BOLTON — It’s been a long wait for the Clinton High football team.
On Thanksgiving morning, the visiting Gaels brought an end to Nashoba Regional’s streak of six consecutive Thanksgiving wins as Clinton cruised to a 42-14 victory in the 11th edition of the Cataldi/Tucker Classic at Nashoba Regional High School.
Clinton ends the season with a 7-5 overall record while the Wolves finish the campaign at 1-10.
“We knew, they’re Nashoba. Their record may be 1-9 coming in but they’re Nashoba and they weren’t going to make it easy. No matter how you slice it, they were going to play us tough,” said Clinton head coach Justin Ball. “We know we’re a good team and that they were going to have a hard time stopping us. I’m just so happy for these kids.”
Nashoba now leads the series 6-4-1.
“Clinton is an excellent team this year, hats off to them. We gave them everything we had, but it wasn’t enough,” said Nashoba head coach Andy LeBlanc. “We kept it close through the first half, the guys battled all the way through but unfortunately we made some mistakes at key moments and Clinton capitalized.”
Nashoba hung tough for a while, trailing 14-8 at the half, but the Gaels showed their strength and controlled the second half, outscoring the hosts 28-6 over the final 24 minutes.
Nashoba came out ready to play as it struck first on the game’s opening possession. A 10-play, 61-yard drive was capped by a 19-yard touchdown scamper from Matt Cahill to give the Wolves a 6-0 lead just 4:04 into the contest.
The Wolves had a golden opportunity to add to their early lead when the Gaels coughed up the football on the first play of the ensuing possession, giving Nashoba the football back at the Gaels 36. Unfortunately for the hosts, they couldn’t do anything with it as the Wolves turned the ball over on downs at the 27-yard line.
Nine offensive plays later the Gaels found pay dirt when Angel Lopez ran it in from a yard away. Marcelo Pereira kicked the extra point to give Clinton a 7-6 lead with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter.
Clinton added to its lead on the first play of the second quarter when Connor Cox recovered a Nashoba quarterback Dylan Devine fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Pereira’s kick was true and the Gaels enjoyed a 14-6 lead eight seconds into the frame.
The Wolves defense made a key stop on Clinton’s next drive as Devine, now playing defense, hauled in an interception in the end zone on a Matt Phillips throw. The turnover brought the football out to the Nashoba 20.
Nashoba pulled to within 14-8 with a little luck later in the quarter. A booming Nashoba punt was muffed by the Gaels as the ball rolled into the end zone. By the time the Gaels recovered the ball, Nashoba’s Hunter Bernard was able to make the tackle in the end zone for a safety with 5:05 left before halftime.
The Wolves had a chance to close the gap even more before halftime when Abasi Semakula attempted a 30-yard field goal attempt. The kick was partially blocked by the Gaels to keep it 14-8 heading into halftime.
Clinton came out in the third quarter and took control, crossing the goal line twice in the stanza to take a 28-8 advantage after three quarters. A touchdown run by Cox and a touchdown pass to Ramos from Phillips and the guests were in business leading into the fourth quarter.
In the final 12 minutes Clinton ballooned its lead in the opening minutes. A 92-yard touchdown scamper ballooned the lead to 35-8 with 10:43 left.
Nashoba’s final score of the season came on the Wolves next possession when Cahill muscled his way into the end zone from two yards out to pull Nashoba to within 35-14.
Cox and the Gaels had one more touchdown in them as the Clinton running back busted through a hole in the line and rumbled his way 34 yards to paydirt with 4:25 left to cap the scoring.
Following the game, both teams handed out some hardware. For Clinton, Brendan Bernard won the Offensive MVP Award while Angel Lopez (Defensive MVP), Phillips (Overall MVP) and Ramos (Clinton Player of the Game) were also recognized.
For Nashoba, Andrew Toth (Defensive MVP), Matt Cahill (Offensive MVP) and Jared Williams (Nashoba Player of the Game) were honored.