THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

Title has Brighton feeling right at home

Email|Print| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / December 2, 2007

EASTON - It's different when you play football for a city high school. There's no home stadium, no practice field, no cushy locker room, no muscle-flexing parental booster club. Transportation doesn't involve BMW or SUV. Try MBTA.

None of that stopped Brighton yesterday. The Bengals completed their perfect (12-0) season with a 16-8 victory over West Bridgewater in the Division 4 Super Bowl at Stonehill College.

You might notice the game wasn't played at Gillette Stadium, where the other six Super Bowls took place. There was no time or space for Division 4 at the home of the Patriots. It was the same deal Thursday, when young men from the other 12 Eastern Mass. football finalists were treated to a brunch at Gillette and a chance to walk where the grid gods walk. Brigh ton and West Bridgewater were not included. The Division 4 guys had their sandwiches at Stonehill.

"We don't get what the other teams get, but that just makes this sweeter," Brighton's senior quarterback Kameel Lashley said after steamrolling West Bridgewater on a bitterly cold afternoon. "In my four years here we went from the worst to the best."

Nothing comes easy for the kids who play for Brighton. On school days, they rise early and arrive home late. They ride buses and MBTA trains from Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, and the South End. After school they walk down Warren Street in their football gear, carrying book bags, and waiting for the Green Line to take them to their Cleveland Circle practice field.

Once they get to the field, they have to chase away the geese and intramural teams from Boston College. There are no bathrooms and no goal posts. Chekudwe Umeh practices field goals and extra points by kicking into a baseball backstop.

After practice, they hop back on the T. Many of them exit at Harvard Street and transfer to the No. 51 bus to Dudley Station. Others switch to the Roxbury Crossing bus. One could argue that a Brighton Bengal's most important piece of football equipment is his CharlieCard.

"We don't have the nice field house and our kids never have a chance to shower after practice, but we have lots of other things," said coach James Philip, who has been at Brighton for 11 years (32-66-2). "No other group of kids love each other the way these guys do. They learned how to win while they were here."

"Brighton has been a doormat in our league," said school headmaster Toby Romer. "We were 0-9 three years ago, then 2-7, then 8-4, now 12-0. It's a credit for our four-year seniors."

Renel Jean, a senior captain said, "I don't feel dissed. We know that people think because we're Division 4 it's not as good, but I really don't care. Anywhere we play is perfect as long as I got to play in a Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl."

The Bengals went 86 yards against the wind on the opening drive. Lashley, a 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound combination of speed and strength (he could be playing linebacker at a place like Boston College in a few years), ran it over from the 2 for the first score of the day and, naturally, the Bengals went for the 2-point conversion. You don't attempt many point-after kicks when you practice on a field with no goal posts. Lashley completed a conversion to Schneyder Metellus to make it 8-0.

West Bridgewater beat Brighton, 34-14, in the Division 4 final last year, but the bone-chilling wind took away the Wildcats' passing game and it was clear Brighton was bigger and stronger. West Bridgewater coach Bill Panos tried to psych out both teams by wearing shorts on the sideline and his call of a fake punt enabled his guys to tie the score, 8-8, before halftime.

But Panos and his players had no answer for Lashley.

Despite Brighton's dominance on the ground, it was still 8-8 when Bengals junior Daeshod Perry fumbled late in the game.

"We told him to get it back - make a big play," said Lashley.

Perry delivered. A two-way player, like most Division 4 stars, Perry made the key stop on West Bridgewater's next series and when Brighton got the ball back, Perry won the game with a 34-yard touchdown run.

"I had to do it for the seniors," said Perry. "I owed them and I told them, 'I'm going to get this for you.' "

After another 2-point conversion, Lashley sealed the win with an interception near midfield.

They took pictures and hugged and cried. There was a trophy presentation, then more pictures and more hugs.

The game might not have been played at Gillette Stadium, but the field had goal posts and the season was perfect and none of the Brighton Bengals were in a hurry to leave.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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