By Bill Gilman
WESTFORD -- The Fitchburg High football team scored 28 unanswered points over the final three quarters to overpower North Middlesex Regional, 42-14, in their Midland-Wachusett League game played at Nashoba Tech.
"It's been a long time coming. I think we finally put together three-and-a-half quarters of football," said Fitchburg coach Tom DiGeronimo. "We cut down on a lot of mistakes. We played hard. I'm really happy for our kids."
Senior quarterback Andrew Brooks and freshman running back Anthony Oquendo ignited a Fitchburg offense that had been shut down in a 32-2 loss to Nashoba Regional a week ago. Brooks threw a pair of touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Ozzy Guy. Oquendo gashed the Patriots' defense for 134 yards and two scores, including an electrifying 78-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to blow the game open.
The key to the game was the play of the Fitchburg defense over the final three quarters. Giving up scores on two of the first two North Middlesex possessions (TD runs by Josh LeBlanc and Adam Fournier), the Red Raider defense looked very much like the one that had given up an average of 34 points a game over the first three weeks of the season.
After Fitchburg (1-3) grabbed a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Avery Perry, North Middlesex put together another long drive with little resistance.
But then, on second and 3 from the 34, Fournier was stopped for a 2-yard gain. On third down, the middle of the Fitchburg defensive line met Fournier in the backfield and dropped him for a loss. On fourth and 3, Patriots' QB Josh LeBlanc rolled out, only to be swarmed under for a loss, turning the ball over on downs.
That stand seemed to be the confidence boost the FHS defense needed and the Patriots never got that close to the end zone again.
Up 21-14, Fitchburg took the second half kickoff and marched 65 yards in 12 plays to double their lead. Brooks capped the drive, connecting with Guy on a 4-yard slant for the score.
The best scoring chance for North Middlesex (2-2) came later in the third quarter, when Mark Valente recovered a fumble at the Fitchburg 44.
But the threat went by the boards when Trey Winters intercepted a pass at the 15.
Two plays later, Oquendo blasted over left tackle, broke three tackles and outraced the secondary for a 78-yard touchdown run, making it 35-14.
W. Boylston 34
Ayer Shirley 7
Patrick May threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score while leading West Boylston over previously unbeaten Ayer Shirley Regional High School in a Midland-Wachusett League D Division clash held in Ayer.
Ayer Shirley is now 3-1 with a home game against Murdock this Friday night.
Mick Mitrano scored Ayer Shirley's touchdown on a 25-yard run. Jimmy Robinson kicked the conversion.
West Boylston (3-1) took charge early, jumping out to a 28-0 halftime lead.
May threw a 48-yard TD pass to Corey Shea and scored on a 40-yard run.
Ethan Clark caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Luke Lentine and ripped off a 50-yard run for a score while lifting Westboro past Groton-Dunstable in a Midland-Wachusett League B Division game.
G-D is now 0-4 with a bye this week. Westboro is 1-3.