Saturday, October 21, 2017

Nashoba Outlasts Wachusett in CMass Slugfest

By John McGuirk 

BOLTON — There is no script or manual that says you have to win every game with ease.
While Nashoba Regional has blown out its fair share of opponents this season, Friday night's encounter versus Wachusett Regional was not one of those.

The Chieftains had their hands full all throughout but still managed to come away with a 9-0 victory.

Held scoreless in the first half, in which Nashoba generated a pair of sustained drives only fall short of their mark, which resulted in turnovers on downs deep in Mountaineers' territory, did little to shake up the Chieftains' confidence.

Realizing it could move the ball on Wachusett, Nashoba knew it was just a matter of time before it did just that to remain unbeaten at 7-0. The triumph was the second by the Chieftains - a Mid-Wach B school - against a Mid-Wach A program this season. 

A couple of weeks ago, they hammered Algonquin Regional. Nashoba now gets ready to take on another Mid-Wach A power next week when it heads to 6-1 Shrewsbury.

Finishing with 257 yards of offense, the Chieftains finally got on the board following their opening drive to start the second half. Marching 57 yards, highlighted by quarterback Sam Bolinsky's 16 yard completion to flanker Breese Hill, and a 12 yard Brendan Lee run, Hill, a senior, finished things off after taking an end around handoff 20 yards down the left sideline for the score. 

"We sort of have a bend but don't break mentality here," said Hill, a solid two-way player who also plays defensive back. "We make some mistakes on offense and we need to be more discipline. But overall, we are getting the job done. No matter who we are playing, we come in with that same mentality every time. It's 11 guys on each side of the ball and all of them showed up for us tonight."

On Wachusett's ensuing possession, a costly mistake would turn this tilt into a two score game. Facing a 2nd-and-28 on his own 15, Mountaineer quarterback Melke Shabo, in the shotgun, had the ball snapped over his head and into the end zone resulting in a safety with5:24 left in the third quarter.

As it turned out, that proved to be more than enough points for Nashoba to feast upon. The defense took over and, in the process, forced a pair of turnovers on downs sandwiched around an interception by Hill.

"Wachusett is a great football team," Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker said. "This was everything I expected this game to be. Fortunately our guys came through."

The Mountaineers (4-3) were playing without the services of top running back Cole Durkan, who was out with an undisclosed illness. Nevertheless, they still managed to get a quality start from Sam Brewer, who rushed the ball 21 times for 126 yards. But Brewer alone could not get the job done. 

Shabo, in his attempt to bring Wachusett (237 yards) back, completed just 6 of 15 passes for 65 yards and the one pick.

Despite not putting up many points, Nashoba's offense remained steady throughout. Bolinsky connected on 9 of 18 passes for 164 yards. Hill caught three of them for 61 yards. Lee netted 39 tough yards on 11 attempts.

“This is a big win for us," said Hill. "Wachusett is a big rival of ours. I think we wanted to prove that we can play with Mid-Wach A and I feel we did that.”

In the initial half, the Mountaineers engineered a pair of moderate drives only to come away empty handed. On their first possession, they reached the Nashoba 25 before turning it over. Early in the second quarter, Wachusett drove to the Chieftains' 5 before coming up a yard short on fourth down.

"They were moving the ball a little bit but we were able to come up with some big stops," Tucker said. "We pride ourselves on that. We were able to move the ball at times, but they are good defensively too. They made some plays on stuff we thought would be there. But when we needed it, we were able to get a score. Getting that safety took a little bit of the pressure off of us. Obviously you always like to have that two score lead when you can get it."

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