Not many people expected the Westfield Bombers to be playing for a shot at at the state championship, at least not before the 2016 season got underway. A year ago, the Bombers had completed a winless season in the AA Conference, leaving them in last place.
Fast forward to November of 2016, and Westfield is once again Western Mass Champions in Division II. So, what changed in the past year that helped turn the team around? The Bombers say, it's the same hard work and dedication they've always show, finally coming to fruition.
"We were sick of losing," said senior lineman Chris Ward, "we worked really hard this off season and once the season came, we knew it was time."
Third-year head coach Rob Parent says he knew the wins would come and that he could sense something different this year.
"You could really tell and sense that the tide was turning with their thoughts and their emotions," Parent said. "I don't think we're very surprised, I don't think our team is very surprised."
Westfield got a chance to avenge their only loss of the season, when they beat Central in the Sectional Semi-Final in dramatic fashion. They carried that momentum into the title game against West Springfield, earning a convincing victory.
It came thanks, in large part, to their defense and special teams, making plays in key moments of the game.
Senior Zach Adam turned the tides of the championship game, with a pick-six that extended the Bombers' lead.
"I remember that play from earlier in the season," Adam recalled, "I heard my coach on the sideline saying, 'it's a screen, it's a screen.' And then I saw it out of the corner of my eye and I kind of just jumped up and went for it."
Many of their wins came with the help of offensive weapons like quarterback Austin St. Pierre and running back Wilton Royal, who combined to account for 45 touchdowns on the season.
Now, they sit just one game away from Gillette Stadium, and a shot at a state title. Players say that playing in Foxboro would be a dream come true. They'll have to get past Shrewsbury, but will play something of a home game at Westfield State University on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.