Chieftains Edge Gardner, 25-22

Published in the September 26, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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The Nashoba Regional football team edged Gardner 25-22 in Friday's home opener, a slugfest between two well-matched teams that love to run the ball.

“I woke up with a lot more bruises than usual, so that tells you it was a hard-earned victory,” said Dustin Greene of Stow, whose defensive unit had its hands full trying to contain Wildcats speedster Larry Ard (119 yards on 22 carries).

It was the type of game that would have made Newton proud, with seemingly every action by the Chieftains answered by an equal and opposite reaction on the part of the visitors.

Travis Patterson, who finished with 136 yards for Nashoba, set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 90 yards and giving the home team a quick 6-0 lead following a blocked extra point attempt. But Gardner came right back with a six-play, 66-yard touchdown drive of its own and a successful PAT that made the score 6-7.

“We made a lot of mistakes on that first drive,” said head coach Ken Tucker. “But I told the kids that if we could just execute, we'd be all right.”

Sure enough, the next two scores belonged to the Chieftains, each one the culmination of a drive that began with a fumble recovery (one by Greene and another by Colin LeBaron), and although neither two-point conversion attempt was successful, Nashoba led 18-7 at halftime. But in true Newtonian fashion, the Wildcats began the second half the same way the Chieftains had the first, with Tyrone Notice returning the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. And with just over four minutes remaining in the game, Gardner regained the lead 22-18 after a 78-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Ard.

Nine plays and 66 yards later, Patterson was in the end zone once again, and a successful point after gave the Chieftains back the lead-- but with 1:28 left on the clock, victory was anything but certain.

It was the defense's turn for heroics, and the Chieftains rose to the task with two huge sacks (one by Mark St. Fleur and one by co-captain Nick Trueblood), taking down Wildcats quarterback Tyler Craft on third and fourth downs and leaving Gardner out of answers.

“It wasn't until we had the ball back in those last 40 seconds that we knew for sure it was over,” said Paul Murray of Stow, who helped key Nashoba's defensive effort.

As in the previous week's victory over Clinton, the Chieftains' scoring was distributed between Patterson, Greene and running back Alex Warila of Stow. With eight minutes left in the first half, Nashoba regained its lead, 12-7, on a drive that began and ended with Greene's hands on the football-- forcing and recovering a fumble at the Gardner 48 yard line and scoring three plays later on a 26 yard run.

“I saw that it was wide open on the right, so I went for it. I had one guy to beat, and after that I think I went in untouched,” said Greene, who also made a key fourth-down tackle on receiver Will Vance to stifle a long Gardner drive late in the first half.

Warila followed a Joe O'Loughlin block for a diving touchdown in the corner of the end zone with 3:38 left in the first half, capping a drive that began with LeBaron's fumble recovery on the Gardner 25 yard line.

“Last year when we played Gardner it was my first varsity game, and I didn't play well,” Warila said. “So I really wanted to get back and play well in this game.”

The win was particularly satisfying in that it came against of a Division 1 West league rival, Tucker said.

“It was a great game in terms of rivalry and two teams that wouldn't quit,” Tucker said. “I'm certainly pleased with the character of our team.”

Nashoba's next league game will also be its next home game, on October 12 against St. Bernard's. This Friday the Chieftains will play at Leominster, starting at 7 p.m.

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