Thursday, September 28, 2017

Nashoba Grinds Out Win Against Marlboro

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

MARLBOROUGH - Things were not going well for Nashoba Regional during the first half of its crucial Mid-Wach B encounter against Marlborough. Averaging nearly 30 points per game in their first three outings, the Chieftains found the road a lot tougher to navigate against a resilient Panther defense.

Accumulating just 42 yards of offense over the first half was certainly not going to get it done. But, Nashoba made some quick adjustments at the half, and saw the running game show vast improvement, with the defense following suit, as they managed to escape Kelleher Field with a dramatic 14-13 triumph Thursday night.

"We made some adjustments at halftime and we just thought that we needed to get tougher," said Chieftains senior power back Kyle Hume, who finished with 64 yards on the ground, with some drive sustaining runs during the second half, after only netting 2 over the first half. "It wasn't any real big changes. We just put our feet in the ground and kept going. It was a total team effort win today. Marlborough is always tough and it's always a great rivalry with them."

For the most part, both teams' offenses were held in check. Nashoba finished with 152 yards, while the Panthers tallied 265.

The victory puts the Chieftains (4-0) in the driver's seat as far as securing a division crown and playoff berth with four games still remaining to be played. If things go according to plan, Marlborough (3-1) too will be a major contender for a postseason berth. And it would surprise no one to see these two combatants meet again in November.

"Our defense played very good and on offense we had a couple of big plays but we just made too many mistakes," Panthers head coach Sean Mahoney said.

The turning point in this one came as the Panthers, who led 7-6, were lining up to punt from inside their own territory late in the third. But a bad snap sailed over Panthers punter/kicker Max Whitmore who had no choice but to down the ball on the Marlborough 15. As the final quarter began, Nashoba took full advantage of the short field handed to them. Inching the ball forward to the 1 yard line, quarterback Sam Bolinsky dove through the pile for the touchdown.

Lining up for the two point conversion, the junior signal-caller found receiver Breese Hill cutting across the back of the end zone to put the Chieftains on top 14-7. With 3:27 remaining, the Panthers, whose offense was no where to be found for much of the second half, started to put a decent drive together. A key 48 yard pass from Hayden Ginetti to Kevin Short moved the Panthers to the Nashoba 23. Following a Panthers holding penalty, Marlborough still remained vigilant as it marched to the 9.

On second-and-goal, Ginetti (8 of 12 passing for 134 yards) found Short in the corner of the end zone for the score with 35 seconds to go. Short finished with six catches for 121 yards. But Whitmore's ensuing PAT try sailed wide to keep it a one point affair. With no choice but to boot an on-sides kick, Panthers junior Trevor Nutt recovered it to give Marlborough one last hope for redemption. But it was not to be.

A last ditch heave on the game's final play from Ginetti was intercepted in the end zone by Hill to seal the the triumph for the Chieftains.

"We were one play away from winning this game or go to overtime," said Mahoney. "We did some good things, especially on defense, but offensively we need to fix a few things."

The Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 lead late in the opening quarter. Driving a short 39 yards, it was capped off by Short's 27 end around run down the right sideline and into the end zone. A pick by Tony Garcia on Nashoba's follow-up possession resulted in no points as the Panthers stalled out on the Chieftains' 45 yard line.

A few moments later, with Marlborough back in possession, Ginetti, rolling away from the pressure, made an ill-advised throw across the middle that was intercepted by Hill, giving the Chieftains the ball inside the Panthers 30. Needing eight plays, Nashoba finally got on the board with 3:30 to go before halftime thanks to Hill's 4 yard reception. Hill finished with 38 yards on six receptions. The PAT attempt failed and the Chieftains trailed by a point.

"Marlborough did a good job by taking away some stuff we like to do offensively,'' Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker said. "We had to try some new stuff in the second half. I'm always proud with the mental aspect of our kids and it certainly showed tonight. This was a great high school football game."

With still some time remaining before intermission, Marlborough strung together a nice drive covering 46 yards. With time for one play, Mahoney sent Whitmore out to attempt a 33 yard field goal try. With the Chieftains stacking the box, they were able to block it and go into the locker room with newfound momentum which carried over into the final half.

"Great teams finds ways to win," Hume said. "Tonight we found a way to win."

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