Leominster shocks Fitchburg
The way Leominster’s season had been spiraling over the last several weeks, the popular belief was that Fitchburg would roll yesterday in the 127th meeting (105th on Thanksgiving) in this historic rivalry.
But the Blue Devils had other ideas, putting forth their best effort of the season for a 24-18 double-overtime victory before a standing-room crowd at Doyle Field in Leominster.
“This game means so much to the kids,’’ said Leominster coach John Dubzinski, whose team snapped a five-game losing streak and finished 4-7. “Obviously, we played our best game of the year.’’
Just about everyone had written off the Blue Devils, believing the Red Raiders’ spread offense would run circles around them. But Leominster’s defense stayed the course, holding high-powered Fitchburg to just 160 yards.
Leominster sustained enough time-consuming drives to keep its opponent’s offense on the sideline for large chunks at a time.
With the game tied, 12-12, after regulation, the Blue Devils struck first in the initial overtime on a 1-yard plunge by Nick Wilford (17 carries, 64 yards), but the conversion run failed.
Fitchburg (7-4) stormed back when Steph’on Teague barreled in from the 8. But the Red Raiders’ conversion run was snuffed out, and with things knotted at 18, another overtime was needed.
Fitchburg got the ball first at the 10, reaching the 5. Facing a third-and-goal, Teague took a pitch from Quinton Perkins but lost the handle, and the ball was recovered by the Blue Devils.
That would lead to Cortez Ludden’s game-sealing 3-yard carry into the end zone, setting off a wild celebration.
“We’re disappointed,’’ said Fitchburg coach Ray Cosenza, whose club will return to action Tuesday night in the Division 1 Central Mass. playoffs. “We made our mistakes, but give them credit because they played great. This is a tough one to take right now.’’
The Blue Devils, who finished with 239 yards of offense, stuck to their running attack to gain yardage and use up time.
After taking advantage of a botched punt by the Red Raiders, Leominster struck first on a 2-yard run by Geraldo Rivera to lead, 6-0. With 1:51 remaining before the half, Fitchburg got on the board after linebacker Tyrie Osby stole the ball from Ludden and bolted 15 yards to tie the game.
The Blue Devils reclaimed the lead at 12-6 early in the third when Justin Bailey hauled in a 26-yard scoring pass from Kyle Ford.
Things remained that way until the Red Raiders’ final possession in regulation. Perkins, running the Wildcat, scampered 10 yards across the goal line with 2:49 left. Fitchburg’s attempt to go ahead on a conversion run fell short.
With little time left, Leominster put together a valiant push downfield, getting to the 10. With only 10 seconds left, Leonardo Trento’s 29-yard field goal attempt to win it was blocked by Teague.
“Our kids did a wonderful job,’’ Dubzinski said. “I’m truly thrilled and very proud of our kids.’’
St. John’s (Shrewsbury) 40, St. Peter-Marian 13 — The 10-1 Pioneers secured the top Division 1 playoff seed behind six touchdown passes and 198 yards from quarterback Dan Light. Cal-bound receiver Richard Rodgers caught half of Light’s touchdown tosses and collected 103 yards on six receptions.
Auburn 33, Oxford 14 — The win boosted Auburn to 11-0 as it captured the top seed in the Division 2 playoffs. The Rockets have won 35 games in a row.
David Prouty 32, Leicester 14 — Prouty completed an undefeated regular season (10-0) and clinched the Division 2B championship as Zach Grasis registered 160 yards on the ground, scoring once.
Milford 20, Shrewsbury 6 — Alex Paulina tallied 110 yards on 23 carries and Mike Coggeshall threw a touchdown pass as the hosts rolled.
Hudson 6, Marlboro 0 — Marlboro (7-4) allowed an 11-yard touchdown run to Karl Sery in the second quarter, a score that proved to be all Hudson (9-2) needed.