Nashoba Football is Back to Business
By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional varsity football team is back on the field and it will be looking to tackle the competition when it hits the gridiron this fall.
Fresh off a 2013 campaign that saw the Chieftains post a 7-4 overall record, Nashoba is hoping it can continue to build on the success that last year’s team had generated over the final month of the season.
Second-year Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker has returned to his spot at the helm and is optimistic that his Chieftains will continue in the right direction.
“I think scrimmages are used to evaluate kids and to see where you’re at as a team,” said Tucker following Nashoba’s scrimmage with visiting Longmeadow last Friday evening. “The thing you take out of a scrimmage is what areas you feel you’ll be strong at and what areas you need the most work on. Longmeadow is a very good opponent and we’ll learn and get better.”
Friday evening was the third and final scrimmage for the Chieftains, who also scrimmaged Concord-Carlisle and Lincoln-Sudbury in preparation for their season opener.
“I’m happy with the direction we’ve been going over these first two plus weeks. They’re a great group of kids and they’re working hard,” said Tucker. “Usually we only have three weeks to prepare for our first game but this year, the way the calendar falls, we’re lucky to have that extra week of practice to get ready.”
Last fall the Chieftains entered the 2013 season on a 26-game winning streak and were the defending Super Bowl champions. The 26 straight wins were the longest in Central Massachusetts at the time. Three straight victories to open the campaign ran the winning streak to 29 before Nashoba fell to visiting St. John’s by a score of 49-21 in week four. The Pioneers would go on to defeat Leominster in the Central Mass. Division 2 Super Bowl.
“We had a winning record last year and like any high school football program, graduation is going to hurt,” said Tucker. “We lost some key guys and it’s always tough to replace them but, in reality, we were fortunate enough to have a lot of guys play last year and we’re hoping they can step up and fill those vacant roles. We have a very good mix of talent this year.”
The loss to the Pioneers was the first of three consecutive defeats for Nashoba before getting back on track with a win against visiting Fitchburg on October 25.
The Chieftains dropped their Central Mass. Division 2 playoff game to Shrewsbury but ended the season strong with a trio of wins including a 35-0 blanking of Thanksgiving rival North Middlesex Regional.
As for the 2014 edition, Tucker likes what he’s seen thus far from his charges on both sides of the football. The squad will be led by four senior captains this fall: Chad Sarnoski, Drew Schartner, Wilson Fay and Greg Gothie.
On the offensive side of the football Tucker and his staff have been impressed.
“I think we looked pretty good, especially today against Longmeadow. We made a couple mistakes which hurt but, overall, I was very happy,” said Tucker. ”There’s a lot of stuff on offense and we haven’t put everything in. There’s still a ways to go but I like what I’ve seen.”
According to the head coach, he’s been thrilled with the play of the offensive line: senior Travis Macko and juniors Derek Pasquale, Jake Hicks, Richie Stamos and Mike Curtin.
Tucker said that the Nashoba backfield wasn’t set in stone but look for Sarnoski and Schartner to both see time at quarterback while Gothie is a strong candidate for a running back spot.
On defense, Tucker said that his squad was considering changes things up a little from what they’ve done in the past, mentioning the possibility of a couple new formations to try to catch the opposition off guard. Many of Tucker’s players will play both sides of the football including his four captains.
Tucker wanted to make it clear that several defensive starting positions are still up in the air and his players could be fighting for a starting spot right up until the final day of practice before making the trip to Westborough on Saturday, September 13.
Following their season opener, the Chieftains’ next two games will be back home. The team hosts Shrewsbury on September 19 for its first home game and then welcomes Wachusett Regional to Bolton on Friday, September 26.