By Jordana Bieze Foster
With a record of 1-4, long time rival Clinton wasn’t expected to be much of a match for undefeated Nashoba Regional. But someone forgot to tell the Gaels, who very nearly spoiled the Chieftains’ homecoming on Friday night.
Plagued by penalties and consistently harassed by Clinton’s defenders, Nashoba eked out a 7-0 victory thanks to a strong effort by its own defense and a third-quarter touchdown by Stow senior running back John Ojukwu. But it wasn’t pretty.
“A win is a win and we’ll take it. We don’t get style points,” said head coach Ken Tucker. “But I give Clinton a heck of a lot of credit. They found some holes in our game and did a lot of things we didn’t expect.”
After a scoreless first half, the Chieftains held the Gaels well short of a first down on their first possession of the third quarter, forcing a punt. Nashoba’s next drive also appeared to be three-and-out, but a Clinton personal foul penalty gave the Chieftains a first down at the Gaels’ 31 yard line as well as some much-needed momentum.
Carries by junior Frankie Chiodo, Ojukwu, senior Andrew Cross, and senior captain Zack Hume marched the ball to the 8 yard line. The Chieftains’ luck appeared to have turned again when Ojukwu headed for the sidelines with a knee injury during the drive, but on first and goal he was back on the field and healthy enough to run the ball into the end zone for what would be the game’s only touchdown. Stow junior Drew Korn kicked the extra point to make the score 7-0.
“Clinton did a really good job on the dash play I scored on,” Ojukwu said. “They defended it really well but I kept fighting. I just kept thinking I have to get this touchdown or it’s not going to be a happy ending for us.”
On their next offensive possession, the Chieftains again drove to the 8 yard line and on fourth and goal elected to attempt a 31 yard field goal, but Korn’s kick was blocked.
Neither team came close to scoring again until less than a minute remained in the game, when Nashoba turned the ball over on downs at the Clinton 10 yard line. Fittingly, the game ended with the ball in a defender’s hands, as Chieftain senior Charles Phaneuf intercepted Kyle Cutler’s pass attempt at the Nashoba 35 yard line to seal the victory.
“The way things were going, and the way they were stopping the run, I thought that one touchdown might end up being the only one. Thank god for our defense because otherwise I don’t think it would have ended well,” Ojukwu said. “But we didn’t give up. We really wanted to score again. We’re upset that we only won seven to nothing. We thought it should have been 37 to nothing.”
The Chieftains will have a chance to get their offense back on track this Saturday when they visit Mid-Wach B rival Westborough. The Rangers are 0-6 on the season following a 21-10 loss at Shrewsbury last Saturday. The Nashoba-Westborough game will start at 2 pm, one hour later than originally scheduled, to accommodate PSAT testing.