Pittsfield’s Jaden Keefner is still building a football resume as he returns to Western Mass. | Soccer
EASTHAMPTON – Jaden Keefner said it was nice to be back in western Massachusetts, playing football against a player he played in Pittsfield junior football against and a few longtime Pittsfield coaches.
That didn’t make Keefner’s Wyoming Seminary side 35-16 loss to Williston Northampton last week any easier to accept.
âToday was a bit bumpy. I didn’t have my best game, âKeefner said. âFor the most part, it’s going pretty well. There is tough competition in this league, and we wanted it. Today was a brutal loss. We will pick up and come back next week.
The league is the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) Class A Northeast Prep Football Conference. The league has 11 teams, including Williston. The other teams are Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter, Cheshire Academy, Deerfield Academy, The Hun School, Salisbury School, Suffield Academy and Worcester Academy. After 135 years of playing as an independent preparatory school, Wyoming Seminary joined NEPSAC in 2020.
The Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Blue Knights were 3-3 after the loss to Easthampton, winning all three home games and losing all three on the road.
Keefner, a member of the 2023 class, transferred to Wyoming Seminary after enrolling in Tabor Academy, a prep school located about an hour south of Boston.
Keefner also plays for a brand new Wyoming coach in Kevin Burke. Burke joined Wyoming Seminary after spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons working for Dan DiCenzo at Wesleyan University. Burke coached the running backs there. He also worked as an assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn for three seasons. Prior to Poly Prep, Burke had worked as a gaming charter with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL and as a player development assistant at Rutgers.
âIt was great,â Keefner said of things in Wyoming. âWe’re coming off a tough loss today, but Coach Burke is building the program as a whole. He does an incredible job. There are going to be bumps along the way. This is his first year as a coach and our first year together as a team. I love our guys. I love everyone here and I think we are going to do great things.
For his part, Burke had good things to say about the Pittsfield left-hander.
“Teach him an offense at college.” Learn to understand the readings, âsaid Burke. âGetting him ready to go and take on the leadership role you need in this league and this level of play. It’s a good relationship. We meet every day as a group, not just one-on-one. It’s not just two guys. We have to bring everyone together. “
The Blue Knights starting quarterback said playing the job has gotten, perhaps not easier, but certainly less difficult every week.
âThis is my first year as a quarterback,â Keefner said. âLast year, with the COVID year, I couldn’t really start or anything because we didn’t have any games. Being able to pick up the defenses and being able to seize that opportunity has certainly helped me as a player. With each game, I get better and better.
In the game at Williston, Keefner had 13 of 33 or 140 yards and a 63-yard touchdown pass to Chief Montalvo. It was a rainbow antenna that the receiver ran under and beat defenders to the end zone. That made the score 16-8. Williston Northampton scored the last 10 points of the half and scored 19 unanswered points to put the game on the sidelines.
In the game, Keefner threw six straight unfinishes before settling, going 13 for 27 the rest of the way. His first accomplishment was a 22-yard Montalvo that was dropped on a dime.
He took pictures until the fourth quarter when Gianni Argenta took over.
âIt was just bad communication with the receivers, just things like that,â Keefner said. âWe just have to work on the timing and the possession and all that. “
Wins and losses aside, Keefner said it was fun playing Williston. Former St. Joseph football coach Gary Bianchi and his son Jon are on staff at Williston, with Jon Bianchi the defensive co-coordinator and secondary coach who has helped keep Keefner’s attacking play a secret. MJ Charles of Williston is a former Pittsfield High School player, and someone Keefner saw a lot when they were both much younger.
“I’ve known him since I was little, about 9 years old,” Keefner said with a laugh. âHe and I went back. He’s a good boy. He’s a very good, solid football player. It has been a good experience to face someone I know.
Charles, who starts off as the Wildcats linebacker, recovered a fumble and almost scored. Keefner completed a pass to Nasir Robinson, whose hook and side pitch was picked up by Charles. The former Pittsfield general was tackled at the 5-yard line in the dying seconds of the first half. This led to a placement on the field at the end of the allotted time.
“I spoke of [playing Keefner] all week, âCharles said. âI knew he was part of this team. I knew it would be a great game. There was a huge rivalry between the Pittsfield Saints and the Bulldogs so going out and playing against him was great. See how much we’ve both grown over time. I was pumped. I haven’t seen him for over seven years to pay. I knew he was a tough player and I knew he was going to bring everything.
Since Jaden Keefner is in the 2023 class, he still has time to make an academic decision. He said he heard from the schools.
âRecruiting is going well,â Keefner said. âMost colleges want to see me live, launch live. I spoke to schools. They want to see me launch live, and I’m trying to arrange tours.
Keefner said one school that has more than piqued his interest is UMass.
âUMass offered me and they’re holding on right now,â he said. âThey show me love every day. The coaches are awesome. They welcomed me with open arms. They are definitely among the favorites right now.
For his part, Burke is also confident his quarterback will find a good place to continue his football career.
âHe’s going to have options. That’s not a problem, âsaid the Wyoming Seminary coach. âHis plan is to focus on each day and improve each day. Focus on his homework, focus on yourself, be a leader, and he will have options.