By Chad Garner
LEOMINSTER -- The Leominster High football team has weapons all over the field, and some new ones emerged last Friday night against North Middlesex.
Bruising junior fullback Matt Banchs scored his first two touchdowns of the season and senior wide receiver Markeis Nelson hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass as the Blue Devils turned in a fabulous 27-point first half and coasted to a 27-14 victory over North Middlesex at Doyle Field.
"That's the way we wanted to come out and play," Leominster coach Dave Palazzi said. "We threw the ball around and got it to some different guys, got the ball in some other guys' hands. It's really what we're looking to do.
"We do have a lot of skilled players, but you've got one football. You try to do different things with guys with different skill sets. We had a lot of guys doing different things. We're trying to spread it around and hopefully we can put it all together because we've got a big week (at Wachusett on Oct. 6)."
Leominster, which has won three straight home games after opening the season with a loss to Eastern Mass. power Everett, was led by senior quarterback Garrett DelleChiaie, who was 10 of 16 passing for 137 yards, two TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 71 yards on six carries.
Neil O'Connor had three receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown, while Nelson hauled in three balls for 28 yards and another score.
Banchs had five carries for 33 yards, including rushing touchdowns of 5 and 6 yards.
It was all Leominster (3-1) in the first half, as the hosts dominated on both sides of the football to build an impressive 27-0 halftime lead. Leominster's defense, led by linebacker Jay Valera, held North Middlesex (1-3) to no first downs and minus-2 yards of total offense in the half.
Leominster took the opening drive 50 yards on seven plays for a 7-0 advantage. Junior running back Mayson Williams touched the ball five times.
But it was power back Banchs who finished off the drive. The junior rumbled through the line and hurdled into the end zone with 7:07 left in the quarter for a 5-yard score.
Matheus DaRosa added the extra point -- his first of three in the half. After a quick three-and-out for the Patriots, Leominster's offense went right back to work on its second possession.
Five-foot-5, 150-pound junior Kenny Delgado bolted 19 yards to the 10, and two plays later DelleChiaie made a nice pump fake and lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone into the hands of Nelson for a 12-yard scoring strike.
Again, North Middlesex's offense couldn't pick up a first down on two rushes by Brandon Lambert and an incomplete pass by quarterback John Boutwell, and the Patriots were forced to punt.
Leominster set up shop at its own 24 and put together an eye-popping 17-play drive that chewed nearly 11 minutes off the clock.
The Blue Devils marched down the field through the air -- DelleChiaie hit favorite target O'Connor for a 22-yard screen pass and 16 more on a nice diving catch by Jake Allain -- while the running game kicked into overdrive. Williams raced out for 12 yards on a toss right, while DelleChiaie used his legs after being flushed out of the pocket for 14 yards. He later added a 10-yard keeper down to the 11. On fourth-and-3 from the 9, Banchs blasted into the line for 4 yards, setting up his second score of the game -- a bruising 6-yard TD run -- for a comfortable 21-0 lead with 2:24 left until halftime.
"They are a good football team, and we couldn't make a play when we really needed it," North Middlesex coach Sandy Ruggles said.
The Patriots were three-and-out again late in the half -- thanks to a bad snap that cost them a 22-yard loss -- and Leominster needed only three plays to go up 27-0.
DelleChiaie found Nelson on the sidelines for a 9-yarder, and then got a bone-crushing block from Hector Delgado to spring the quarterback for 17 yards. With the ball at the North Middlesex 45, DelleChiaie hooked up with O'Connor on a wide receiver screen over the middle, and the junior wideout did the rest, breaking two tackles from behind and galloping 45 yards to paydirt.
Leominster flexed it muscles with 240 yards of total offense compared to North Middlesex's minus-2 in the half.
But North Middlesex finally got its offense on track to start the third quarter.
"The first half we came out really good, but second half we slacked off and thought we were on top of the world right there and thought we were untouchable," Banchs said. "We've got to stay focused in the second half."
Lambert (16 carries, 81 yards, TD) rushed twice to pick up a first down -- North Middlesex's of the game -- in the third quarter, and three plays later took a simple dive play and broke out of a pack of defenders en route to a 35-yard TD run with 7:19 left. Ben Ferro's kick cut Leominster's lead to 27-7.
Early in the fourth quarter, Joe Dolciotto picked off DelleChiaie at the Patriot 10.
With 1:36 left in the game, North Middlesex's Dylan Woods (5 carries, 71 yards, TD) broke free for a 65-yard TD jaunt, leaping a defender at midfield before racing for a quick-six.
"That's the thing I'm proudest of is how we came out and what we did in the second half," Ruggles said. "We felt we played a much better second half. (Palazzi) was good to us, he subbed a bit. We walk out of here with a little dignity to get ready for next week."
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