Injury-Plagued Chieftains Lose to Devils

Published in the October 8, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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For the Nashoba Regional football team, the only thing worse than falling 44-23 to Leominster on Friday night was the knowledge that the Chieftains' losses in that game went well beyond the score.

It was the second defeat in as many weeks for Nashoba, now 2-2, and the first home loss in more than a year. But when the Chieftains attempt to turn things around this week against Doherty, they might very well have to do so without three of their starting players, including record-setting running back Travis Patterson.

Patterson, senior lineman Ryan Williams, and massive junior lineman Peter Hagermoser all left Friday's game with injuries. Williams, who suffered a broken leg, is out indefinitely. Timetables for Patterson, who injured an ankle, and Hagermoser, who aggravated a pre-existing knee injury, are less certain.

The Chieftains were already shorthanded heading into the Leominster game, with senior end/outside linebacker Tyler Nikitas sidelined with strep throat and senior running back/OLB Steve Ek limited by a nagging hip injury. As their numbers dwindled throughout the game, so did the chances for a Chieftains upset.

“I really think if we had been 100 percent it could have been a really close game,” said Stow senior captain Matt Murray. “Losing players didn't help.”

The two teams did seem evenly matched through the first quarter, which ended with the Blue Devils leading 16-9. Leominster struck first with about six minutes left in the quarter, as quarterback Pat O'Connor capped a 77-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and a successful 2-point conversion. Patterson immediately answered with a 75-yard kickoff return for six Chieftain points, though Nashoba's 2-point conversion attempt failed.

But on Leominster's next possession, freshman Cortez Ludden surprised everyone with a 77-yard touchdown run. Ludden drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for somersaulting into the end zone, but the points were on the board, and following another 2-point conversion the Blue Devils led 16-6.

The Chieftains began their next drive in good field position following a nice kickoff return by Murray, and ended it with a Jim Garvey field goal to narrow the gap to 16-9. But that was as close as it would get.

Three minutes into the second quarter, O'Connor ran it in again from the 8 yard line; a failed 2-point conversion attempt kept the score at 22-9. Nashoba responded with another solid drive deep into Blue Devil territory, but a pass by Stow sophomore Will Hurley was picked off by Leominster senior Corey Mastrapasqua and returned 90 yards into the end zone. Yet another successful 2-point conversion made it 30-9 at halftime.

But even with the game essentially out of reach, the undermanned Chieftains persevered in the second half. Hurley connected with Stow senior Paul Murray for six points, marking the first touchdown pass of Hurley's young career and the second TD reception for Murray. And in the fourth quarter, Stow junior Luke Cressman scored his first varsity touchdown.

Murray applauded the efforts of Cressman and other players who stepped up in the second half, including junior Chris Comas and Stow juniors Tom Oliver and Billy Lombardo.

“When you see a Travis or Ryan or Pete go down, they're all key players, so that's kind of depressing,” Murray said. “But then you get back to reality and have to pick up the slack. The positive thing is that we didn't give up. Our second team came in and scored a touchdown against one of the best defenses in Central Mass. Those kids work just as hard as the starters do, and I think it gives confidence to whole team when they succeed like that.”

If Patterson does not return for Friday's Homecoming game against Doherty, that will likely mean more carries for Cressman and possibly more passing from Hurley, which would add a new dimension to the traditionally run-focused Chieftains. The Highlanders are 3-1 and have put together consecutive wins over South and Milford following a 40-0 shutout by St. John's on Sept. 20. Friday's kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., at Nashoba.

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