The following story, offering a preview of the 2017-18 football season, ran in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on September 14, 2017:
For the Gazette
EASTHAMPTON—The Dr. Frank L. Boyden Award sits in a trophy case just outside the Williston Northampton football team’s weight room. Coach Tom Beaton has no intention of moving it.
The award is presented by the National Football Foundation to the top prep school student-athlete in western Massachusetts for excellence on the football field and in the classroom. The last six names carved into the award are all Williston players, and Beaton said he knows a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end with a great shot at making that number seven.
Xavier Thibault arrived on Williston’s leafy Easthampton campus via Quebec City and the senior captain and honor student isn’t feeling any additional pressure because of the college coaches who will be watching this season.
“For me it’s the same game,” Thibault said. “Do what you have to do, play your heart out, and the results will come with it.”
Thibault is far from the only Wildcat expected to continue their football career into the collegiate ranks. Beaton said that there are eight to 10 players on the team who will go on to play in college, which puts his roster in line with the other teams in their league.
This will be Williston’s second year in the NEPSAC Class A Erickson League, the highest level of prep school football in New England. Beaton praised the parity of the division and said that there are no weak teams on their schedule, no “so-called bye week against a team we know we can beat up.”
Williston will also face the challenge of replacing last year’s record-setting quarterback Ian Ostberg, who owns the last name carved on the Boyden Award and currently plays Division I baseball at Quinnipiac. Beaton knows that it will not be easy replacing a player of Ostberg’s caliber, but believes that he has found the right man for the job in Matt DeGennaro.
DeGennaro is a post-graduate student from New Jersey, and Beaton talked about his new quarterback’s arm strength and intelligence.
Beaton will also be able to call upon four senior captains to help shoulder the load. Thibault, Brandyn Jones, Noah Clack and Westfield’s Mason Balch are ready to hit the ground running this season.
The captains said that they had a great preseason after arriving at school early this year, and they’re ready to reap the rewards of that extra time together as a team.
On the first day of that preseason, Beaton delivered a message to his players that has stuck with Jones, a cornerback and wide receiver.
“Be where your feet are,” Beaton told his team. And Jones and the other players have taken the message to heart.
“When I’m in class, I focus on my classwork,” Jones said. “Study hall, homework. In the gym, weight lifting. And on the field I focus on football. I’m just taking it one step at a time and being positive.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Jones’ feet were in the weight room, vibrating every few seconds to the thump of a teammate’s barbell slamming against the floor. On Sept. 23, his feet will be on the football field right outside the door, ready to kick off Williston Northampton’s league schedule against Kent. The Wildcats narrowly lost to the Lions last year after Kent scored with 30 seconds left. Williston isn’t looking past its first opponent.
“The only game we have circled right now is Kent Week 1,” Beaton said. “My expectation is that we’re going to fight and compete every game and the record will take care of itself.”
And if the Williston record does fill with W’s, the trophy case won’t have to be emptied.