By Michael James LeClair
When the Nashoba Regional and Marlborough football teams met earlier this season, the Panthers gave the Chieftains all they could handle.
Thanks to a strong performance by the Chieftains on Friday night, the team will get another crack at those Panthers and a shot at redemption.
Nashoba secured a spot in the Central Mass. Division 2A Finals with a convincing 28-14 victory over visiting Doherty of Worcester Friday night in the semifinals.
Nashoba, who came into the playoffs as the second seed in Division 2A, will take on top-seeded Marlborough after the Panthers defeated fourth-seeded Tantasqua Regional 41-8 in the other Division 2A semifinals.
“We ran the ball really well and threw it a little bit when we needed to,” said Nashoba head coach Jamie Tucker after the game. “Our guys made big plays, but they were tough. They moved the ball on us and made some plays, but we were able to make more.”
The Friday night victories by the Chieftains and Panthers sets up a winner-take-all rematch between the two Central Mass powers. Back in week six of the season the host Panthers handed Nashoba a 27-7 loss on October 14. Nashoba and Marlborough will collide on Saturday afternoon at Doyle Field in Leominster. Kickoff is slated for noontime.
The two teams also met in last year’s Central Mass. Division 2 playoffs as Nashoba defeated Marlborough 28-14 in the semifinals before knocking off St. John’s of Shrewsbury 35-27 in the finals.
Nashoba opened the scoring on the first series of the game putting together a drive that went 68 yards in just 10 plays. Nashoba made it 6-0 with 7:23 left in the first quarter when Nate Mansour rumbled his way into the end zone from six yards away. Alex Childs kicked the extra point to give the Chieftains a quick 7-0 lead.
After the Highlanders answered on their first possession of the night with a 34-yard touchdown, the Nashoba offense went back to work.
Mansour found the end zone for a second time with 2:24 left in the first quarter. This time he pushed it across the goal line from seven-yards out to make it 13-7. Childs’ kick was true and Nashoba came back up field with a 14-7 lead.
Nashoba never looked back the rest of the way, adding a second quarter touchdown to open a commanding 21-7 lead heading into the halftime break. Kyle Hume was credited with the touchdown as he muscled his way to paydirt from a yard out before Childs successful kick.
It remained a 21-7 Nashoba advantage until the fourth quarter. The Chieftains added to their lead in the fourth quarter as Mansour found the end zone for the third time in the game. This time it was from 30-yards out. Childs kick made it 28-7 with 6:58 remaining.
Doherty added a late fourth quarter touchdown by Tajon Vassar but it was far too little, too late for the Highlanders.
With the win Nashoba improves to 6-3 overall while Doherty falls to 4-5. Marlboro enters Saturday’s finals with a record of 7-2.