SOUTHBRIDGE — Northbridge coach Ken LaChapelle’s 300th career victory ended much like the other 299 did — with the venerable coach standing in the middle of a football field, smiling and surrounded by the things he holds most dear in life: his family, friends, and players.
The visiting Rams (4-0) wasted little time in securing Sunday’s game, scoring on their second play and taking a 28-0 halftime lead before settling for a 42-12 win over Southbridge to give LaChapelle his milestone win and make him the first coach in Massachusetts history to record the mark at one school.
“I tried not to think about it,” LaChapelle said. “It’s nice to get the acknowledgements and it’s a nice milestone, but more importantly it was about being at Northbridge and being with the family. That’s what’s special.”
LaChapelle was understated in his celebration, getting handshakes and pats on the back after the final whistle. He addressed his players and thanked them for their hard work and help getting the accomplishment, stopping only when he got emotional when talking about his late wife, Claire, who passed away just over a year ago. The two were high school sweethearts and married for 42 years and she is remembered with a patch bearing her initials C.A.L. on the back of Northbridge’s helmets.
For an unscripted — but poetic — touch in Sunday’s game, two of LaChapelle’s grandchildren scored touchdowns. Senior Daiton LaChapelle reeled in a 23-yard catch to make it 28-0 in the second quarter, while freshman quarterback Koby Schofer took a broken play and rolled 64 yards for a score to make it 42-6 in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t in the plans, but Koby made a great play and [Matt] Phelan made a great pass to me,” Daiton LaChapelle said. “It felt good to have both grandsons score in his 300th.”
“It’s your grandfather’s 300 win and you score a touchdown and your cousin scores one, too, it can’t get any better,” Schofer said. “Daiton came up to me and told me and then it hit me and you just can’t do any better than that. My grandpa is such a great coach and a great person, so it’s just awesome.”
LaChapelle’s milestone comes just short of the anniversary of his first victory, which he got with a 33-0 win over Uxbridge Oct. 2, 1976. His first game as Northbridge coach ended in a 0-0 tie against Ayer Sept. 18, 1976. He won his 100th Sept. 30, 1989, with a 7-0 win over Uxbridge and got No. 200 with a 21-0 triumph over Leicester Sept. 8, 2001.
LaChapelle is third on the state’s all-time wins list, trailing Bill Broderick (304 wins at Rindge Tech, Haverhill, and Salem) and Armond Colombo (323 wins at Archbishop Williams and Brockton).
Northbridge wrapped this one up early as the Rams opened the game with one of LaChapelle’s patented trick plays that he is fond of starting off with. However, the double-reverse pass fell incomplete, so quarterback Phelan took the next play 70 yards around the left side for a touchdown. Jake Ryan’s first of five extra points made it 7-0.
Phelan found Ben O’Donnell (two interceptions) for big gains of 23 and 15 yards on the Rams’ next drive before capping it with a 2-yard touchdown run. On Northbridge’s third drive, Phelan broke untouched up the middle on the second play for a 79-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 after the first quarter. Phelan carried the ball four times in the first half and scored on three of them and gained 153 yards. He finished with five carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns while completing 6 of 8 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Phelan said it was important for the Rams to put this one away early for LaChapelle.
“This is really something special and he really deserves everything, coach Lach is a great coach and 37 years is a lot of dedication,” Phelan said. “He’s a great coach, a great guy and a great family man. He’s taught me more than anyone else has taught me around the sport. It’s just unreal the way he coaches and the person that he is.”