LEOMINSTER — A new month and a new playoff system arrived on Friday, but for top-seeded Leominster , it was the same old, successful story.
With a 51-13 pounding of eighth-seeded Westboro at Doyle Field in a Division 2 Central quarterfinal, the Blue Devils ran their record to 8-0 and advanced to host fifth-seeded Shrewsbury next Friday night.
Leominster senior quarterback Neil O’Connor scored four TDs and helped his team pull away when the stubborn Rangers surprised Leominster, coming within 14-13 in the second quarter.
Four Leominster fumbles helped Westboro (1-7) rally from an early 14-0 deficit, after O’Connor scored on runs of 7 and 53 yards on the Devils’ first two drives.
“They [Westboro] came out very prepared for this game, and we knew it was going to be tough, despite their record,” O’Connor said.
Westboro cashed in on a botched Leominster punt return early in the second quarter. From the Devils’ 27, the Rangers stunned Leominster with a halfback pass from Mike Gallo to quarterback Dan Orlando for a touchdown.
After another Leominster turnover with just under three minutes left in the half, the Rangers struck again when Orlando found Jack Chuma open in the corner of the end zone for a 39-yard TD connection.
The surge didn’t last long. O’Connor, on another keeper up the middle, bolted 37 yards for a TD with 2:30 left in the half. When the Devils regained the ball, Eddie Rivera swept 45 yards to the 7, and as time was running out, O’Connor bulled over from the 1 on a quarterback sneak and a 29-13 lead at the break.
In the second half, Leominster put the Rangers away. Senior fullback Matt Banchs scored on a 1-yard plunge, and added a 27-yard TD reception from senior backup quarterback Nick Xarras, a catch and run that included a terrific leap over a Westboro tackler.
Lamech Muma closed the scoring with a 4-yard TD burst in the fourth quarter.