Take, for example, the mutuality between Tank Walker and Coreese Everett. Not only are they related, but the two are the best of friends and have become one of the most daunting high school football combinations in the state.
We have seen outstanding duos perform their magic on the gridiron in the past, but few have meshed the way this pair has. Walker and Everett are Springfield Central's 1-2 punch, and their ability to work together will certainly resonate down to the rest of this team in their quest to claim a Division 2 State Championship come December.
Walker, a senior quarterback, has arisen out from the shadows of some fine predecessors to become the face of this mighty football program. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 180 pounds, Walker is an offensive dynamo who can move the Golden Eagles down field with his arm or his legs.
Last season Walker threw for 1,424 yards and 12 touchdowns. On the ground, he rushed for 399 yards, finding the end zone 10 times. Considered a pure athlete, Walker was also a lock down cornerback, forcing opposing teams not to throw in his direction.
Everett is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound speedster who runs a 4.40 40 yard dash. The wide receiver and safety made his mark a season ago, catching 25 balls for 524 yards and 4 TDs. Like Walker, he is also a nightmare in the defensive backfield as he registered 75 tackles, 63 by himself.
Both have gotten a few feelers from various colleges but nothing substantial as of yet. No doubt, they each have the ability to play at the collegiate level and will more than likely garner stronger interest once the season gets underway after September 9.
"Their penchant for football has helped both of them get to where they are right now," said Central head coach Valdamar Brower, who is set to begin his ninth season. "Athletic ability has never really been a question with either of them. They do a lot of things on their own time in order to get better. Anything we do with football here, you can be sure that both of them will be there."
Brower pointed out that Walker and Everett have also taken an active role as part of Attorney General Maura Healey's Game Change Program, which has partnered with the New England Patriots and Northeastern University, and enlists state high schools and student-athletes in an effort to curb violence, rape and bullying.
Walker and Everett are cousins and have now played football together for four years. During that time, the relationship between the two has been rock solid.
"Tank is my cousin, so that makes things a little easier," laughed Everett. "Ever since our freshmen year we have been doing everything together. Now, everything has just become a rhythm between us."
Everett played sparingly as a sophomore with the varsity team, primarily lining up at running back on offense, and landing a spot in the defensive backfield. Walker, who played some defensive back during his sophomore year, was not handed the reins to the quarterback position until last season. The reason being that Central already had a pair of prominent signal-callers ahead of him in Cody Williams (now the starting QB at Monmouth University) and Aaron Williams (playing at Monroe College).
"Tank and Coreese were able to practice with the varsity as true ninth graders," noted Brower. "That is not totally uncommon with our program but it is usually just 4 to 6 kids per year that do it and in some years, zero do."
He continued, "When Tank was a freshman, Cody (Williams) was our starting quarterback and I felt Cody was a great leader in helping make Tank a better player. As a sophomore, Tank was given the opportunity to compete for the starting job but Aaron (Williams) became our starter. That allowed Tank to see what to do right and what not to do at the position. It was a great chance for him to develop. Last year, he started off a bit slow but towards the end of the year I felt he became more of a finished product, especially during our playoff run."
During last year's postseason, Walker completed 20 passes for 476 yards and six touchdowns. The Golden Eagles won the Western Mass. crown but finished one win shy of going to Gillette Stadium after coming up short against Nashoba Regional in the state semifinals. Losing its season opener at La Salle Academy, Central rolled off nine straight victories before the Nashoba tilt to finish 9-2.
"The hurt and frustration of that Nashoba game doesn't leave you," Walker said. "Our motto here has always been play the next play. Sure there were regrets from the end of last year. I made some mistakes but right now, I am just trying to put all of that behind me and go out and play hard every single day. I feel like every year this team can go a long way."
"If everyone gives 100 percent all the time, then anything is possible," he continued. "I've never been a vocal person but the one thing I can do is lead by example here. I feel there is always more I can do to help this team. Since my sophomore year, I can say that the game has slowed down for me a bit. I am able to see things develop a lot quicker now. With this being my final year here, I feel that I need to do a lot of things better."
Said Everett, also a standout sprinter on Central's track team, "This team can definitely make it to Gillette Stadium as long as all of us stay focused on what we have to do, especially during practice. We have a lot of young kids on this team this year and all of them are going to need to step up. If that happens, then I feel we can get to Gillette. As a freshman, I looked up to the older players and watched everything they did. Based on what they did, I just tried to go out and make myself a better player. I continued to work out all the time and I run track which has helped to make me faster."
Brower says the sky could be the limit for Everett, noting his the progressions he has made to become one of the state's most dangerous receivers.
"He certainly has a lot of potential," Brower said. "Now we want to get him some leadership qualities to go along with it, especially with this being his senior year. With some of the hype he and Tank have been getting already, we remind them that it is still team first here. Coreese is developing into a leader and myself and the other coaches have spent a lot of time mentoring him."
Walker and Everett each agree that their steady incline as football players and upstanding citizens has a lot to do with the guidance of Brower, who, to them, is more than just a football coach.
"He is like a father to me," said Walker. "You can talk to him about anything whether it be football or life in general. He is always there for all of us. Coach Brower has created a strong brotherhood within this team."
Indeed, Brower understands all too well the adversities of coaching an inner-city program. A strong disciplinarian both on the field and in the classroom (he also teaches at Central), Brower manages to keep daily tabs on all of his players from and academic and behavioral standpoint.
"We need to have high expectations for ourselves here," he said. "Whether it be on the field or off the field, we can't have players do anything to hurt themselves or this team. If they are on the field then I feel that they can play the way they want to and be successful. We do have a lot of game experience but if any of these kids do bad academically or do something that is wrong then they will not have the opportunity to play Friday, Saturday or whenever we are playing. That is the challenge with an inner-city football program. All the kids here know what is expected of them. Our entire coaching staff spends a lot of time conversing that to all of them."