SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – The 20° cold temperature and 20 mile per hour winds robbed the Shrewsbury Patriots of the feeling in their hands on Sunday, but it did not touch this team’s soul. The Shrewsbury Youth Football and Cheerleading Organization’s (SAYFCO) 7th grade Patriots football team led by coach Mike Campanale, secured the Central Mass. Superbowl and the Massachusetts State titles. The Shrewsbury Patriots made their way to the New England championship game with an undefeated season this Sunday. They were inched out of the final game, in biting cold, against the New Britain, Connecticut Junior Hurricanes with a score of 20 – 19. However, that does not begin to tell the story of how they came to be the Massachusetts State Champions or made their way to Meriden, Connecticut for the New England Championship game.
Nobody was laughing when in their first jamboree game of the season, David Sliney broke his humerus while being tackled, following his touchdown reception. Not soon after, Andres Tores, wide receiver and kicker, broke his finger outside of football. During the regional semi-finals, Drew Campanale, one of the team’s top offensive and defensive threats, broke his wrist. Despite the injuries, the Shrewsbury Patriots supported their teammates and made adjustments to get the job done on the field.
They have celebrated their winning season off the field but it is their demeanor on the field that makes this team stand out. It is not uncommon to see the young men and young woman, (oh, did I mention they have a wide receiver by the name of Hanna Tran?) giving their opponent a pat on the back after a tough tackle. They also commonly give a hand to help “the other side” up off the ground. It is part of their team culture to show great sportsmanship after the whistle blows. The coaches expect it, the parents admire it and the other teams are shocked by it.
Much time and energy is spent looking at and dissecting the bad behavior of professional athletes. It is a welcome change to watch these young men and woman play their hearts out and leave everything on the field. Watching how football has helped build this team’s character is something worth seeing and definitely worth celebrating. They are champions on and off the field. They have one more year together before they disperse into the various high school teams. The time left to play together is short but the memories will be long.