Chieftains Fall to Leominster in Double Overtime, 41-35

Published in the October 3, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Seeing the final score of 41-35, most followers of high school football in central Massachusetts were no doubt marveling that a highly touted Leominster team needed two overtimes Friday night to finally put away the pesky visitors from Nashoba Regional.

But after watching the Chieftains ultimately lose a game in which they had led by 15 points in the fourth quarter, Nashoba head coach Ken Tucker didn't want to talk about moral victories.

“We came here to win,” Tucker said. “None of us are happy with a consolation prize.”

After three fourth-quarter touchdowns gave Nashoba a 29-14 lead with 4:24 left in regulation, the upset seemed all but certain. But a 78-yard kickoff return by Leominster workhorse back Alex Medina (who finished with 157 yards on the night) set up a quick 15-yard touchdown pass, and after a failed field goal attempt by Nashoba, the Blue Devils had the momentum and the ball with 1:45 remaining. Even after a 42-yard pass play led to a 1-yard TD run by Medina, Leominster still needed two points to tie. But quarterback Justin Kittredge caught the Chieftain defenders off guard by running the ball into end zone himself for the two-point conversion, and the game was headed for overtime.

With a number of key players—including lead rusher Travis Patterson—watching from the sidelines due to injuries suffered during the game, the Chieftains nonetheless answered the Blue Devils first overtime score with one of their own, as Nashoba sophomore backup Brendan Burgwinkle ran for his first career touchdown. Both conversion attempts failed, leaving the score knotted at 35-35 after the initial extra period.

Leading off the second overtime, the Chieftains were stopped a yard short of the goal line on fourth down. Leominster needed just two attempts to come up with the winning score, as the deceptively strong Medina (listed at 5'10”, 175 lbs) bulled his way from the 7 yard line, through a throng of Nashoba defenders and into the end zone.

“He's a very good runner,” said Dustin Greene of Stow, one of those in the middle on that final stand. “On that last touchdown, he drove the pile three yards.”

With the non-league loss, Nashoba fell to 2-2 on the season but remained 1-0 in league play after last week's victory over Gardner. Leominster improved its record to 3-1 overall.

Despite the disappointing outcome, there were a number of positives for Nashoba. Alex Warila of Stow blocked a Blue Devil field goal attempt at the end of the first half and later scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter that extended the Chieftain lead to 15 points. That drive began with a huge special-teams play by sophomore Billy Lombardo of Stow, who stripped the ball from kick returner Daniel Creed on the Leominster 25 yard line. The Chieftains also successfully executed a two-point conversion for the first time this season, on a nifty pass play in which Patterson found Greene in the corner of the end zone.

“Travis made a good throw, and I just made sure I wasn't going to drop it,” said Greene, who finished with 90 yards on 13 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that tied the game at 7-7. “It felt really good that we were able to try that play for the first time and it worked. We'd practiced it but never used it in a game.”

The bus ride back to Nashoba was a quiet one, Greene said, as players reflected on the upset that got away. But the scare the Chieftains put into the Blue Devils—who were ranked number 3 in Central Mass last week by the Worcester Telegram—is sure to have earned them a measure of respect throughout the region.

“We wanted to send a message to the league that we can compete with those top D-1 teams, and I think we did,” Greene said. “We definitely showed that we can hang with the big dogs.”

After two consecutive match-ups against teams with strong running games, the Chieftains will see a different look this Friday when they visit pass-happy Doherty Memorial. The Highlanders are now 2-2 after a 21-7 loss to Milford. Friday's game is scheduled for 7 pm at Foley stadium.

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