Football Hangs Tough, Wins Big, and Exceeds Expectations

By Bob York

Click the photo for more shots from the DA football season.

This week, we’ll be reviewing some of the highlights of DA’s fall sports season. Today football takes the spotlight, reflecting on a season that ended with the team narrowly missing a Super Bowl berth.

Choate Day didn’t turn out to be Deerfield’s day … not this year, anyway.

The Big Green football team saw its hopes of a Super Bowl berth dashed by — of all teams — the archrival Wild Boars. And those dreams weren’t only dashed, they were smashed, in convincing fashion, as Choate prevailed in this annual season finale, 31-7.

Up until this annual rite of fall, things had gone nearly perfectly for this latest rendition of Deerfield football. And that fact was mirrored in its 6-1 record. Other than a 33-14 loss at Exeter, the Big Green had proven it could win big or small.

It showed it could hang tough when needed, as it bested Taft, 18-15 and Hotchkiss, 10-7 in overtime in back-to-back games. It also showed it could dominate an opponent, running up a 125-39 scoring bulge in four of its games against the likes of Northfield Mount Hermon, 31-0, Loomis, 35-18, Andover, 32-15 and Avon, 27-6.

“Choate just wasn’t our day,” said Deerfield football coach Mike Silipo, and the veteran skipper got the feeling it might not be his team’s day early on, “when we fumbled the opening kickoff.”

Overall, Silipo had plenty to smile about as he reflected on the season.

“Let’s say we did a lot better than any of us had anticipated we’d do,” said Silipo. “In fact, if anyone had predicted back in September that we’d be playing Choate … on the final day of the season … for a possible Super Bowl berth, I would have said, ‘no way.’”

But then along came a postgraduate by the name of Steve Sousa. And, it just so happened, Sousa knew a little something about Super Bowls, too. After all, he had taken Marshfield High School to the last two Eastern Mass. Division II Super Bowls, and sparked Marshfield to a 14-13 win over Masconomet Regional School last year by running for one touchdown and throwing for another.

“Steve became our catalyst,” said Silipo. “He was a tremendous playmaker. He always found ways to stay alive back there to keep the play going until he either found an open receiver or he decided to run with the ball.” And either way, it was usually for a gain — and often resulted in a touchdown. And for his efforts, he earned first-team All-New England honors and was named recipient of the Thomas Williams Ashley Memorial Award as the Big Green’s outstanding player.

Click on the photo for more shots from DA's fall season.

On the ground, Sousa had 90 carries for 543 yards, for a hefty average of six yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns. Through the air, meanwhile, he completed 40 of 106 passes for 575 yards and seven more TDs. Sousa’s primary target this season was Kyle Brenner (’11), who hauled in nine passes for 154 yards and four touchdowns. He was also named to the first-team All-New England squad at both tight end and defensive end.

Also helping out to run up the Deerfield ground game statistics was Mac Jackson (’11), who chalked up 648 yards and six touchdowns on 137 carries and made Honorable Mention All-New England. Gabe Salzer (’11), meanwhile, posted 278 yards and five scores on 56 rushes.

“They did an outstanding job of running the ball this year,” said Silipo of this traveling trio, who, combined, averaged 183 yards a game. But, as Silipo quickly pointed out, there was good reason for their stats, and that was the play of the offensive line. This group clearly made an impression on their mentor.

“Our offensive line averaged about 5-10 and 260 pounds,” said Silipo, “and that was smaller than all but one of the defensive lines we faced all season long. Take Avon for example, their defensive line averaged about 280 pounds per man. So, we’re giving up about 20 pounds a player… that’s a lot.”

The members of this not-so-big Big Green unit were center Alex Chapin (’11), (6-1, 203); guards J.R. Mastro (’13), (5-10, 198) and Seth Stegelmann (’11), (6-1, 205) and tackles Jeff Van Oot (’12), 5-11, 273) and Jerome Froelich (’11), (5-10, 235), who earned Honorable Mention on the All-New England team.

Over on defense, middle linebacker Mike Fitzsimmons (’11) led the squad in tackles, while Blake Burkhart (’11) and Salzer flanked him to form what Silipo described as “an outstanding unit.”

Van Oot and Froelich went both ways at tackle, while Andrew Sutphin (’11) and Brenner were situated at the ends. The secondary consisted of Ian Ardrey (’12) and Yianni Grupen (’11), who received the Frank Dahowski Spirit Award, at the corners, while Nick Mahaney (’12) and Greg Browne (’11) were the safeties.

Next year’s tri-captains will by Ardrey, Mahaney and Van Oot.

Bob York is a Recorder wire editor. His e-mail address is