Nashoba Football Frustrating First Loss

Published in the September 12, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Three frustrating minutes was all it took.

In three minutes on Saturday, the Nashoba football team allowed three quick touchdowns that gave Westboro a 27-0 halftime lead, which ultimately proved insurmountable despite a valiant second half effort by the Chieftains to make the final score a respectable 27-14.

“Games turn on mistakes and turnovers, and we made a lot of them in the first half,” said Nashoba head coach Ken Tucker. “But if you're going to take a positive out of it, we didn't quit. I think we outplayed them in the second half.”

Nashoba trailed by only a touchdown late in the first half, when Westboro's Rob O'Connor intercepted a Tom Quinn pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. The Rangers' offense answered with its own big play, a 41-yard pass for another touchdown. And with less than a minute left in the half, O'Connor made a second interception, which the Rangers turned into a score on the next play.

The sweltering heat in which the game was played, on Westboro's artificial turf, undoubtedly played a role in the Chieftains' temporary unraveling. But Matt Murray of Stow, who scored a touchdown and helped lead the team's defensive stand in the second half, attributed it in large part to the team's youth.

“It was first game jitters,” he said. “We have some inexperienced people, and after the first interception they got kind of down about it, but you just have to forget about those plays.”

When the second half began, it appeared that the Chieftains had in fact put those three minutes behind them. After Travis Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the half 85 yards for a touchdown, the Chieftains put together a 19-play drive—and, notably, didn't panic when that drive was stopped at the 5 yard line. Two plays later, they regained possession on a Westboro fumble; two plays after that, Murray was rumbling into the the end zone from the one yard line.

Celebrating his first touchdown of the season, however, wasn't even a consideration. Not when the Chieftains were still two scores down.

“I wasn't really thinking about it at the time,” Murray said. “I was just thinking, 'Let's get another one. Let's get back in the game.'”

It nearly happened. Linebacker Dustin Greene of Stow, who finished the game with 15 tackles, led a rejuvenated defense that held the Rangers to just 29 yards of offense and no points in the second half. Matt Murray and Paul Murray also helped stoke the defensive effort.

“In the second half we just came together as a team. We wanted to prove that all the practice had paid off,” Matt Murray said. “It was something special.”

Offensively, however, the Chieftains were effectively limited to the ground game. With few opportunities to stop the clock, ultimately, their comeback simply ran out of time.

“We had some trouble in the passing game,” Tucker said. “It's hard to come from behind when you can't throw.”

The Chieftains can take some solace in the fact that, thanks to the Central Mass realignment, Westboro is no longer a league opponent. Nashoba's first home game, on Sept. 21 against Gardner, will also be its first matchup within the new Division 1 West.

In the meantime, the schedule doesn't get any easier, with another away game—against archrival Clinton—on tap for Friday night. But Murray, for one, is confident that the Chieftains of Saturday's second half will be the ones who will show up every week for the remainder of the season. The three-minute meltdown, he says, will not be repeated.

“I don't think that'll ever happen again,” he said.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239