Sunday, November 4, 2018

Nashoba Prevails In Rematch, Advances to Div. 4 Central Final

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

Bolton, Mass. -- Contests pitting Marlborough against Nashoba never ceases to amaze with these dramatic affairs often coming down to the final minute in order to determine a victor.  

Saturday night proved to be no different. 

With the host Chieftains clinging to a three point lead late, Marlborough had an opportunity to seize control after blocking a punt inside Nashoba territory. But the Panthers simply ran out of time as they watched their postseason dreams crumble inside the rend zone and No. 1 Nashoba hold on for a 16-13 win in the Div. 4 Central Semifinal.

"These games are like this every time we play them it seems," said a relieved Nashoba coach Jamie Tucker. "It's been a great rivalry over the years and this was just another crazy game against them. In the end our defense made the stand that they needed to."

Top seed Nashoba (8-1) advances to next weekend's Div. 4 Central Final versus No. 3 Tantasqua Regional).

Marlborough, the fourth seed, drops to 6-3. This loss also marks the second time this season the Panthers have been upended by their Mid-Wach B Division counterparts with Nashoba also taking the first meeting by a 16-13 margin. 

The final numbers in this one were close. Nashoba out-gained Marlborough 302 to 284. In addition, the Panthers fumbled three times, losing two of them, while the Chieftains only coughed it up once. 

"When you turn the ball over against a good team it is going to be hard to beat them," Marlborough coach Sean Mahoney said. "I thought we ran the ball very well tonight but again the turnovers really hurt us."

A few costly mistakes undoubtedly played a hand in this one. The Panthers moved the ball at will out of their Veer package on their first possession of the game. After reaching the Chieftains' 19, a fumble gave the ball to Nashoba. Likewise, on the Chieftains' initial drive, it too ended with a fumble on the Marlborough 15. 

Nashoba struck first, driving 58 yards before Alex Childs nailed a 30 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 4:46 left before the half. 

A few moments later, after getting the ball back, Chieftains quarterback Sam Bolinsky was intercepted by Brandon Cavicchio which set up his own 7 yard scoring run to give the Panthers a 6-3 edge. 

However, the lead did not last very long. With under a minute to go, Bolinsky tossed a well-timed screen pass to Danny McNulty out of the backfield. The senior, who caught four balls for 123 yards, cut through the defense en route to a 44 yard touchdown sending Nashoba into the break on top 9-6.

"That was an amazing response by us to get that score before the end of the half," said Tucker. "It was certainly huge."

The Chieftains carried that momentum into the closing half. On fourth and 12, Bolinsky (10-of-15, 205 yards, TD) connected with John Foley for a 22-yard scoring strike to increase Nashoba's lead to 16-6. 

But the Panthers had an answer on their next series. 

Behind the rushing attack of senior back Lou Vigeant (164 yards) and Cavicchio (85), Marlborough was able to reach the Nashoba 4-yard line. That is when quarterback Richie Webber took matters into his own hands by darting across the goal line bringing Marlborough back to within three points with 3:44 still left in the third quarter.

Yet the Panthers never were able to come all the way. 

A sustained drive to begin the fourth quarter resulted in a bad hold on a 25 yard field goal attempt and no points. With time winding down, Nashoba resumed possession from its own 20 yard line. A pair of crucial Bolinsky pass completions on third down kept the drive alive and continued to eat valuable time off the clock. 

Although the Chieftains were unable to attain any points off of it, the drive proved critical in terms of limiting Marlborough's time availability for a late rally. 

"We couldn't quite get there in regards to a score but we did a really nice job of getting some big plays in that drive," said Tucker.

After Cavicchio raced in to block a Chieftains' punt, the Panthers had one last go around on the Nashoba 44 with a minute showing. Moving the ball in spurts, it all came down to Marlborough having one final shot on the Chieftains' 30. A desperation hook and ladder play came up well short resulting in a wild and jubilant frenzy on the Nashoba sideline. 

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