Football Moves on to Division Finals after Win…Nov. 11, 2015
By Jordana Bieze Foster
Stow senior Egan Bachtell had the first two-touchdown game of his football career and Jamie Tucker notched his first playoff victory as the Nashoba Regional head coach on Friday night in Bolton, as the top-seeded, undefeated Chieftains outlasted 4-seed Marlborough 28-14.
The win earned Nashoba (9-0) a spot in the Division 2 final game this Saturday against 3-seed St. John’s of Shrewsbury (7-2), which upended 2-seed Leominster 35-30 on Friday night. Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 3 pm at Foley Stadium in Worcester.
Not all of the Friday night firsts belonged to the Chieftains. It was the Panthers (5-4) who scored first, with an impressive four-play, 65-yard drive capped by a 33-yard touchdown run by junior Owen Cappadona just 47 seconds into the game. A successful extra-point kick by senior Sam Dias gave Marlborough an early 7-0 lead, and it was clear the Panthers were motivated to erase the memory of the last time the two teams met—a 28-0 shutout by the Chieftains on Oct. 9.
“I knew Marlborough was going to play hard,” Tucker said. “I didn’t think the score of the last game was indicative of how good Marlborough was.”
Almost as quickly, the Chieftains put together a 65-yard scoring drive of their own, ending with a five-yard end zone run by Bolton senior co-captain Jake Benjamin. Stow senior Matt Allaire’s extra point kick was good, and the score was tied at 7-7 with seven minutes still left in the first quarter.
The game’s frenetic pace slowed after that, and the score was unchanged midway through the second quarter, when Bachtell recovered a Marlborough fumble at the Panther 31 yard line.
“Our guys in the middle really blew the center off the ball on that play,” Bachtell said. “It was a huge momentum turn for us.”
Four plays later, Bachtell took the ball 11 yards into the end zone behind strong blocking from Bolton senior co-captain Mike Curtin and senior Will Phaneuf. Another successful Allaire kick gave Nashoba a 14-7 lead with four minutes remaining in the half.
Marlborough drove the length of the field on its next possession but was unable to score before the half expired.
Nashoba extended its lead with 7:28 left in the third quarter, with a 4-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Jack Fire to punctuate a 61-yard drive. Allaire’s third extra-point conversion of the night made it 21-7 in favor of the Chieftains.
“I have a lot of confidence in a lot of our guys,” Tucker said of Nashoba’s impressive backfield depth. “They all came to play tonight.”
The Chieftain defense continued to frustrate senior quarterback Brian Short and Marlborough passing game, forcing the Panthers to punt on fourth-and 27 from their own 26 yard line. Starting with a short field, Nashoba took nearly four minutes off the clock before Bachtell scored his second touchdown of the night—again an 11-yard run, running the exact same play that had worked so well in the second quarter.
“We were able to get holes open all night when we needed yards,” Bachtell said.
Allaire converted his fourth extra-point attempt, and Nashoba had what appeared to be a comfortable 28-7 lead with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter.
But Marlborough refused to quit, closing the gap to 28-14 following a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Luke Goulet and a successful Dias extra-point kick, with nearly eight minutes still left in the game.
The Chieftains did their best to run out the clock, but elected to punt on fourth-and-three near midfield, pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory with 3:11 remaining and only one timeout left. The decision paid off when Marlborough was unable to convert a first down, effectively ending the game.
Nashoba has not faced St. John’s this season, but will be looking to avenge the last meeting between the two teams on October 4, 2014, when the Pioneers handed the visiting Chieftains a 35-0 drubbing.
Tucker is looking forward to the challenge. “You know they’re going to be ready to play,” he said.