Nashoba-Clinton game brings out the best in both teams.
BOLTON - Won-lost records get tossed when the football teams from Nashoba Regional and Clinton High lock horns on the gridiron.
However, reputation and geographical proximity do not, hence the appeal of the annual clash, an old-fashioned, respect-laden rivalry in every sense of the word.
This year's game, a non-league match-up, takes place tonight (Friday) at the Chieftains' field at 7.
Clinton will be looking for its first win after opening the season with a 34-0 home loss to St. Bernard's. Nashoba, which competes in Division 1 West, kicked off its season with a 23-0 home victory over Westboro.
The Chieftains, who did all their scoring in the first three quarters and dominated the line of scrimmage, were led by senior running back Travis Patterson, who had rushing touchdowns of 61 and 29 yards. Kicker Jim Garvey booted a 29-yard field goal, and Steve Ek scored on a fumble recovery.
Patterson totaled 186 yards rushing on 15 carries.
"You always have to include Nashoba when you talk about the top teams in Central Mass.," Clinton coach Paul Constantino said. "They're definitely one of the elite teams this season, and they have a great running back in Travis Patterson.
"They've also got 12 returning starters from last year, and that was a very good team, too," he said. "It will be a challenge for us, but we're looking forward to it."
Constantino added that, though Patterson amasses the eye-catching statistics, Nashoba is hardly a one-man show. Among other things, the Chieftains have a big, strong, veteran line, riddled with talent, he said. Garvey is a one of the area's best kickers, Constantino added.
Nashoba went 7-4 overall last year. The Chieftains finished in a three-way tie for first in their division with Holy Name and St. Peter-Marian, each compiling a 5-1 record. The Naps were the league champions.
Clinton had its moments against the Bernardians and only trailed 12-0 after three periods. St. Bernard's put the game away in the fourth quarter, exploding for 22 points.
"I think we played better than the final score indicated," Constantino said. "There were glimpses of good good play, both offensively and defensively.
"We had a few quarterback sacks and had a good pass rush that made penetration, but the turnovers really hurt," he said. "You can't compete when you make five turnovers. We have to protect the ball better."
The Gaels suffered a tough blow halfway through the game when senior captain Jay Dowd, a two-way starter, went down with an injury, later revealed to be a broken foot. Constantino said Dowd, a go-getter type in the weight-room who worked diligently in preparation for his senior season, will be out four to six weeks.
He joins fellow weight-room devotee and defensive stalwart Wilfredo Melendez (ligament damage) on the sidelines. Both players will be missed.
Constantino noted the coaching staff is sad to see such hard-working seniors get injured so early in the final year of their high school careers.
"It's tough for these kids to get hurt and then miss the opportunity to play in the Nashoba game," Constantino said. "Right now, we're unsure how we'll replace Dowd. We've had some good workouts and Dowd has been at practice to encourage the guys.
"It shows what a great bunch we have," he said. "The team remains upbeat, and continues to work hard."
Nashoba goes into the game in good shape. The Chieftains' captains are senior Ryan Williams, senior Matt Murray, and Patterson, who rushed for a school-record 1,405 yards on 195 carries last fall. He scored 14 touchdowns.
"Things have come together pretty well, though we had a down period at one point in the preseason where we were not happy with parts of a couple of scrimmages we had," Nashoba coach Ken Tucker said. "But, we made some adjustments and, by the first game, we were pretty well prepared, which is always your goal.
"I think the extra (preseason) week this year was helpful and, as a result, we were much better prepared for our opener with Westboro," he said.
Tucker was pleased with the Chieftains' overall effort against the Rangers, especially special teams play. He added that, with the rivalry factor in mind, the Nashoba players are excited about playing Clinton.
Many athletes on both teams are friends. Rivals on the field, pals after the game-ending whistle blows.
"The kids from both schools look forward to it," Tucker said. "It's a fun game for all, and the game of football should be fun."
Tucker laments the diminished rivalries in Central Mass. football due to realignment and basic scheduling changes, but he is glad that some, like Nashoba-Westboro and Nashoba-Clinton, remain intact. Tucker added that, though Clinton has been struggling a bit, the Gaels cannot be taken lightly.
"They have a great coaching staff, and I'm sure they'll turn it around," Tucker said. "We know they had trouble with turnovers last week, but it's also early in the season. We know they're a much better team than that final score would indicate."
Constantino believes that, too. Among other things, Constantino said Clinton must value and protect the football, and not give quality opponents more possessions.
"I think it will be a fun game, despite our losing Jay and Wilfredo," Constantino said. "There's no self pity on this team. The kids understand, and they know they have to move on.
"It's a good life lesson," he said. "We'll be ready for Nashoba. Nashoba-Clinton epitomizes what I think is good about high school sports."
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Sep 19, 2008|
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