Nashoba Tops Falcons in Div. 4 Football State Championship
FOXBORO -- In the preseason, with the heat index soaring, Nashoba Regional football coach Jamie Tucker dismissed any talk of a return trip to Route 1 and the state championship game. This was a new group, he had said, with its own goals and its own objectives.
On Friday evening, with a light, lacy curtain of snow tumbling around them, consider the Chieftains’ goals achieved.
One year after a shutout defeat in this game, Nashoba turned things around and captured its second state football title in grand fashion, as the Chieftains posted a tremendous 31-0 win over Eastern Mass. South champion Dighton-Rehoboth Regional in the Division 4 state final at Gillette Stadium.
With the title win, their second since 2015, the Chieftains end the fall season on Route 117 -- and you can be sure that Bolton Police and Fire gave the champions a mighty escort from Interstate 495 -- with a 12-1 record.
The Falcons ended the season 9-3.
Overcome with understandable emotion, Tucker was in dreamland as his team celebrated in front of the Nashoba cheering section.
“I gave you the coach-speak, for sure,” Tucker said of his preseason conversation. “I didn’t bring (coming back to The House That Brady Built) up until Wednesday. Everyone knew: Sam (Bolinsky) knew, our seniors knew, the guys who were here last year knew. But we didn’t say it; that’s how we’ve always been. We knew it; we didn’t have to say it.
“Everyone knew what the goal was. We had to start small, but ultimately, this is where we got. I told them we don’t have many chances for redemption, and very rarely in your life can you get full-on redemption. To come back to the place you lost ... and we did it. I can’t say enough.”
Bolinsky, the senior signal caller who kept the image of him sitting on the visiting sideline last year as the Chieftains fell to Melrose as fuel for this season, was all smiles after firing a 10-of-18, 250-yard performance.
“It’s a lot nicer (to play the whole game),” Bolinsky told reporters after the celebration ended. “I was trying to clear my head when we got here. It was a fresh, new game.”
This state final was scoreless until midway through the second quarter, when Nashoba struck hard.
On third-and-9 from the Chieftain 8, Bolinsky found Danny McNulty for a gain of 16 to the 24. And on first down, Bolinsky found Brendan Lee on a dump screen, and thanks to two key blocks by Josh Stams and Eli Bachtell, Lee motored down the Falcon sideline until a defender dragged him down at the Dighton-Rehoboth 15.
One play later, Childs swept the left side of the line and sprinted toward Walpole from 15 yards out. He added the point-after, and Nashoba was ahead 7-0.
″(Dighton-Rehoboth) had flipped the field on us,” Tucker observed. “They punted and we had backed up, then we had the screen to get out of there. (The Lee catch) would have probably been a 20-, 25-yard gain. Those two guys and Brendan turned it into a 61-yard gain.
“That flipped the whole momentum, and the field.”
The Nashoba defense sent D-R three-and-out on the next series, and the Chieftains, after a holding penalty on the first snap, went back to work.
On third-and-17, Bolinsky connected with Troy Barksdale on a 40-yard pass in double coverage to get the Chieftains into the red zone.
“We figured out where (D-R’s) corners were playing,” Bolinsky explained. “They were shading heavy inside, and when we figured that out the first time, we were like, ‘We should start throwing it deeper,’ because they couldn’t catch up with our receivers.
“It was huge. It’s a game of adjusting, and we did a great job of finding plays that would work.”
After a 3-yard gain by McNulty, Bolinsky found Will Danby on the left edge of the end zone for the 17-yard scoring strike.
Childs’ kick doubled the lead, 14-0, with 76 seconds left in the first half.
The Central Mass. champions drove down on their opening possession of the third, with a 49-yard pass from Bolinsky to John Foney setting up a 19-yard field goal by Childs to give Nashoba a 17-0 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, Dighton-Rehoboth fumbled on its first play from scrimmage, and Nashoba defensive back Jack Bonazzoli came up with it at the Nashoba 44.
“The defense did a great job,” Bolinsky said.
Five plays later, Nashoba found the end zone again, this time as Barksdale, on the halfback option, hit Danby in stride for the 36-yard scoring strike.
Childs made it 24-0 with three minutes to go in the third.
He punched in the final score from 8 yards away, before Evan Doig sealed the win with an interception in the final seconds.
Dighton-Rehoboth Regional (9-3) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Nashoba Regional (12-1) 0 14 10 7 -- 31
N -- Alex Childs 15 run (Childs kick), 4:40
N -- Wil Danby 17 pass from Sam Bolinsky (Childs kick), 1:16
N -- Childs 19 field goal, 5:45
N -- Danby 36 pass from Troy Barksdale (Childs kick), 3:02
N -- Childs 8 run (Childs kick), 1:52