Chieftains Storm Past Red Raiders
FITCHBURG -- On most nights, the fourth-down conversion is a little-used play and is really only used in high-leverage situations; seriously, teams don’t dust them off often.
But when a team is feeling confident, going for it on fourth down is just another page in the front of the playbook.
Visiting Nashoba Regional achieved great success with its fourth-down conversion plays Friday night, converting 5 of 7 to keep the possessions going en route to a massive 32-2 win over host Fitchburg at Crocker Field Friday night.
The win lifts Nashoba to 3-0, and the Chieftains will host Marlboro next Friday.
Fitchburg drops to 0-3 and will travel to Westford next Saturday night to take on North Middlesex Regional at Nashoba Tech.
Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker stood in disbelief at his team’s success on fourth down plays after the game.
“That’s pretty good. That’s making big plays when we need them; that’s stating the obvious,” Tucker said. “Five of seven is pretty good.
“People are always asking what are we going to do, and the answer is take what’s there. We run the ball well, and we made big plays throwing the ball. We were balanced, and that’s big for us.”
Nashoba’s defense was also stout, limiting the Red Raiders to 60 yards of offense for the game.
The Chieftains have only allowed nine points through the first three weeks.
“Our defense does a good job of preparing for the opponent,” Tucker said. “Coach (Andy) Leblanc works super hard -- all our staff works super hard preparing for the opponent. Different guys show up different weeks to make plays.”
After mixing both the pass and the run, a healthy 35-yard strike between Sam Bolinsky (10 of 19, 218 yards passing two TDs) to Matt Johnson set up Nashoba’s first score, as Brendan Lee, out of the I-formation, took the first-and-goal handoff and went off left tackle to cap an 8-play, 72-yard drive.
The Red and Gray blocked the PAT, and the Chieftains held a 6-0 lead early in the ballgame.
Nashoba sent Fitchburg three-and-out on the Raiders’ initial series, and capitalized on two fourth-down conversions -- including Bolinsky’s 24-yard scoring strike to Troy Barksdale on fourth-and-8 from the FHS 24, bisecting the safeties and walked into the end zone untouched.
″(Fitchburg) had taken it away originally, and he kept working,” Tucker said. “We protected for a while, and Troy kept working and found an opening.”
Alex Childs’ kick was good, and it was 13-0 to the tourists from Route 117.
Fitchburg earned a first down on a 14-yard completion between Andrew Brooks and Caleb Smith, but Nashoba stymied the Raiders on the ensuing series.
But Fitchburg, too, held the Chieftains on fourth-and-1 from the Raider 33, a swarm of red jerseys sending Nashoba for a yard loss.
The Chieftains would make it a three-score game late in the first half, as Bolinsky -- after converting Nashoba’s four third-down conversion of the first half -- found Barksdale for a gain of 31 to the Fitchburg 1.
Two plays later, Bolinsky tossed to Lee, and he drove into the end zone for the second time.
But the conversion saw FHS’ junior defensive back Latrell Boddie step into the lane at the goal line, and with acres of wide-open grass headed toward River Street in front of him, he returned it all the way, 100 yards, for the pick two.
After Jack Bonazzoli picked off Brooks in the end zone to open the third, Nashoba needed two plays to score to make it 25-2.
Childs carried 15 yards on power, before Bolinsky connected with John Foney on a quick slant that went 65 years, Foney turning on the afterburners and not stopping until he reached the Circle Street end zone.
Nashoba sent Fitchburg three-and-out on the next series, and the Chieftains utilized a 10-play drive and a 10-yard fourth-down conversion, their fifth successful conversion, to keep the drive going.
And after a third-down conversion, Nashoba’s third successful third-down play, Lee scored on second-and-3 from the Fitchburg 9.