The Nashoba Regional and Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical high school football teams capped their seasons with Central Massachusetts Super Bowl wins on Saturday.
Nashoba’s Chieftains, coached by Ken Tucker, own the state’s longest winning streak after their 20-6 Division 2 win over Shepherd Hill Regional at Gillette Stadium.
And Blackstone Valley avenged its Week 9 loss to Bay Path Regional Tech with a 6-0 victory in the Division 6 championship game at Fitchburg State University.
Here’s a look at their roads to the championship games:
Nashoba Regional 20,
Shepherd Hill Regional 6
Season’s defining moment: Over the course of the Chieftains’ perfect 13-0 season, their average margin of victory was 26.5 points, but not all of their wins were sure things. In weeks 4 and 5, Tucker’s team found out it wasn’t where it wanted to be, with close calls against Marlborough (a 28-14 win) and Clinton High (a 7-0 squeaker).
“We didn’t need to lose to learn a lesson,” Tucker said. “We knew we had to get back to work, and we told them very clearly we were getting back to basics. In practice we always try to get a lot of repetition, and they can go by very quickly with our no-huddle’’ offense.
“What we found was that we were sometimes favoring quantity instead of quality. We decided we’re gonna stop, go over things, repeat plays, do things we weren’t doing in practice. We had to pay more attention, we had to pay more attention as coaches, we had to focus on attention to detail,’’ he said. “We had gotten away from that a little bit, but we got back on the straight and narrow.”
The second straight perfect season and back-to-back Super Bowl titles for Nashoba, which draws students from Bolton, Lancaster and Stow, extended the team’s state-best winning streak to 26 games.
Key play of Super Bowl: The 22-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior cornerback Brady Schartner late in the fourth quarter sealed what had been a one-possession lead.
“It’s exactly what you teach” when coaching the defensive secondary, Tucker said of Schartner’s play. “Break on the ball, keep everything in front of you so you can react to it. His reaction was phenomenal. . . . When I saw him come back and break on the ball I knew it was going to be six.”
Unsung hero: Hard to say the quarterback of an undefeated team went unnoticed, but in a lot of ways that was the case for senior Jack Sarnoski . The rushing attack’s gaudy numbers overshadowed Sarnoski’s ability to make big throws, especially late in the season. And on defense, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder was a top inside linebacker on a defense that allowed just 7.2 points per game.
“His leadership cannot be underestimated,” Tucker said of the cocaptain. “He was a quiet leader who demanded the best from everybody. A two-way player who would make the tough play when we needed it. He always wanted the ball in his hands.”
Statistics check: Still coping with an ankle injury suffered in a Week 8 win over Doherty Memorial, senior running back John Ojukwu wasn’t at full strength at Gillette Stadium, but he still finished the year with mind-boggling numbers. He gained more than 1,100 yards rushing on fewer than 100 carries, and scored 120 points despite missing two regular-season games to the injury.
Coach’s corner: “This senior class has been special since they got to Nashoba,’’ Tucker said. “We knew, and I think they knew, that they were gonna be a great football team. But they worked hard every single day from freshman year on. In the last two years they’ve been a dream in particular.”
The future: The Chieftains will lose 19 seniors to graduation, but Tucker feels the program is in good position for next year, given the experience that many of the younger players gained this season.
“We never underestimate the value of getting kids on the field no matter what the circumstances are,” he said. “When the game is in hand, we get other kids in, and we’ve seen great development from some of those players.’’
Blackstone Valley Tech 6,
Bay Path Regional Tech 0
Season’s defining moment: After a 49-8 win over Keefe Tech in Week 5, coach Jim Archibald asked his team to show up on the Monday morning of the Columbus Day weekend for a film session.
“I came in about an hour early to do some work in the office, and I was the 50th person there,” he said. “They were all there waiting. We had a key stretch coming up, and I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to tell the other coaches. That’s when our focus shifted from ‘We have the potential to be good’ to ‘We wanna be good, and we wanna win a Super Bowl.’ ’’
Key play of Super Bowl: The game’s lone score came on the opening kickoff, when sophomore Ben Reiffarth scooped up the ball on what Archibald called a “Christmas hop” and ran 71 yards for a touchdown. It was the Beavers’ only kick return for a TD all season.
“We were all so surprised,” Archibald said. “We were looking all over the field for flags but there weren’t any.”
Unsung heroes: Blackstone Valley Tech’s five senior captains — Dan Avery , Shawn Wilkins , Taylor Hanson , Pat Durkin , and Joe Angelini — quietly played through injuries.
Avery, the team’s starting quarterback, wore a harness on his nonthrowing shoulder for part of the season. Durkin, a running back, and Angelini, a two-way lineman, both dealt with broken wrists. Wilkins, who had two interceptions in the Super Bowl, and Hanson, a running back, both overcame ankle injuries.
“Those kids that are varsity contributors and special teams players, when they see a kid like [Durkin] playing with a broken wrist and [Avery] wearing a harness, it helps those other kids get over their aches and pains,” Archibald said. “For us the captains set the tone.”
Statistics check: Junior linebacker Nic Wojnar finished the regular season with 142 solo tackles, second most in Central Mass, and 164 tackles total.
Coach’s corner: Facing Bay Path again in the Super Bowl “actually was the best-case scenario for us.’’ Archibald said. “They had beaten us early in the season and kind of ruined our perfect season. . . . We had no trouble motivating the kids.’’
The future: The Beavers will lose 10 seniors to graduation, but will return a core that includes Reiffarth and Wojnar.
“We’ve got a good crop of kids coming up,” Archibald said. “They’re already working hard in the weight room. Of course winning a Super Bowl helps with enthusiasm and stuff like that, so we’re excited about the next few years. With the new playoff setup, hopefully we can get back in next year, and hopefully represent Central Mass. well.”
Loss of seniors will challenge Natick
Division 2A Super Bowl runner-up Natick will return several skill-position players next season — including junior quarterback Troy Flutie , junior receivers Alex Hilger and Justin Robinson , and sophomore wideout Brian Dunlap — but the graduation of captains Nick Lee and Mike Dunlap will be significant losses.
Lee played through an ankle injury to finish the year with almost 700 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, including one score in the Redhawks’ 28-21 loss to Beverly in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. Dunlap, the team’s top linebacker, led the team with 138 tackles.
Franklin pair proved key for Bishop Feehan
Bishop Feehan beat Lynnfield, 21-7, at Gillette Stadium for the Division 3A Super Bowl title with the help of two seniors from Franklin.
Middle linebacker Tom Salmon started every game for the Shamrocks (10-2) after suffering a serious knee injury last season. Kehma Johnson contributed at running back, scoring on a 1-yard run to help beat Bishop Stang on Thanksgiving.
Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.