By Jordana Bieze Foster
Nashoba Regional football got its groove back on Friday night with a 21-14 homecoming victory over nonconference rival Marlborough, highlighted by a rejuvenated passing game and a positive turnover differential for the Chieftains.
After three straight losses, including a 35-0 debacle at St. John’s the previous weekend, Nashoba Regional head coach Jamie Tucker had the Chieftains (now 2-4) focused on putting a crooked number in the win column.
“We needed a win,” Tucker said. “This was a must-win game for us. I don’t like to say that, but it was.”
The Chieftains’ offensive line set the tone for the game, consistently creating running opportunities for senior running backs Kurt Arsenault and Greg Gothie, junior tight end Egan Bachtell, and senior quarterback Drew Schartner, and giving Schartner ample time to find open receivers. Schartner finished with 207 yards in the air on 15-of-19 passing, plus 102 yards on the ground.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line for giving me a lot of time,” Schartner said.
Schartner’s successes continued on defense, with a fumble recovery and an interception late in the game to seal the Nashoba victory. On the night, the Chieftains forced three Panther turnovers—a second Marlborough fumble was recovered by junior Jake Benjamin—and lost only one.
“You always want to be on the good end of the turnover battle,” Tucker said.
Nashoba appeared ready to dominate the game from the outset, forcing a Marlborough three-and-out and marched 72 yards down the field to the Panther 5 yard line. But the Chieftains’ lone fumble of the game ended that drive prematurely, and they would not get on the board until senior fullback Kraig Arsenault ran it in from the 1 yard line with 8:32 remaining in the half. Casey Elkins, who was perfect on all three of his extra point attempts in the game, split the uprights to give Nashoba a 7-0 lead.
The Panthers answered quickly, with a 1-yard run by elusive senior running back Willy Cowdrey and a successful point-after to tie the score with 6:41 left in the half. But the Chieftains regained the lead on their next drive, with Schartner finding Benjamin in the end zone with 3:11 left. Nashoba’s 14-7 halftime lead remained unchanged at halftime, thanks to Schartner’s fumble recovery at the Chieftain 21 yard line with 55.2 seconds left in the half.
The momentum again seemed to favor Nashoba the start of the third quarter, as the Chieftains capped a 69-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by Schartner to make the score 21-7 and recovered a fumble on the Panthers’ next play from scrimmage. But things stalled for both teams until just under three minutes remained in the game, when Marlborough junior quarterback Brian Short somehow salvaged a bobbled flea-flicker and found Cowdrey open behind the Chieftain secondary for a 47-yard score to close the gap to 21-14.
The Chieftains missed a chance to extend the lead with 1:35 left, when Elkins was unable to convert a 33 yard field goal attempt, and the Panthers had the ball at their own 20 yard line with plenty of time to tie things up.
But two plays later, Short’s 15 yard throw ended up in Schartner’s hands. With Marlborough out of time outs, the Chieftains were able to run out the clock and preserve the 21-14 victory.
“Now we have some momentum for next week,” Schartner said.
That’s good news for the Chieftains, whose schedule doesn’t get any easier. This Friday, Nashoba will host conference rival Leominster. The Blue Devils (3-2) are riding a three-game winning streak, and most recently defeated Doherty 24-14 at home. The Nashoba-Leominster kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.