Boston High School: Matt Sabourin

Recap: No. 6 Leominster 40, Nashoba 15

October, 18, 2013
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- With the upcoming playoff scenario beginning to take shape, one has to wonder if anyone can beat the Leominster Blue Devils.

Last night it was Nashoba Regional's turn, but the Chieftains failed in their attempts, falling hard 40-15 at Doyle Field. No. 6 Leominster improves to 6-0 and look to be virtually unstoppable.

"That team is super-athletic and very well-coached," said Nashoba coach Jamie Tucker. "They come at you with multiple sets and are very fast. We had trouble containing them all night. They are just a very good football team."

Tucker is not alone in trying to conjure up the right strategies to beat the Blue Devils. His Chieftains just happened to be the latest in a long list of teams who have tried and failed to match Leominster on both sides of the ball.

Racking up 432 yards of offense, Leominster pulled away from Nashoba after scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final 1:47 of the first half to grab a 27-7 lead. The Blue Devils had no problems maintaining control of this one throughout the second half as well, after scoring on their opening two possessions to go up by 33 points before the Chieftains were able to punch one in late.

Senior quarterback Neil O'Connor led the Leominster assault by completing 11-of-19 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score, finishing with 50 yards on seven carries.

The Blue Devils wasted no time getting on the board. On their initial possession, Leominster marched 79 yards before O'Connor closed it out with a 26-yard jaunt into the end zone.

Nashoba (3-3), which began the season hot but has since fallen on hard times losing three straight, caught a huge break late in the quarter. After O'Connor found Jarell Addo for a 21-yard completion, the senior receiver was stripped of the ball before falling to the turf. Frankie Chiodo recovered the fumble for the Chieftains. Realizing opportunities such as this don't come often against the Blue Devils, Nashoba wasn't about to let it go to waste. Matt Sabourin's 19-yard touchdown run knotted things at 7-7. However, less than a minute later, Leominster reclaimed the lead on a perfectly-executed, 70-yard strike from O'Connor to Mayson Williams, who slipped past the defensive secondary to make it 13-7.

On its next possession, Nashoba's ground unit was able to move the ball to the Blue Devils 26. Looking to take the lead, quarterback Matt Mudgett's errant pass was intercepted by Jake Allain, who returned it 60 yards, and set the stage for wide receiver Shane Crayton's 19-yard touchdown reception and upping the advantage to 19-7.

Following a Chieftains punt, Leominster found itself back in business on its own 44 with three timeouts remaining and just over a minute remaining before the half. O'Connor began the drive by connecting with Addo for a 23-yard reception. Three players later, he hooked up with Crayton again, this time for a 33-yard catch, in the end zone sending Leominster into the break on top by 20 points.

"It feels marvelous to be able to contribute to this win," said Crayton, a junior, who finished with three catches for 57 yards. "We have some players who have been hurt so I was told I needed to step up tonight and I did.

“The only reason I scored those two touchdowns was because Neil O'Connor was just being Neil and our offensive line gave him time to throw. He put both passes perfectly where I needed to get them and I was able to run under both for touchdowns. Neil is marvelous and he is the leader of this team."

Beginning the second half, Leominster left no doubts. After Nashoba (189 yards offensively) witnessed what began as a positive drive stall on the Blue Devil 28, Leominster went back to its quick-strike offense after regaining possession. This time they looked to their running game to carry the load and James Gurley did just that, busting through the Chieftains for a 63-yard scoring run to make it 33-7 with under five minutes to go in the third quarter.

Gurley, who has been a main catalyst in the Leominster backfield all season, was saw limited action, finishing with 64 yards on just two carries.

With Leominster's first unit now being relegated to the role of spectator at this point, the second group entered and still managed to move the ball with relative ease, offensively. That group set forth on a 66-yard drive before Eddie Rivera plowed into the end zone from two yards out, extending the lead to 40-7.

Despite the lopsidedness of the contest, the Chieftains still showed some heart. Kurt Arsenault's 1-yard dive over the goal line capped a 56-yard march to make this tilt a bit more respectable.

"Our defense hung tough in the first half and we were able to continue that in the second half," Leominster coach Dave Palazzi said. "There was some things we saw we felt we could take advantage of offensively with the pass. They made it a little tough on us but O'Connor made some very-good throws tonight.

“It was another great team victory. There is no me on this team, it's we. That's what we've said all year. We have a lot of different guys stepping up. We expect all of our kids when their number is called to be ready to go and give them credit all have answered the call."

