FOXBORO — Every time Springfield Central plays an opponent, the Golden Eagles present that team with a choice, neither of which is all that appealing.
One avenue is to load the box to stop ultra-productive running back Marcus Crawford, which allows more one-on-one matchups on the outside for quarterback William Watson and a fleet of speed merchants at receiver.
The other strategy is to play more in coverage and take your chances with Crawford.
In Saturday night's Division 3 state title game at Gillette Stadium, Duxbury chose the former, and Watson was more than happy to make the Dragons pay.
The freshman signal-caller threw four touchdown passes on five completions and ran for another score as Central rolled to a 38-13 win to repeat as state champs.
Crawford also rushed for a 55-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and the lead was at one point 38-7 in the fourth after a Watson keeper to kick off a running clock. So the Eagles started their season with a running clock win over Everett, and finished with a running clock win over Duxbury.
For a program that has thrust itself into the elite category of any in the state, one can't help but wonder if — for some teams — it doesn't matter what defensive tact you take. If you don't have the right personnel, Central will find a way to capitalize.
"We knew we had to stop 20 (Crawford)," Duxbury coach Dave Maimaron said. "We knew we had to stop the running game. We knew they got the running game going, we knew we were dead. Our game plan was to take that away from them, make them beat us with the pass. And they have have weapons out there. We have little, short, slow kids out there covering their big, strong, fast kids. They got us a couple times, and Watson was able to throw some nice balls. A couple times we had great coverage and he put it right in there.
"So they made some plays, and we knew we had to roll the dice and play it that way."
Rolling the dice may be the best way to put it when defending Central (10-2), even though it may already seem futile when you see the speed of the Golden Eagles players up close.
Duxbury's plan worked early. Neither team scored in the opening quarter, and several Watson bombs deep landed incomplete.
But it was only a matter of time, as Watson connected on three long touchdowns in the second quarter. First he hit Kevin Key on a 56-yarder, then Andre Ellison for 43 and 58 yards. Each time, the receiver beat man coverage with no safety help on either a slant or a post, then ran free to the end zone.
Duxbury (9-4) was able to make it an 18-7 game at the half when quarterback Will Prouty hit Drake Hadley with a pretty, 28-yard score, but it was not going to be enough against this Central team that had such a decided advantage at too many positions.
"We've got to take what's there," Central coach Valdamar Brower said. "Obviously, defensive coaches want to stop the run. We practice how we play. We practice those situations a lot. Whatever the defense gives (William's father, offensive coordinator Bill Watson) during practice, he adjusts, and that made our defense better. That made our offense better. That made our coaches have to adjust in practice. And then obviously in game situations we were ready to go."
Meanwhile, the Central defense also had enough speed to wipe out any potential gains before they could happen. Mahari Miller, Cam Lee, and Dante Bolden each made interceptions, and freshman linebacker Mesias Lee forced and recovered a fumble.
Watson's fourth touchdown pass may have been his prettiest, as he dropped one in the bucket for a 28-yarder to sophomore receiver Joe Griffin in the third quarter. The ball was placed perfectly over the shoulder to Griffin, who is one of the best young wide receivers in the state.
"It seems like as the weeks go on, the game's just coming easier and easier to me," said Watson.
"He's great. He's a great quarterback," Maimaron said. "He makes some great decisions. Takes care of the football. When he has time and steps into it, he throws a great ball, and he's dangerous with his legs. He understands the game. He knows what he's doing out there."
The Central alumni communicated with the current players their hopes for what the Golden Eagles would accomplish Saturday, according to Miller.
"A lot of guys just told us to go out with a bang," the senior said. "Just make sure every play means something to you. That's what we did,"
And the Golden Eagles are far from finished. Watson and Lee are freshmen, and those in and around the program are excited about that class as a whole. Griffin is a sophomore. Crawford is a junior. Three of the five starting offensive linemen will be back in 2020. Defensive end Tyler Lockett and linebacker Tyson Thornton — two of the best defensive players in the state, regardless of position — are juniors. There are more, but at this point you can just say that Central is loaded, and the program's best football could be yet to come.
"(The Duxbury win) does nothing but prove what I told y'all last year when we came here," Thornton said. "We're not done. Next year, hopefully, we can erase those two losses, get better, and just come here and win another one."