Chieftains drop to Gardner, 21-7

Published in the October 1, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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The Nashoba Regional football team, which was flying high after outscoring opponents 70-12 to start the season 2-0, came crashing back down to earth Thursday night following a 21-7 loss at Gardner.

The performance, particularly Nashoba's scoreless second half in which they managed only 67 yards, was not at all the way the Chieftains had hoped to open Division 1 West play.

“It's very disappointing, but I give them an awful lot of credit,” said head coach Ken Tucker. “They had a good game plan. They came to play.”

It was the Chieftains who had the early momentum, sacking Gardner quarterback Tyler Craft twice to force a turnover on downs and capitalizing with a 62-yard run by senior Travis Patterson midway through the first quarter. Although the Wildcats responded with a 12-play, 68-yard scoring drive of their own, both defenses went to work in the second quarter, and the halftime score of 7-7 reflected what so far had been an evenly matched contest.

That changed in the second half. The Chieftain defense had no answer for Gardner senior running back Ryan Cormier, who finished with three touchdowns and 147 yards on 21 carries. Meanwhile, Nashoba's offense went without a first down until well into the fourth quarter and got no closer to the Wildcat end zone than the 32 yard line. Patterson finished with 150 yards on 23 carries, but only 15 of those yards came after halftime.

“They made some adjustments defensively and took some things away from us, and we didn't respond,” Tucker said. “They did a good job of breaking down our offense. Maybe we have to take a look at that. Maybe we're too predictable.”

Following the loss in its first road game of the season, the Chieftains were also revisiting the question of why the team seems to struggle away from Bolton. Nashoba's record at home last season was a pristine 5-0, its road record a less impressive 2-4.

“Having that streak at home, it's more urgent. We don't want to be the team to lose at home,” said senior captain Matt Murray of Stow. “On the road, we don't really have that urgency. So we kind of have a rep that we can't win on the road. We need to go into places and we need to win.”

On the bus ride back to Bolton after the game, team members sat in silence, the lost opportunity weighing on them. Although the game had been unexpectedly moved up a day in anticipation of the heavy rains that hit the area on Friday, giving both teams one less day to prepare, the Chieftains weren't using that as an excuse.

“At Nashoba, the football team is expected to win. When you lose, you feel like you're not just letting down the coaches, you're letting down the community and the school,” Murray said. “And whenever you lose a league game, it's especially hard to swallow.”

The Chieftains hope to turn things around this Friday, in a non-league game that will be played on their home field. The bad news is that the looming opponent is Division 1 North power Leominster, which represented Central Mass in the Division 1 Super Bowl last December.

Leominster was also responsible for one of the four Chieftain road losses last season, a 25-22 double-overtime thriller in which Nashoba let a 15-point fourth quarter lead slip away.

This time, Murray said, things will be different.

“I think we'll come out with a new attitude. We'll be hungrier,” he said. “Gardner made us realize we haven't won anything yet. Two wins is not a season. We have to try to win them all.”

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