Recap: Marlborough 28, Nashoba 24

October, 11, 2013
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was more than just your run-of-the-mill high school football game.

For Marlborough, it was a chance to make believers out of naysayers. The Panthers came into Friday's contest against rival Nashoba Regional spotless, having won its first four games of the season.

On the surface, that might seem impressive, but upon further review, the opponents Marlborough had defeated entering Friday’s action were a combined 3-13. Facing the Chieftains at historic Kellerher Field represented the first true litmus test of the season for this group. How they would stack up against a worthy opponent was anyone's guess.

Nashoba, like Marlborough, also had something to prove on this crisp autumn evening. The Chieftains' school-record of 29 consecutive victories was snapped a week ago against St. John's (Shrewsbury). Having not lost a game since 2010, first-year head coach Jamie Tucker spoke prior to kickoff that it was time for his team to deal with it and move on.

Following Marlborough's gut-check 28-24 victory, both teams proved their mettle in a number of ways. The Panthers, who last defeated the Chieftains in 2005, erased an 11-point deficit heading into the final quarter. A 28-yard touchdown pass from John Rumney to Jose Caquias was followed by a Leo Coelho conversion reception that left Marlborough trailing by only three points, 24-21, with just under nine minutes to go.

On the Chieftains' next series, it appeared they would go up by two scores again after driving 63 yards. Facing a fourth-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, the Panther defense stiffened and stopped Nashoba at the 1, taking over possession.

With momentum now clearly in Marlborough's favor, Rumney (18-of-31, 256 yards, 3 TD) directed the Panthers downfield. A crucial first down completion by senior receiver Matt Thall on fourth-and-10 allowed the drive to continue. Seven plays later, Rumney hit Thall again, this time on a slant pattern in the end zone with 1:08 remaining, to give Marlborough (5-0) the lead for good.

"Our defense made a huge stop on their drive," said Thall, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards. "We got the ball back and drove the length of the field to win it. Certainly, this is our first signature win of the season. We beat all the teams we were suppose to beat and tonight this was a real test for us and were able to come out on top. We have a lot of things going for us right now."

The conclusion to this game did not come without some edge-of-your-seat dramatics.

Nashoba (3-2) showed tremendous grit in staging a final comeback bid following the Panther touchdown. Senior quarterback Matt Mudgett (180 yards on 13 of 19 attempts, TD) completed five passes as part of a 63-yard drive, getting the ball to the Panther 13 with less than 10 seconds to go. But solid man-to-man defense forced Mudgett to sail his final two passes out of the end zone.

"Any loss is tough," said Tucker, after his team finished with 383 yards offensively. "We played hard but Marlborough made a few more plays and that was the difference in the game. That last drive was a huge test of character for us.

“They had that long drive for the touchdown and it's hard to fight back from that which we did. But unfortunately we weren't able to put the ball into the end zone. Matt Mudgett played tremendous for us tonight. He stood in there and took a lot of hits. I cannot say enough about him. He just played great."

Marlborough, which accumulated 376 yards of offense, wasted little time grabbing the lead in this one. Just two plays in, Rumney tossed an out-pass to Caquias, who darted down the left sideline 63 yards to put the Panthers on top 6-0.

Drew Korn's 31-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter put Nashoba on the board, trailing 6-3. Senior running back Matt Sabourin's 24-yard scoring scamper up the middle with 3:57 still remaining in the quarter then pushed the Chieftains ahead 10-6.

Sabourin led Nashoba's ground game with 105 yards on 14 attempts.

Marlborough moved back ahead with 6:05 left before halftime.

A 33-yard catch by Thall set up William Cowdrey's 1-yard scoring run. Cowdrey, a junior, carried the ball 19 times for 108 yards. The offensive fireworks continued. A blocked punt from Nashoba's Nick Tavis led to Mudgett's 51-yard strike to receiver Kevin Connelly in the closing minutes to send Nashoba into the break leading 17-13.

The Chieftains' momentum carried over into the third quarter.

An Eli Williams interception at the goal line, following a sustained Panther drive, allowed Nashoba to dodge a major bullet. After the pick, the Chieftains proceeded to march 68 yards before Frankie Chiodo blasted into the end zone from 13 yards out, putting Nashoba in command at 24-13.

"This was a one play game throughout for both teams," Panthers coach Sean Mahoney said. "Marlborough and Nashoba have had some tremendous games through the years and this is just another one.

“Even though Nashoba scored 24 points, I still felt our defense played well. We hadn't been very good defensively, but tonight we were good when we had to be. Offensively, nothing fazes these kids. They just go out and keep making plays."