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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

KP Youth Football Is Super, Again

By Grace Allen
The eighth grade KP Chiefs cruised to their third straight Super Bowl Championship this spring despite the challenges of the pandemic. With players from Norfolk, Wrentham, and Plainville, the team was led by head coach Steve Astorino.
As was the case in their first two Super Bowl seasons, the eighth-grade squad dominated the opposition. They raced to a 5-0 regular season, outscoring their opponents 141-6. The run to the Super Bowl proved no different as they combined to win the two matches by a 70-14 margin. The only difference between this Super Bowl season and the previous two was the lack of a state championship, and that was only because the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of that game this year.
This year’s Super Bowl odyssey started with a 34-6 rout of Medway. That was followed by a 36-8 thumping of arch-rival North Attleboro in the Super Bowl. In that match, North Attleboro jumped ahead to an 8-0 lead. Unfazed, KP roared back, reeling off 36 consecutive points to salt the game away and capture their third consecutive Super Bowl title.
Balance on both sides of the ball was a key to KP’s success. On defense, exceptional team speed and the ability to recognize formations and personnel, and then use that recognition to check to different defensive coverages, resulted in a unit that gave up few first downs the entire season.  The offense, traditionally run-based, continued to be a strength as running backs Aiden Astorino, Chris Sanchez, and Jack Jamgochian all recorded multiple touchdowns. Not happy being one-dimensional on offense, KP decided to emphasize and expand their passing attack this season. Despite poor weather that hampered that goal during the season, it shone brightly in the Super Bowl. In that game quarterback Tommy Kilroy threw for 177 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown to Drew Laplante and a 90-yard strike to Taylor Cotton, the latter coming on the last offensive play of the season.
The eighth-grade team set the bar high during their three-year span with the KP Chiefs program, a level that will be hard to match. This includes an overall record of 30-1, three Super Bowls, and two state championships. They ended this season with an impressive 25-game winning streak. The rest of the league, and the state, will no doubt be glad to see this group move along to high school.
The 2020 football season was moved to Fall II (spring), similar to the high school program. In addition to challenges like masks for both players and coaches, health checks, and limited spectators, the switch to Fall II meant a shortened preseason because of weather concerns, which impacted new players, Astorino pointed out.
“It was definitely an interesting experience,” he said. “Normally you go from it being warm to getting colder and darker earlier. Instead it was like, hey, we don’t need the lights on anymore to practice at night because it’s brighter and warmer out. It was a weird situation to be in.”
One positive to come out of all the changes, however, was the chance to play a few games on the KP High School turf instead of the grass home field at Wrentham State School.
“It was great for the kids,” said Astorino, who is also the King Philip Youth Football and Cheer (KPYFC) president. “We were also trying to make sure our home field is in great shape for the fall.”  He noted KPYFC helps with the maintenance of the grass fields at the state school, paying for the fertilizer and water.
In 2018, the tri-town youth football organization switched from Pop Warner to Eastern Mass American Youth Football. In Pop Warner, players are grouped by a combination of age and weight, while in AYF players are grouped strictly by age.
“The kids get to meet their classmates and form some of those bonds that can take them all the way through high school,” the coach said.
Along with Astorino, the Chiefs were led by four volunteer coaches: Brian Gunning (defensive coordinator), Rob Kilroy (offensive coordinator), Andy Robertson (offensive and defensive line coach), and Bill Laplante (offensive and defensive backs coach).
KPYFC also fielded a sixth-grade team, which won its Super Bowl, and a seventh-grade team, which lost in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s clear the future looks bright for the KP high school football team, thanks to the tri-town feeder program which teaches the fundamentals of football while learning and winning as a team. The mix of players, some with football experience and others new to the sport, meant the coaching staff had to be able to teach to both.
“It was really fortunate that we had outstanding coaches that really wanted to teach and also hold the kids to a certain level of performance,” said Astorino. “We had kids who’ve never played football before join the team. Some may never play again. There were all levels of ability and yet everybody was able to make some contribution through the course of the season that helped us get to where we wanted to go.”
He added, “From a KP youth football perspective, we’re the only team that’s won three years in a row. I joke that even the high school hasn’t won three years in a row. So that’s one thing that won’t be taken away from us. We won the last game we’ll ever have. It’s a nice way to go out.”