Frustrating finish: Return to playoffs eludes Chargers

Frustrating finish: Return to playoffs eludes Chargers

Blackstone-Millville/Hopedale quarterback Jared Ducharme, #2, tries to pick up a first down before two Nipmuc players, Lucas Beder, #47, and Joe LeClaire, #24, close in on him during last Saturday afternoon’s Dual Valley Conference game. BMR-Hopedale suffered a 30-29 loss that was the Chargers’ fourth straight defeat. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Once 4-0, BMR/Hopedale football team suffers fourth straight loss – in game’s final seconds – to Nipmuc

BLACKSTONE – After kicking off its season with four victories, it appeared that the Blackstone-Millville Regional/Hopedale co-op football team was well on its way to booking a return trip to the Central Mass. Division VI playoffs.

But the Chargers didn’t win another game after that, and last Saturday afternoon, they suffered their fourth straight defeat, and it was a heartbreaker at home to one of their Dual Valley Conference rivals, Nipmuc.

Owners of a 21-6 lead after three quarters of play, the Chargers helplessly watched the Warriors battle back in the fourth quarter. And with 22.1 seconds to go in the contest, Nipmuc was able to score a late touchdown and tack on the two-point conversion to escape with a 30-29 victory.

Had the Chargers won the game, they would have clinched the fourth seed in the playoffs, which begins this weekend, because Littleton, which was ranked a spot ahead of BMR/Hopedale in the MIAA’s power ratings, suffered a 26-7 loss to Maynard the previous night that dropped the team’s record to 4-4.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a season,” said BMR/Hopedale head coach Josh Euglow, whose Chargers will now end their season with two non-league games and their Thanksgiving Day matchup with Sutton. “We got those four wins to start (the season), beating some teams we haven’t played or beaten before.”

“Then we got to the heavy part of our schedule,” Euglow continued, “starting with Uxbridge, which was an undefeated team when we faced them. Then we went to Milbury, which is number one in Division 5 right now. And then we lost that (61-42) shootout last week to St. Bernard’s, who went to the (Division VIII) Super Bowl last year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they make it again this year.”

The Chargers owned the first half and took a 14-0 lead into halftime, but the Warriors got on the board immediately in the third quarter, and that was all they needed for the momentum switch.

“In the second half, (Nipmuc) made some adjustments and made some big plays,” Euglow noted. “At the end of the day, they just made a few more plays than we did. That’s what it comes down to. It was an up and down game – both teams were going back and forth. It was a great high school football game, that’s for sure.”

It’s been a down year for the Warriors, who came into this game with a 1-6 record. But nothing pushes a team more than to play the role of a spoiler, and it’s always a great rivalry when these two teams meet.

“They’re always a tough team,” Euglow said of Nipmuc. “Those guys went to the state championship last season and played at Gilette (Stadium). Regardless of their record, they’re a good football program, and they’ve always been a good football program.”

In the first half, the Chargers scored a touchdown in each quarter. The first TD came on a three-yard run by Tyler Lane, and Lane also found the end zone in the second quarter with a seven-yard run. Sebastian Ryan tacked on the extra point on each score.

On the first play of the third quarter, Nipmuc broke on the board. After bringing the ball to the 50 on the second half’s opening kickoff, the Warriors saw their quarterback, Judah Dishington, throw a pass to a wide open Michael Tinio, who took it 50 yards to the end zone.

But the Chargers grabbed the momentum back on a three-yard run by Cory Pollinger, and while Nipmuc missed the extra point on its previous touchdown, Ryan booted his third straight PAT to give the hosts ar 21-6 lead.

Nipmuc then answered back with another touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter when Dishington threw a 14-yard TD pass to Lucas Beder. The Warriors then went for the two-point conversion and were successful running the ball into the end zone.

The Chargers couldn’t pick up a first down on their next possession, which began at their own 16, and on fourth-and-1, quarterback Jared Ducharme faked a punt and threw a pass to Dylan Ayotte, who had his hands on the ball, but dropped it, giving Nipmuc perfect field position at the BMR/Hopedale 25.

Again, Dishin passed to Beder for the touchdown, this time with an 18-yard strike on fourth-and-3, and the Warriors took a 22-21 lead when they made good on another two-point conversion run.

The Chargers then used up a lot of the clock (and 11 plays) on their next drive, which resulted in the go-ahead score on a two-yard run by Ducharme. They went for two and Ducharme got that as well, giving BMR/Hopedale the 29-22 lead.

The only problem was that 2:30 was still left in the game, which was more than enough time for Nipmuc to come back. A face-mask penalty and a pass interference penalty by the Chargers aided this drive, and despite a sack by BMR/Hopedale’s Patrick Clifford, the Warriors kept at it.

A key reception by Beder on fourth-and-4 gave the Warriors a first-and-goal inside the BMR/Hopedale 10. It took three tries, but the Warriors ended up breaking the plane on a touchdown run by Dishington with 22.1 seconds left.

Instead of going for the extra point, the Warriors rolled the dice and went for the two-point conversion, and they got their tying and go-ahead points on a pass from Dishington to Tinio.

The Chargers got the ball back and did their best to put together a drive in the remaining time, but they ran three plays before time ran out.

“I thought our seniors played great,” Euglow added. “Jared played great at quarterback; he made some huge throws and big plays. The offensive line played tough the whole game. The defense played great; it let up a few big plays at the end, but overall, I thought we played a complete game. Like I said, (Nipmuc) just made a few more plays than we did at the end.”

Tyler Lane, left, and Cory Pollinger, right, scored touchdowns to help the BMR/Hopedale co-op football team take a 21-6 lead after three quarters of last Saturday afternoon’s Dual Valley Conference game against Nipmuc, but the visiting Warriors came back in the final quarter to pull out a 30-29 victory that snuffed out the Chargers’ playoff hopes.