Undefeated Chieftains Head to Super Bowl
November 28, 2012
By Jordana Bieze Foster
Nashoba Regional will defend its Division 2 Super Bowl title this Saturday at Gillette Stadium, after a 21-0 playoff victory over Holy Name on Tuesday night that extended the Chieftains’ winning streak to 25 games.
“It feels good,” said head coach Ken Tucker, “but we’ve got one more game to go.”
In the Super Bowl, scheduled to start at 11 am, the top-seeded Chieftains (12-0) will face 3rd seed Shepherd Hill (10-2), which beat 2nd seed Doherty 34-8 on Tuesday night. The title game will be a rematch of last year’s playoff semifinal, in which the Chieftains defeated the Fighting Rams 35-14.
Holy Name is an even more familiar opponent—one the Chieftains have now defeated four times in the last two years, the most gratifying of those a 27-0 victory in the 2011 Super Bowl at Fitchburg State University. Most recently, on September 28, Nashoba dominated the Naps 33-8 as Stow senior running back John Ojukwu led the offensive attack with five touchdowns.
The Naps for the most part were able to contain Ojukwu on Tuesday night, but that just meant the Chieftains had to find a different way to win. Senior quarterback and captain Jack Sarnoski led the charge, connecting with senior running back Andrew Cross in the first quarter for a 68-yard touchdown and with senior tight end Charles Phaneuf early in the second quarter for a 15-yard fourth-down score.
Meanwhile, Nashoba’s defense was as solid as ever. Twice the Naps threatened to score, and twice the Chieftains turned them away on fourth-and-goal: once in the final minute of the first half, and again with just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
A 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by junior running back Eli Williams, also on fourth down, extended the lead; Stow junior kicker Drew Korn was three-for-three on extra point attempts. Holy Name’s final drive of the game ended with a fumble near midfield that was recovered by Nashoba.
The Chieftains entered the playoffs having completed a second consecutive undefeated regular season with a convincing 46-14 Thanksgiving Day win at North Middlesex.
Stow players excelled on both sides of the ball. Ojukwu ran for a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter for the first score of the game and caught a 5-yard pass in the end zone from Sarnoski in the third quarter.
Korn kicked a 30-yard field goal at the end of the first half and converted all six of his extra-point tries. And Stow senior nose tackle Cam Rothfuss made a huge defensive play in the second quarter, stripping the ball from a Patriots running back on a play that set up the Chieftains’ second touchdown.
“I didn’t know how he got the ball,” Tucker said of Rothfuss. “All of a sudden he had the ball and was running the other way.”
“Their center didn’t block me for some reason,” Rothfuss explained. “They were trying to block me with a tight end or a wingback, and that guy missed. It was a poor handoff and the back had the ball sticking out while he was running with it so I just grabbed it.”
Senior offensive lineman Garrett Curran scored the Chieftains’ second touchdown in the second quarter when he recovered a teammate’s fumble in the end zone. Sarnoski then connected with senior captain and wide receiver Brady Schartner on a 26-yard touchdown pass. North Middlesex got on the board with a 2-yard touchdown run by sophomore John Boutwell, but Korn’s field goal extended Nashoba’s lead to 25-7 at halftime.
Cross kept things going in the third quarter with a 17-yard touchdown run. Ojukwu’s end zone reception and a 40-yard scoring run by junior back Frankie Chiodo made it 46-7, a score that held up until Patriots senior back Brandon Lambert broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run in the waning moments of the game.
Rothfuss was named the game’s defensive MVP for the Chieftains; Sarnoski was named the offensive MVP.
Now the Chieftains’ final goal is to be named Super Bowl champions. Tickets to Saturday’s game are $15 for adults, $12 for students and will be available at the Gillette ticket office starting at 8 am. The game will also be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet and simulcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
“Being undefeated in the regular season is awesome, but if you don’t finish in the Super Bowl all the other games don’t mean anything,” Ojukwu said. “The Super Bowl has been our goal since we were freshmen. After that final game we’ll know whether we accomplished our goal or not.”