LEOMINSTER, Mass. - In a rematch of one of the wildest games of the Central Massachusetts' 2012 football season, the 4th-seeded Leominster Blue Devils kept their hopes alive for consecutive Division 1 Super Bowl championships, outlasting the Shrewsbury Colonials 20-7 Tuesday night at frigid and snowy Doyle Field in Leominster. The victory avenges Leominster's heartbreaking 33-32 loss to the Colonials back on Nov. 2.
The underdog Blue Devils would roll the dice on their opening drive. Facing a 4th and 1 on their own 38, Coach Dave Palazzi elected to go for it. However, running back Matt Banchs was stopped for no gain, turning the ball over on downs.
The Colonials found the sledding very difficult against the stout Leominster defense, as three plays netted one yard. On 4th and 9 from the Blue Devil 37, Shrewsbury quarterback Mike Coggeshall's pass was broken up by James Gurley.
Leominster drew first blood on their second possession. After losing a yard on the opening play of the series, quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie hit Gurley on a well executed screen pass for 23 yards followed by a 22-yard connection to Jake Allain. After a short run, DelleChiaie faked a handoff, and marched into the end zone from 19 yards out. DelleChiaie's two point conversion pass fell incomplete, and Leominster led 6-0 with 3:09 left in the opening quarter,
After forcing a Shrewsbury three and out, the Blue Devils offense extended their lead, driving 57 yards in seven plays, capped by DelleChiaie's 6-yard touchdown strike to Jarell Addo. DelleChiaie was 4-for-4 on the series including 14 and 28 yard passes to Allain. DelleChiaie hit Neil O'Connor for the two point conversion, and Leominster extended their lead to 14-0 with 8:06 remaining in the first half.
In need of an offensive spark, the Colonials got it on their next possession, as they produced a well-executed 12 play, 61-yard drive covering 4:35 capped by Michael Dilliberto's 1-yard touchdown plunge. A perfectly thrown 40-yard pass from Coggeshall to Jay Reynolds on 3rd and 11 from the Colonial 38 ignited the scoring march. A 10-yard Coggeshall to Ryan Dube pass on 3rd and 7 from the Leominster 19 as well as a 4th down Blue Devil pass interference in the end zone extended the drive. Coggeshall's point after cut the Leominster lead to 14-7 with 3:25 remaining in the half.
Leominster appeared poised to extend the lead before halftime, marching to the Shrewsbury 18 in 10 plays. DelleChiaie was 4-for-6 on the drive, and added 17 yards on two runs. However, on 3rd down with 11 seconds remaining, DelleChiaie was flushed out of the pocket, and his scramble was stopped inside the 20 with time expiring.
Any momentum by the Colonials before halftime was stopped on the opening possession of the second half. After two short runs netted two yards, Shrewsbury faced a 3rd and 8 from their own 37. O'Connor would step in front of the intended receiver and would take the interception all the way back 40 yards for the Leominster score. The two point conversion attempt was fumbled, but the Blue Devils opened up a 20-7 lead just 1:34 into the third quarter.
Shrewsbury began their next possession at their own 14 due to a penalty, and appeared in danger of punting from deep in their own territory. However, an offsides penalty on Leominster on 3rd and 2 extended the drive. A 23-yard scamper by Zach Dionis advanced the ball to midfield. However, a fumble on the next play was recovered by Leominster's Shane O'Donnell, snuffing out the drive.
Shrewsbury's defense took the ball back. Facing a 1st and 10 from the Colonial 38, and looking to put the game on ice, Leominster's DelleChiaie was sacked by Jakob McVane. After an incompletion, Anthony Fournier intercepted DelleChiaie's 3rd down pass, and Shrewsbury took over at their 43 with 3:47 remaining in the third quarter.
The Colonials appeared poised to cut into the lead as their ball control offense churned out a 14-play drive. A 21-yard pass on 2nd and 18 from Coggeshall to Reynolds, a 10-yard run on 3rd and 9 by Dilliberto, and a 12-yard completion from Coggeshall to Reynolds on 4th and 4 from the Blue Devil 17 were the key plays in the sequence. However. Coggeshall's 3rd and goal pass from the Leominster 5 was intercepted by O'Connor, and Shrewsbury came up empty.
Taking over at their own 20 with 8:37 remaining, Leominster proceeded to engineer a 12-play, 63-yard drive. A key 8-yard completion from DelleChiaie to O'Connor on 3rd and 7 extended the possession with 6:20 remaining. O'Donnell would add 39 yards on the ground. The drive would close with Gurley stopped for a 2-yard run on 4th and 7 from the Colonial 19, but not before 6:37 elapsed from the clock.
Regaining possession at the Shrewsbury 17 with 2:00, Coggeshall hit Kris Swedberg for 10 yards. After an incompletion, Coggeshall connected with Swedberg for seven yards. After an incompletion, Jeff LeMay was stopped for a 4-yard loss, and Leominster proceeded to run out the clock.
The Blue Devils (8-4) advance to the Central Massachusetts Division 1 Super Bowl against St. John's, who defeated Wachusett. Shrewsbury concludes the season at 9-3.