FITCHBURG — Capitalizing on chances had been an issue for the Leominster High football team all season.
Stalled drives, turnovers, penalties. … You name it and the Blue Devils had run into this fall.
That all changed on Thursday.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Blue Devils feasted on their scoring chances, taking advantage of several Fitchburg turnovers to top the arch rival Red Raiders, 32-0, at Crocker Field.
Already ahead 12-0 in the second quarter, Leominster (4-7) took control late in the second quarter as Fitchburg (6-4) failed to secure three consecutive kickoffs.
Following Ma’Kai Newton’s nine-yard touchdown reception from Caeden Constant that put the Blue Devils up by a dozen points, Leominster kicker Terry DeOliveria sent a short kick to a gap in Fitchburg’s formation and Jack Fish pounced on the ball for the guests.
Two plays later, Constant hit Ricky Encarnacion on a 33-yard scoring strike and the rout was on.
“They left a gap between the first line and second line and our kicker has been really good at dropping it,” Leominster head coach Devin Gates said. “It was just a chip and kind of spin it back. They weren’t aggressive coming up to get the ball, so we were able to steal a possession at a crucial time right before the half. We got another one and were able to score right before the half. Big plays.”
The ensuing kickoff was also fumbled by Fitchburg, setting up a six-play, 29-yard scoring drive capped by Constant’s 11-yard scoring run.
The next kick was also fumbled back to Leominster with 30 seconds remaining in the half, but the Blue Devils ran one play before letting the clock bleed, taking a 26-0 lead to the break.
“We were a little flat and it’s Leominster-Fitchburg, they were ready to play,” Fitchburg head coach Greg Graham said. “They had a couple things go their way. They get some big turnovers and we just couldn’t get it going. It’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
The first half saw Leominster limit Fitchburg to just 23 yards of offense, while Constant aired things out, going 7-for-11 for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve had a tough year. We’ve struggled. To their credit, none of these guys quit,” Gates said. “None of these guys hung their heads or felt sorry for themselves. We came out here today and did what we had to do and I’m so happy for them because it’s been a tough year. They deserved it.”
Encarnacion opened the scoring midway through the first, taking the snap and going 28 yards to the end zone.
Constant capped the game’s scoring midway through the third quarter, breaking four tackles on fourth-and-10 to go 30 yards to the end zone for a 32-0 lead and to start running time.
Fitchburg’s best chances to score came on its two drives the second half, but a drive into Leominster territory early in the third ended with an interception by Encarnacion on the first and later, a 35-yard field goal attempt off the foot of Alexander McCloskey fell just short.