Ben Skinner has done a little bit of everything for West Bridgewater. The 6-foot-2-inch, 185-pound junior wideout is the No. 1 target for the Wildcats’ passing game, and his big frame and football IQ also allows him to lead the defense at free safety.
He doesn’t take a break during special teams, booming the ball as the team’s kicker and punter and returning kicks and punts when opponents give the ball back to West Bridgewater.
There isn’t much Skinner can’t do on the field — just don’t ask him to give a recap of his performance after the game.
“I usually lose my voice during every game,” said Skinner with a laugh.
Skinner’s versatility has helped guide the Wildcats (12-0) back to the state championship for the first time since 2007. They’ll meet St. Bernard’s (8-4) in the Division 8 Super Bowl at 5 p.m. Friday at Gillette Stadium.
In order for West Bridgewater to complete a perfect season and win its first state title since 2006 — the Wildcats upended Brighton, 34-14, in the ‘06 Division 4 state final before falling to the Bengals in an ’07 rematch — Skinner will likely have to remain a key contributor in all three phases of the game.
That’s been a common occurrence throughout the team’s historic season.
“He does everything for us,” said West Bridgewater’s first-year coach Justin Kogler. “It’s one of those things that, as a coach, you’re always trying to figure out how to get him the ball more.”
Kogler implemented a high-flying spread offense at West Bridgewater after taking over the program following a four-year stint at Old Rochester. Although Skinner and Wildcats senior quarterback Matt Lavoie said it took some time to learn the new offense, both agreed the adjustments have paid off.
And although Kogler’s offense has allowed Skinner to run the ball more, Lavoie said the wideout is at his best when he’s leaping through the air and grabbing passes over defenders.
“If I see a mismatch, I’m going to do my best to get him the ball,” said Lavoie. “He can dunk, so I know he can get up there if I get the ball to him above his head.”
Skinner has hauled in eight touchdown passes from Lavoie this season. He added another touchdown on the ground and has also returned an interception for a score. His impact is often seen on the scoreboard, though the junior also wants his presence to be felt when the ball isn’t in his hands.
“Ever since I started playing as a freshman, I’ve always tried to be one of those guys that brings people up and leads the team when we need it,” said Skinner.
His leadership is showcased when the Wildcats defense is on the field. Skinner shouts out assignments to his teammates, letting them know where they should line up or what play they can expect based on the formation an opponent displays at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s a great ballhawk,” said Lavoie. “He sees everything and lets us know what they’re coming out in. That’s why at the end of most games, he can’t even talk and we all make fun of him for it.”
Nobody around West Bridgewater is poking fun at Skinner’s kicking abilities. His first field goal of the season came from 24 yards out against KIPP Academy in a D8 state semifinal at Woburn High on Nov. 23, but Skinner routinely impresses teammates and coaches by nailing 45-yard blasts during practice.
“I have no idea how that started,” said Skinner. “I remember freshman year, everybody was lining up to see who would be the kicker. I went up just as a joke but then I bombed it, 65 or 70 yards. My coach was like, ‘Holy crap!’”
As much as he’s helped the Wildcats this season, Skinner said winning the Super Bowl would be his ultimate achievement.
“It would mean everything,” he said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was little.”
Brad Joyal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org