Marlboro Slides Past Chieftains, 28-24

By Jordana Bieze Foster

In a close football game between two evenly-matched teams, the victory often goes to the team with the last chance to score. But things didn’t quite work out that way on Friday for Nashoba Regional, whose night ended on the Marlboro 13 yard line and on the short end of a 28-24 decision.

Nashoba (now 3-2) had led 24-13 in the third quarter, but even after that lead had evaporated and Panther senior quarterback John Rumney found senior receiver Matt Thall in the end zone for the go-ahead score with 68 seconds remaining in the game, the
visiting Chieftains refused to concede.

“Things happen in games and you’re going to be behind at times, but I never had any doubt we were going to win. I had faith in our team and I thought we were going to do it,” said Stow senior co-captain and two-way lineman Mike d’Entremont.

They very nearly did. Senior quarterback Matt Mudgett (who was 13 of 19 for 180 yards) completed five passes, including two to Stow senior Matt Sabourin and two to senior Kevin Connelly, to reach the 13 yard line with eight seconds remaining. But Mudgett’s last two shots at the end zone were well defended by the Panthers, and the Chieftains were left with a somber bus ride back to Bolton and the frustration of back-to-back losses.

“It was hard to fight back, but we did,” said Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t put it in the end zone.”

The Panthers came into the game hoping to prove that they were as good as their 4-0 record, regardless of the fact that their first four opponents had a collective record of 3-13. They jumped out to an early 6-0 lead less than a minute into the game on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Rumney to senior Jose Caquias, although the extra point attempt missed.

Nashoba answered with a 30-yard field goal by Stow senior Drew Korn midway through the first quarter, forced a Marlboro punt, and took a 10-6 lead two minutes later on a 25-yard run by Sabourin (who finished with 105 rushing yards on 14 carries) and a successful point after kick by Korn (who made all three of his extra-point attempts).

The Panthers regained the lead with six minutes left in the half on a 1-yard touchdown run by junior William Cowdrey; a successful extra point kick extended that lead to 13-10. But with 2:25 to go, Stow senior Nick Tavis blocked a Marlboro punt and the Chieftains recovered at their own 49 yard line. On the very next play, Mudgett found Connelly in the end zone, and Nashoba led 17-13 at halftime.

That score held for most of the third quarter, as Nashoba senior Eli Williams intercepted a Rumney pass deep in Chieftain territory to keep the Panthers off the board with 7:34 left in the quarter. Nashoba churned through 68 yards over the next seven minutes, including a key first-down completion from Mudgett to Williams on fourth and seven at the Marlboro 30, which set up a 13-yard rushing touchdown by senior co-captain Frankie Chiodo to give the Chieftains a 24-13 lead.

But the fourth quarter belonged to the Panthers. Faced with fourth and one at the Nashoba 28, Rumney found Caquias in the end zone for a touchdown, then connected with junior Leo Coelho for the two-point conversion to close the gap to 24-21 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game.

The Chieftains responded with a 79-yard drive of their own, but were stopped on fourth down at the 1-yard line with just over five minutes left. Ninety-nine yards later, Thall came down with the football in the end zone, senior Kevin Chilin kicked the extra point, and the Panthers had a 28-24 lead that they would not relinquish.

Nashoba wasn’t the only Central Mass team to have a rough outing on Friday night. St. John’s, which handed the Chieftains their first loss a week earlier, was upset by Shrewsbury 23-22. Given that Nashoba defeated Shrewsbury 21-7 in week two, that says something about the competitiveness of the top teams in the region.

“There are some very, very good teams, and every team has the opportunity to win. Our entire schedule is a tough schedule,” d’Entremont said. “But at the same time, every team is also beatable. So we have to look at every game as if anything can happen.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Chieftains, who will travel to Leominster on Friday to face the top-ranked team in Central Mass. The Blue Devils are 5-0 following a 47-26 victory over Doherty. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.