Thanksgiving Victory Brings League Title

Published in the November 28, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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A Thanksgiving Day victory. A league title. A new all-time individual single-season rushing record. You might say the Nashoba Regional football team played like it was 1999.

The Chieftains' 28-6 victory over traditional Thanksgiving rival North Middlesex gave them a 7-4 record on the season, good enough for a three-way tie (with Holy Name and St. Peter-Marian) for first place in the Division 1 West league. The last Nashoba team to win its league was the 1999 squad, which dominated the Division 1 Central with a 10-1 record en route to a Super Bowl victory.

“Our goal was the league championship,” said head coach Ken Tucker, whose previous 18-year stint at the Nashoba helm included that 1999 season. “I've been talking to the kids about putting another number on the banner, and we did that.”

The star of that 1999 team, Jarrod Gomes, watched from the stands on Thursday as junior running back Travis Patterson broke Gomes' single-season rushing record (1,330 yards) with a three-touchdown, 163-yard effort against North Middlesex that gave him 1,403 yards on the year. What's even more frightening for teams that will face Nashoba next year is that Patterson didn't even play in all 11 games this season, missing part of the Leominster game and all of the Doherty game with a shoulder injury.

“If he keeps running like he has been, he could get a lot more yards next year,” said senior fullback/linebacker Dustin Greene of Stow.

Despite North Middlesex's winless record, there was little chance that the Thursday matchup would be a trap game for the Chieftains. Not only was the league title on the line, but the memory of the Patriots' lopsided 39-0 victory a year earlier still stung for many Nashoba players.

“No one had trouble getting up for it,” said senior Stow running back/linebacker Alex Warila.

Still, the win didn't come as easily as one might have thought. Patterson put the Chieftains on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter and scrambled 14 yards for another score on the first play of the second quarter, but a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive by the Patriots made it 14-6 at halftime.

The second half, however, was all Chieftains. Patterson scored again nearly four minutes into the half, this time from 2 yards out, extending the lead to 21-6. A 10-play drive by the Patriots fizzled at the Nashoba 11 yard line, and two plays later a 30-yard gain by Patterson set up the emotional highlight of the game – a 21 yard run by senior captain Bobby Lombardo of Stow, who had missed the entire season recovering from injuries suffered in an August motorcycle accident (SEE RELATED STORY, PAGE XX). Junior Paul Murray of Stow snagged a career-first touchdown reception on a 20-yard pass from senior quarterback Tom Quinn to make the score 28-6 with less than five minutes remaining in the game, and senior defensive back Nick Sirois of Stow picked off North Middlesex quarterback John Dolciotto with 1:20 left in the game to put the Patriots away for good.

Not surprisingly, Patterson was named the game's most valuable offensive player, while the defensive MVP honor went to Greene.

“Dustin has been the key to our defense all year,” Tucker said. “When we look at film and chart plays on defense, he's in every one.”

If there was a hint of disappointment to what was otherwise a satisfying ending to a successful season, it was that the 2007 Chieftains wouldn't have the chance to match the 1999 team's Super Bowl win. By virtue of its power ranking, Holy Name earned the league's lone playoff berth and was scheduled to face Leominster on Tuesday evening.

But you won't hear any of this year's Chieftains lamenting what could have been.

“It was definitely a fun year, whether we made the playoffs or not,” Warila said.

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