Chieftains to Take on Best Again
BOLTON -- It’s a new year at Nashoba Regional, one that brings a new group to the Chieftain football team.
To close out head coach Jamie Tucker’s fifth season at the helm, the Chieftains reached the Promised Land: Gillette Stadium and the Division 4 Super Bowl. The game didn’t go the way Nashoba wanted as junior quarterback Sam Bolinsky exited much too early with an ankle injury.
And while Bolinsky is healthy as he starts his senior year, Tucker doesn’t want to overhype his team’s chances of making a return to The House That Brady Built -- especially when Nashoba plays one of the toughest schedules in the North County.
“I think it was a frustrating ending to last season, obviously,” Tucker said last week. “Sam getting hurt, and we played a great Melrose team. But like you said, it was frustrating, but also you have to come into this year with the mindset that we have to start anew. We have a new group. We have some returners, but you want to have your own goals for that group. You have to move on from that and focus on something totally different.”
Nashoba will open the season on the road at Groton-Dunstable on Friday, before taking on a sharp Westboro side the following week.
“Then go down the line -- it doesn’t get any easier,” Tucker said. “We never (play an easy schedule). We have a good league, and we’re playing three Mid-Wach A teams. It’s a pretty tough schedule, but it helps us as the year goes on.”
Nashoba is an upperclassman-healthy roster, led by three-year starter Bolinsky (79-of-148, 53 percent completion rating, 1,186 yards passing, 11 TD passes in 2017), who returns after a solid baseball campaign this past spring.
“Sam’s a good baseball player, so he got healthy for that, which was good to see. I know he did a lot over the summer; he was focused on getting healthy,” Tucker said.
Bolinsky will lead an offense that averaged three TDs a game in 2017.
There is a caveat there, though: Several of the weapons Bolinsky relied on last fall have graduated.
Returning? A solid backfield of Alex Childs and Brendan Lee, behind an offensive line which sees Jack Wood and Josh Stams return.
″(Childs and Lee) carried the ball 60-something times for us last year, each, which is pretty good. That’s 120-plus carries for guys coming back. Brendan was our second guy last year, and Alex, he’s a power guy. He’s pretty quick. Brendan is, too,” Tucker said.
Childs rushed for 274 yards on 66 carries with five TDs, while Lee had 217 yards on 60 carries and one paydirt hit.
Wood and Stams will anchor an experienced offensive line.
“They started for us last year; Eli Bachtell played a good amount,” Tucker said. “And we have a couple younger guys at some other spots, and some good back-ups, too. We have some experience in the offensive line, and that makes things a lot easier.”
Tucker noted that with his offense -- a spread Wing T -- play-calling will be determined with what the opposing defense shows.
“I think we’ve always tried to do what’s best for that particular game. We can throw the ball, and we can run the ball. Whatever’s available to us against that opponent, we’ll take: we’ll throw 25 times a game, and we’ve thrown it nine and everywhere in between,” he said.
Childs will anchor a deep, versatile defensive line, with Lee on the box’s edge at outside linebacker.
Teams will be loathe to throw on Nashoba, given the experience of cornerbacks Troy Barksdale and Jack Bonazzoli.
“Bringing those guys back helps,” Tucker said.
There is plenty of experience, too. Matt Johnson is tough at linebacker -- so, too, is Jack Cahill -- while Will Danby, John Duros, and Danny McNulty will rotate in from time to time at defensive back.
Danby and Duros are also expected to be Bolinksy’s top targets.
“It’s good to have some experience back; we have four starters on defense coming back, but more guys down the list have seen in-game action,” Tucker said.