BOSTON — With the backdrop of the Green Monster behind them and the splendor of Fenway Park laid out before them, it would have been easy for the Leominster High football team to get caught up in the grandeur of playing at such a historic venue.
A slow start would have been understandable.
But as they have throughout the second half of the 2023 season, the Blue Devils came out ready to play Wednesday night. The end result was a 59-7 drubbing of Fitchburg High in the 117th Thanksgiving meeting of the Twin City rivals.
“We got here early and the energy as soon as we walked in, it kind of caught me off-guard. We immediately snapped into gear and the guys were pretty much dialed in from that point on,” said Leominster head coach Devin Gates, whose team finishes the season 6-5. “They were ready to go and excited for the opportunity. The whole mystique hit us right in the face, but when the game started, they were ready.”
Ready might be an understatement. On Leominster’s first play from scrimmage, Osiris Lopez found Ryan Ricker streaking down the right side for a 72-yard scoring strike. It was one of four TD tosses for Lopez and the first of two to be hauled in by Ricker.
Daniel Thompson’s extra point gave Leominster a 7-0 lead just 19 seconds in.
With the tone set, Leominster took control early. By the end of the first quarter, the lead had grown to 20-0 and expanded to 39-0 by halftime.
“We knew coming in that they were a good team,” Fitchburg head coach Paul DiGeronimo said. “We’re not going to take anything away from them, but our kids played to the best of their abilities and left it all on the field. They had a great experience and we have a lot to build on.”
Leominster’s victory was an exercise in efficiency. Lopez finished the game 9-for-11 passing, throwing for 217 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to Ricker’s two touchdown receptions, Jaidis Delgado hauled in a pair of scoring strikes.
Even more impressively, senior running back Christopher Hatch carried the ball just twice, but found the end zone each time, scoring on runs of 74 and 32 yards.
The Blue Devil defense was equally impressive, holding Fitchburg (0-11) to 179 yards of total offense in the game and scoring a pair of touchdowns of its own. Memi Elias recorded an 87-yard interception to pay dirt in the first quarter before Jaden Jenkins had a pick-six of his own from 46 yards in the third quarter.
The Red Raiders got on the scoreboard in the third quarter, briefly cutting the Leominster lead to 30-7. A long pass from Lucas Beaulac to Richard Salomon put Fitchburg at the LHS two and two plays later, Shea Gonynor punched in a 1-yard yard run.
Melvin De Leon booted the PAT try through the uprights for the Red Raiders.
On the night, Beaulac was Fitchburg’s most productive offensive player tallying 82 yards on 20 carries. The senior also caught a pair of passes and was 1-for-1 passing for 42 yards through the air.
The Blue Devils capped the scoring in the final minute as senior Kaiden Calderon closed out a long drive with a 1-yard run. With time running, no extra point was attempted following Calderon’s touchdown.