From a record and talent standpoint, Fitchburg had no business being in the game. But the Red Raiders were like a fighter backed into a corner and forced to come out swinging.
The final outcome before 5,000-plus at Doyle Field will show Leominster prevailed, 38-22. But credit Fitchburg for putting up a battle few thought they would in Thursday’s 130th meeting of this historic rivalry, which began in 1894. The Blue Devils have won the last five meetings and lead the overall series, 62-58-10.
Fitchburg (1-9) was determined to put up a fight against the defending Division 1 Central Mass. Super Bowl champions.
With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Fitchburg trailed, 22-16, but Leominster struck for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to finally shake free.
“Hats off to Fitchburg,” said Leominster coach Dave Palazzi, his team improving to 7-4 and moving on to Tuesday night’s playoff contest against Shrewsbury. “They moved the football and kind of controlled the clock and because of that we had to make big plays on offense. They made it hard on us to decide what to call on offense. Our kids came through and hung tough.”
Early in the final quarter, receiver Jarell Addo hauled in a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie (155 yards and three scores on 9-of-10 passing) to go up, 30-16. Getting the ball back following a punt, Blue Devils running back Mayson Williams bolted 20 yards but before he reached the end zone, the junior was smacked from behind and fumbled. As the ball rolled into the end zone, tight end Peter Dandini fell on it for the score. James Gurley’s 2-point conversion run put the game out of reach.
“We came out and I thought we played tough,” said first-year Fitchburg coach Dan Walker. “We gave up a couple of big plays, which killed us, and then we just couldn’t stop them when we needed to.”
The victory overshadowed a fine performance from Red Raider senior Dimitri Brasili, who rushed for 152 yard on 26 attempts and scored three touchdowns.
“My offensive line gave me a lot of opportunities today,” Brasili said. “I did what I had to do but we didn’t come up with the win. I tried to do my best, do what I needed to do and try to score every time I had the football.”
The Blue Devils took an 8-0 first-quarter lead on the strength of Gurley’s 45-yard interception return for a TD and Jake Allain’s conversion reception. Brasili’s 26-yard jaunt midway though the second, along with his conversion carry, tied the score at 8-8.
For the remainder of the half though, it was all Blue Devils. DelleChiaie threw for pair of touchdowns of 8 and 50 yards, respectively, to Neil O’Connor and Addo, sending them into the break leading, 22-8.
Auburn 42, Oxford 8 — Bob Sivret scored three TDs and Tyler Desjardins two to lead the Rockets (11-0) past the Pirates (1-10) at Oxford High.
St. John’s (S) 14, St. Peter-Marian 7 — Drew Smiley broke free for a 39-yard bootleg with just under five minutes left and Barron Dandridge intercepted a pass to seal the win two minutes later for the Pioneers.
Nashoba 46, North Middlesex 14 — Senior running back John Ojukwu rushed for a TD and caught another. The Chieftains, the defending Division 2 Super Bowl champions and winners of 24 straight, finished the regular season 11-0.
Marlboro 28, Hudson 8 — The Panthers were led by MVP senior quarterback Mike Yates, who completed 3-of-6 passes for 147 yards to lead the Panthers past the Hawks.
Groton-Dunstable 34, Tyngsborough 6 — Senior Matt Manning scored three TDs and junior Quinton Forbes caught two TDs from classmate Mack Eberhardt to lead the Crusaders (10-1) past the Tigers (10-1) to clinch their first league title in their five-year existence.
Northbridge 45, Uxbridge 14 — Matt Phelan passed for four TDs and ran for another as the Rams beat Uxbridge to give coach Ken LaChapelle his 305th win, putting him second on the state’s all-time career win list.