Marlboro Tops Leominster with Late Field Goal
MARLBORO -- Lucas Ando drilled a 32-yard field goal with 1:28 let to play in the game to lift Marlboro High past Leominster High, 10-8, in the season-opener for both teams at Kelleher Field.
“Frustrating” was the word repeated several times after the game by Dave Palazzi. The Blue Devils’ head coach was frustrated with not just the heartbreaking loss, but also by a couple of calls that went against his team down the stretch.
“It’s just frustrating. We had a big pass play down the sideline and they have a holding call from way on the other side of the field,” he said. “And then they get an interception, but was it a catch? They said (the defender) caught it, but we’ll have to look at the film after.”
Leominster had taken its only lead of the game with 6:23 to play on a 6-yard scoring run by sophomore quarterback J.C. Cora. He followed that up by running in the two-point conversion to make it 8-7.
After the Leominster defense forced a punt, the Blue Devils took over with 4:56 to play and a chance to put the game away. On first down, Cora connected with flanker Brian Rodriguez for what appeared to be a 20-yard gain. But the holding call referred to by Palazzi erased the play and pushed the ball back to the Leominster 21.
It was then, for the first time in the game, that Cora showed his youth. Looking to make a big play, the sophomore released an ill-advised pass as he was being taken down for a sack. Marlboro linebacker Lou Vigeant made a diving interception, barely getting his hands under the ball, setting up the Panthers at the LHS 28-yard line.
Leominster’s defense, led all night by senior captains Adam Couch and Connor Marchand, made a stand inside their 20 and forced the field-goal attempt, which was perfect by Ando.
But Leominster had a final chance. Starting at his own 23, Cora led the Blue Devils down field smartly. A pass-interference call helped, but it was back-to-back completions to Rodriquez that put Leominster at the Marlboro 20 with 20 seconds left on the clock.
On first down, Cora rolled left and thought he spotted an open man at the 4. But Marlboro’s Hunter Reynolds out-jumped the receiver and pulled down the interception to snuff out the Blue Devils’ comeback bid.
Leominster played an outstanding defensive game, holding Marlboro to just 105 yards offense in the first half and going into intermission tied, 0-0.
The Panthers finally took the lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by Vigeant in the third quarter.
“Our kids played their hearts out against a really good team,” said Palazzi, whose team hosts Westfield in its home opener next Friday at Doyle Field. “We’re not done yet.”