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It's an empty feeling

With loss, CM stars left to ponder Penn State futures

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 25, 2011
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It’s always a drag when you lose the last football game of your high school career, especially when it’s Thanksgiving and they dedicate the stadium to your school’s legendary coach.

This was what it was like for Catholic Memorial seniors at the newly named James R. O’Connor Stadium yesterday. A spectacular season and a chance to win the Catholic Conference and make it to the playoffs (and maybe the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium) went down the disposal with lumpy mashed potatoes when CM was beaten by BC High, 13-0.

Just like that, it was over for the Knights. No Gillette, no Chelmsford in the playoffs Tuesday, no Pumpkin Trophy, and no bragging rights over the boys from Morrissey Boulevard.

There will be no more football for many of the seniors on a CM team that put the fabled school back in the grid conversation with perennial conference powers Xaverian, St. John’s Prep, and BC High.

But there will be more football for CM stars Armani Reeves and Camren Williams, and that’s where this gets interesting. Reeves, a running back/defensive back, and Williams, a linebacker/tight end, have both given verbal commitments to Penn State.

It’s been a bit of a circus for CM’s stars since the Penn State scandal. How could it be anything else? Reeves and Williams have been targeted by the media and the blogs and just about everyone else they’ve encountered since the horrible news started coming out of Happy Valley three weeks ago.

“It came out before the Xaverian game and we had about 10 times more reporters there,’’ Williams said yesterday after the disappointing defeat. “Everybody wanted to ask us about Penn State and that was before one of our biggest games.’’

The Knights beat the X-Men, 33-11, Nov. 12 in Westwood, but winning didn’t stop the buzz for the recruits. Folks wanted to know if they were going to stick with Penn State. The players said they didn’t want to talk about it until after the season. Their coach, Alex Campea, kept reporters away from them. He didn’t even want them talking about football. Too much of a chance for distraction.

“We wanted to keep the focus on our season,’’ Campea said yesterday as he stood outside Perry Gym (Ron Perry Sr., the man they named the gym after, was one of about 100 former CM coaches who turned out to honor O’Connor). “I wanted them to keep all that Penn State stuff out of their heads. I didn’t want them worrying about next year. These are 17-year-old kids. I wanted them to wait until the end of the season, then have conversations with their families, and find out more about what happened and what might happen in the future.’’

Unfortunately, the season is over for CM. So what are Williams and Reeves saying now?

“I am still committed to Penn State, yes,’’ said Williams, son of Brent Williams, who played eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Patriots and serves as an assistant coach at CM. “Penn State has the best kinesiology [study of human movement] school in the country and that’s what I want to study. I love the campus. As a student, I am still committed to Penn State. As a football player, that’s still a question. We don’t really know what happened and we don’t know what’s going to happen.’’

Reeves couldn’t be found after the loss to BC High. He was as elusive off the field as he’s been during his spectacular career on Baker Street. He’s got a chance to be the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year and will play with Williams at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix in January.

It was a big deal when the two were recruited by such a prestigious coach and program. There was a press conference at CM when Reeves verbally committed in June. Joe Paterno participated in a Skype chat with both. There’s a photo of Reeves and Williams with Paterno, taken when they visited State College, Pa., during their junior year.

Just a few weeks ago, before the story broke, controversial Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary was with Williams and Reeves at the CM-Brockton game. Everything seemed certain then. Now nothing is certain. A time that was supposed to be joyful and fun has become stressful for these young men.

“I guess it’s a blessing that we found out about this before we got there, rather than after we were already there,’’ said Williams.

There wasn’t much else to talk about after yesterday’s flat performance.

“This was a team that changed the perception of Catholic Memorial football,’’ said senior quarterback A.J. Doyle. “But it was unfinished business. That’s all I can say.’’

Williams agreed.

“I haven’t been working hard for Penn State,’’ said the linebacker. “I’ve been working hard for my team. I wanted this for my teammates. We wanted to be in this position and we really wanted to prove people wrong. It’s tough not to be able to finish.’’

Finishing the job at Catholic Memorial will be left to the likes of hard-hitting sophomore safety Kevin Bletzer and juniors Rashane Doyle and Peter Ngobidi. Williams and Reeves can’t do any more for the CM football program. They’ve moving on to become Nittany Lions.

Maybe.

Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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