By Michael James LeClair
Thanksgiving dinner was a little more satisfying for the Nashoba Regional football team on Thursday.
The Chieftains wrapped up the 2014 season in grand fashion, traveling to Townsend and taking care of business against host North Middlesex Regional by a 35-13 score at John E. Young Memorial Field.
The win was the fourth straight this season for Nashoba, who ends the season above .500 at 6-5. The Chieftains started the campaign 2-5 before catching fire over the final month of the season.
“You just have to be positive, and I told them that our goal was to finish 6-5,” said Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker at the conclusion of Thursday’s
battle. “You have to focus on each game. You can’t go back and fix the playoffs, and they responded well. That’s not the easiest thing to do when people are telling you that you have nothing to play for and you finish with a 6-5 record.”
With Wednesday’s heavy snowfall, several area games were postponed so that fields could be cleaned and prepared. However, that wasn’t the case in Townsend as workers spent their Wednesday night and early Thanksgiving morning clearing snow so that the Chieftains and Patriots could play the game the way it was meant to be, on Thanksgiving morning.
Despite muddy conditions the field was clear of snow with the exception of a couple patches of the white stuff around midfield.
“It was a tough game, obviously; tough field conditions,” said Tucker, who concludes his second season at the helm of the Chieftains. “We knew we’d have to run it inside and pound it and our kids responded. It was a physical game.”
The triumph is also the eighth straight win for the Chieftains on Turkey Day against their traditional rival Patriots.
Senior captain and running back Greg Gothie was named offensive MVP for the visiting Chieftains. Gothie ran wild, accumulating 135 yards on the ground on 26 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Gothie also hauled in three passes for 25 yards and a receiving touchdown from senior quarterback Drew Schartner.
“We came into the game knowing (North Middlesex) was a much better team than they have been in the past, but we really pulled it together,” Gothie said. “We had a rough season, definitely not what we were looking for, but we definitely got it together.”
After a scoreless opening 11 minutes from both squads, the guests drew first blood early in the second quarter with a Chad Sarnoski 17-yard touchdown reception from Schartner and a Robert Atwood conversion run to claim an 8-0 lead just 48 seconds into the frame.
The Patriots responded and cut the deficit to a single point later in the quarter when Matt Wetherell hauled in a 10-yard touchdown toss from North Middlesex quarterback John Boutwell. Ryan McDonald’s extra point pulled the hosts to within one point, 8-7, with 1:52 showing on the scoreboard.
The Chieftains weren’t finished, however, as they’d strike once more before the halftime whistle. A four-play, 50-yard drive was capped by a 15-yard touchdown toss from Schartner to Gothie with 41 seconds left. Casey Elkin’s extra point kick was good to make it 15-7 Nashoba heading into halftime.
The second half belonged to Nashoba as they outscored the Patriots 20-6.
Before the Chieftains could put the contest away in the final 22 minutes, the Patriots did make things interesting as they pulled to within 2 points, 15-13, early in the third quarter when Ryan McDonald caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from Boutwell with 7:54 to play. The conversion run was stopped to keep it a two-point advantage for Nashoba.
It was during the Patriots scoring drive that Schartner, who plays both sides of the football for Nashoba, went down with what appeared to be a severe lower body injury. Schartner was helped off the field, favoring his right leg.
Tucker and his coaching staff turned to Atwood to take over the reigns as the Chieftains signal caller and the junior did a standout job.
Atwood, with a little help from some strong running by Gothie, marched the guests from the Nashoba 36 all the way to the end zone in nine plays. Atwood found paydirt with a nine-yard run to extent the Nashoba lead to 21-13. Elkins’ kick made it 22-13 with just less than four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Chieftains weren’t threatened the rest of the way as their defense stepped up and prevented the hosts from even sniffing the goal line. Atwood, who, like Schartner, plays both sides of the football, was an animal from his defensive back position. He came up with two interceptions on Thursday morning that killed a pair of North Middlesex drives and built momentum on the Chieftains’ sideline.
Nashoba sealed the deal and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with a pair of touchdowns, both compliments of Gothie. A nine-yard scoring smash, followed by a seven yard run, expanded the Nashoba lead and locked up the 35-13 Chieftains victory.