Leominster’s Defense Plays Well in Loss to Wachusett
LEOMINSTER -- A stiff defense and a churning offense by visiting Wachusett Regional was plenty Friday night, as the Mountaineers downed host Leominster, 16-6, at historic Doyle Field.
The loss drops the Leominster football team to 0-6 on the season, and the Devils will try to reverse the trend when they host Shepherd Hill Regional in Homecoming exercises next Saturday night.
Wachusett improved to 4-2 and will host unbeaten Nashoba Regional (6-0) on Friday night in the Holden.
In all, the Mountaineers gave up 130 yards of offense to their hosts, while piling up 325 yards of their own.
Longtime Wachusett coach Mike Dubzinski noted the way his team tackled in the second half as being a key to the victory over their longtime Mid-Wach A rivals.
Not only that, a key fumble recovery by Sam Brewer -- who also rushed 23 times for 95 yards and two TDs -- stymied the Leominster approach
“The difference in a high school win or loss is four or five plays, and we talk about it all the time,” he said. “We’ll look at it in film, and we’ll see which plays made the difference.
“We tackled better. I’m proud of our kids, we had a good week of practice, and when we have a good week of practice, we play well. (Leominster) is an excellent football team, are well-coached, and we knew that coming in.”
“We had a couple of fumbles,” Leominster head coach Dave Palazzi said. “We couldn’t get on the ball. I thought we played really well, but it’s tough from an offensive standpoint: we’re trying to move the ball with a young quarterback, and (Wachusett’s) sending the house. They kept blitzing us, and it’s tough to throw and run.
“We held them to 16 points; we just couldn’t do anything on offense.”
Except on one play: Leominster senior Adam Couch, who only had one carry in the first half, scored in the third quarter on his third carry of the game: He took JC Cora’s third-down handoff and went off the right end, then waved toodle-oo as he scored from 48 yards out.
The point-after attempt was wide left, and LHS had cut the deficit to one, 7-6, 90 seconds into the second half.
“He had a nice run,” Palazzi said. “The line blocked it off and he broke a big run.”
But that would be all the Devils would get on this breezy evening on Priest Street.
Wachusett answered with a 10-play, 67-yard drive, capped off by Brewer’s 3-yard TD plunge, his second score of the day. Key in the drive, a 25-yard rush out of J’Zhon Henderson to get into the red zone.
On the ensuing series, the Blue Devils would fumble on their first snap, with Brewer recovering at midfield.
The Mountaineers would get inside the 10 thanks to a facemark penalty on Leominster, but solid pass defense by the Devils would force a 26-yard Barry Walsh field goal, which gave Wachusett a 10-point, 16-6 lead late in the third.
The Blue Devils, down by two scores, would get the ball moving thanks to a 21-yard reception by Brian Rodriguez, but an intentional grounding penalty slowed the drive, and the hosts would eventually punt for the fifth time on the night.
A 39-yard run by Henderson pushed Wachusett into Leominster territory for the final time, and some hard running by Brewer would get the Mountaineers down to the Leominster 3 before taking a knee to end the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, Wachusett drew first blood thanks to a questionable defensive pass interference call against the Blue Devils. Melke Shabo’s (4 of 9, 114 yards passing) third-down pass had already fallen incomplete when a Leominster defensive back collided with a Mountaineer wide receiver; the flag flew, giving Wachusett new life at the LHS 15.
Four plays later, Brewer drove into the end zone from 6 yards away off right guard, and Walsh’s point-after gave the Mountaineers a 7-0 lead with 4:02 remaining in the half.
The first half was relatively defensive-minded: Wachusett held the Blue Devils to 36 yards of offense in the first 22 minutes, while Leominster held tough on back-to-back fourth-down conversions just outside the red zone.
Wachusett accrued 141 yards of offense in the first half.