Taft Football Wins New England Championship
Amidst the cheers of a triumphant home crowd, the Taft Varsity Football Team clinched the New England Class A Championship title on Saturday, besting an incredibly tough Kent team 28-18. The 2011 Norm Walker Bowl and the Erickson League trophies now reside in Watertown.
The 2011 Norm Walker Bowl was a showdown between the only two Class A teams that were undefeated in regular season play; Taft was 7-0, while Kent went 6-0. Going into the contest the two teams had yet to face one another, as October's freak snow storm forced the cancelation of their original game. Similar to the collegiate national football championship, it is a team’s record and the result of other New England contests – who beat whom -- that determine which two teams qualify to compete for the title. Based on those rankings, Taft and Kent shared the number one seed. Choate and Salisbury had the next best records, each were 7-1, but Taft beat Choate 48-20 and Kent beat Salisbury 41-9. "Basically if you lose a game," said Taft head coach Panos Voulgaris, "you won't be going to the Championship".
This was a season of crushing offense and strong defense for Taft. Prior to the Kent game, the Rhinos had never scored fewer than 37 points in a single game and had held their opponents to an average of 16 points per game. What was their key to success? “Respecting the process of preparation”, said Voulgaris. "The next game on our schedule is always the most important game of the season. And we have good players who work hard and are unselfish."
The Class A New England Championship Bowl is named for Norm Walker, the head football coach at Holderness from 1984 to 2005. Between 1988 and 1998, his Holderness teams were 83-1 in the regular season, competed in eight New England championship games, and won six times. So great was his impact on athletes at the school that the football field is named for him. Prior to his time at Holderness, Walker coached at Newton and Wayland High Schools in Massachusetts and was inducted into the Massachusetts High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Over the course of his career as a head football coach he won 276 games. Walker passed away in August of this year. In his obituary Boston Globe reporter Marvin Pave wrote that this outstanding mentor “expressed passion for his athletes through pregame speeches that sent them running to the field in tears.” For the full story go to: www.boston.com/bostonglobe/obituaries/articles/2011/08/25/norm_walker_brought_passion_to_high_school_coaching_at_73/
For stats from the 2011 Norm Walker Bowl go to: http://www.taftschool.org/sports/report.aspx?sportcode=football1&report=53813941 For photos go to: http://phototrophies.com/photocart/index.php?do=photocart&viewGallery=1323#page=1