo said no.

The biggest reason the Orioles made it to Westfield State University for the title game was the play of their seniors, nine of whom anchored a defense that allowed under 10 points per game.

Intercounty League champion Belchertown came up short Saturday in a 24-0 loss to three-time Division 3 champ Mount Greylock.

Over the last four seasons, the Orioles compiled an overall record of 32-15. They qualified for the postseason the past three years and reached Saturday’s Super Bowl.

“It was a great experience to get to this point and play in a Super Bowl,” said senior James Ryan. “I love every one of these guys. We’re a brotherhood, and that will never change. I had the best time of my life. I’m going to remember everything, there’s nothing about this season that was forgettable.”

Added senior captain Tony Pellerin, “We seniors have played together since pee-wees, since we were in the second grade. I’m from Belchertown from birth, so this is a special season for us and the program.”

It may have been their final high school football game, but at least one senior is moving on to play in college. Ryan will attend Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and play as a slot receiver.

“We’ve played 12 games, and James has had 11 great performances,” said Mayo. “We would not be talking here after a Super Bowl were it not for James.”

Mayo said that Pellerin, Jake LaFleche and Matt Popowich are all seeking to continue their football careers at Division 3 colleges.

Belchertown projects to be a young squad in 2013, but quarterback Nick Leduc will be a senior with the experience of two playoff games.

“Nick is a gutsy, tough kid,” Mayo said. “He took some shots (Saturday), but kept getting back up. This experience should help him, and he’s a strong leader. I just hope he grows a little bit in the off-season.”

Despite not coming away with its first Super Bowl title since 2003, Belchertown football created a place for itself in a strong athletic program.

“We have a great soccer program at Belchertown, both boys and girls, so our numbers are never going to be great,” said Mayo. “So what these guys accomplished is outstanding, they’ve helped reestablish the program.”

BROWER GETS TITLE — Valdamar Brower, who attended Northampton High School and the University of Massachusetts, earned his first title as the coach at Central with a 27-0 win over Longmeadow in the Division 1 Super Bowl on Saturday at Westfield State University.

The Golden Eagles had fallen to the Lancers in each of the last three years. Central last won a title in 2001.

UNBEATEN PIONEERS — Pathfinder capped its perfect season with a 12-8 victory over Turners Falls in the Division 4 Super Bowl at Westfield State University.

The Pioneers, who held off Easthampton 8-6 in the semifinals, finished the year 13-0 and are the only undefeated team in western Massachusetts this season.

Indians’ senior running back Ryan Wilder broke the 2,000-yard mark for the season during the loss.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com. Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

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