Injuries Continue to Plague Chieftains

Published in the October 15, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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In the long run, the extra playing time logged by Chieftain understudies on Friday night will make Nashoba Regional a better football team. But on that night, the undermanned Chieftains were no match for the visitors from Doherty, who rolled to a 42-21 victory.

“We’re playing banged-up, and we're trying to do the best we can. The kids gave a great effort,” said head coach Ken Tucker. “We just didn’t have the weapons they have. They have some great athletes.”

Nashoba prepared for the Highlanders knowing they would be without two key linemen, senior captain Ryan Williams and junior Peter Hagermoser, who suffered injuries the previous week against Leominster that will likely keep them out for the remainder of the season. But the status of all-star senior running back Travis Patterson, who injured an ankle against Leominster, was uncertain until Thursday night.

With Patterson on the sidelines, the bulk of the carries went to Stow junior Billy Lombardo, whose older brother Bobby was among the alumni in the stands. Billy Lombardo, who wears the same number 25 that Bobby did, started on offense for the first time in his varsity career.

“Billy really stepped up in filling Travis' shoes this week,” said Stow junior fullback Luke Cressman—who knows a thing or two about stepping up, having replaced the injured Ben Parker this season.

Lombardo had 12 carries and four receptions for 63 hard-earned all-purpose yards, including his first career touchdown reception on a waggle play that tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.

“I just found myself open in the middle of the field right across the goal line,” Lombardo said of the touchdown play. “(Stow sophomore quarterback) Will Hurley had decent amount of pressure on him, but I tried to get as open as I could. The ball went right between the defender's hands and right into mine.”

Following that touchdown, however, the Highlanders reeled off three consecutive scores of their own to take a commanding 28-7 lead early in the third quarter. Among the Doherty highlights were a 10-yard end zone run by junior quarterback Yawin Smallwood, a 67-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown by senior running back Yawin Oboebekuse, and a 39-yard TD run by senior back Zakee Jenkins.

But the Chieftains weren't about to roll over. In a showcase of two of the Chieftains' walking wounded, senior running back Steve Ek (hip injury) burned the Highlanders for a 23-yard run and then caught a 17 yard pass from senior quarterback Bobby Falvey (shoulder injury) to bring Nashoba into Doherty territory. Stow junior running back Tom Oliver then made the most of his own opportunity, breaking through the Doherty line for a 42-yard touchdown run.

Another big play by the Highlanders, this time a 53-yard touchdown run by Omoebekuse, increased the lead to 35-14 early in the fourth quarter. But the Chieftains responded with a fumble recovery, a 40-yard grab by Stow senior Paul Murray, and a 20-yard run up the middle into the end zone by Cressman.

“The blocking was good,” said Cressman, crediting senior Rodney Leach, Stow senior Dan Trefry, and junior Mike Vittorioso for opening up the hole. “All I really had to do was bounce off one guy in the end zone and I was in.”

Omoebekuse, who finished with 140 yards, tacked on one more touchdown near the end of the game to bring the score to its final margin. With the win, Doherty improved to 4-1 on the season.

Although the outcome wasn't what they had hoped for, there predominant vibe among the Chieftain players was one of respect for what the team had accomplished in the face of adversity. Trefry, who provided valuable leadership on the field with the two senior captains on the sidelines, and junior Chris Comas, who filled in for the injured Williams, were among the game's unsung heroes.

“It's always frustrating to see people go down, but it's a good time for other people to step up and get experience,” Cressman said. “Coach said this past week that the reason a lot of us got playing time in the preseason was to prepare us for this type of situation. It didn't work out as well as we would have liked because we didn't win, but people did step up and do their jobs.”

The 2-3 Chieftains will try to get back to .500 this Friday with an important league game at St. Bernard's High School in Fitchburg. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm.

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