TOWNSEND -- It's been a difficult season for both sides, but a down year didn't put any dent in the Leominster-North Middlesex boys' soccer rivalry.

North Middlesex relied on the performance of senior captain Jacob Fitzgerald to secure the victory, as the Patriots downed the visiting Blue Devils 6-3 at Young Memorial Field despite a Leominster surge midway through the contest.

North Middlesex improves to 2-13-2 (1-7-1 Midland A) after falling to Leominster 2-1 earlier in the season. The Blue Devils fall to 3-13-1 (1-8-1 Midland A) and will take on rival Fitchburg at Crocker Field on Thursday.

Fitzgerald was the catalyst, having a hand in every goal in the second frame. He finished the game with an astounding four-goal effort and assisted on what proved to be the winning tally.

"Fitzgerald had a lot of points last year, but not as much this year," North Middlesex head coach Pen Burnham said. "He spends a lot of time on the grass because everyone is double-teaming him and stuff. But with the better play of his teammates, they can't cover him like that. He is just an exceptional player."

North Middlesex wasted no time getting on the board. In the first minute of play, Leo LeClair launched a throw-in from 25 yards out that Fitzgerald headed in at the doorstep, which quickly made it a 1-0 advantage.

Just three minutes later, Leominster responded. Jeremy Nartey delivered the corner kick to Tyrell Wood at the right post.


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Wood immediately sliced it home to knot the game up at 1-1.

North Middlesex captain Mike Spagnola connected on a nice touch pass to Fitzgerald six minutes later, and Fitzgerald tucked it in the left corner to allow the hosts to regain the lead at 2-1.

Later, with just 4:12 remaining until halftime, the Leominster defense committed one of a handful of critical errors. A Blue Devil defender opted to pass back to the goalkeeper, and as the Leominster netminder attempted to kick it deep, Cameron Lane came crashing in to block the ball and ended up with a deflected goal to make it 3-1.

"Unfortunately, we did have some big defensive lapses," Leominster head coach Steve McCaughey said. "If we come in here on the road and score three goals, that should be a win for us. To give up six is unacceptable, but North Middlesex capitalized on their chances."

The Blue Devils took a little momentum into the halftime break after Darrel Salle jarred a rebound loose and tallied a marker to make it a 3-2 deficit with 2:51 left in the first half.

Leominster cashed in on the momentum swing as it peppered the Patriot goal with shots early in the second frame. The visitors capitalized when Salle pushed the ball ahead with 30:39 left, and Nahuel Algibay lofted a shot into the top-left corner of the net, which knotted the game up at 3-3.

Leominster doubled up North Middlesex in shots by the midway point of the second half, but the Patriots made their opportunities count the most going forward.

Fitzgerald delivered the pass to Sage McPherson, who evaded two defenders on some nifty ball movement. As four defenders converged on him, McPherson tucked a shot into the bottom-right corner that put the Pats up 4-3 with 23:28 left.

With 16 minutes left, the Leominster goalkeeper again tried to clear a ball downfield by way of a powerful boot, but Fitzgerald stormed in and got the ball to ricochet off his leg and into the back of the net, which made it 5-3.

Fitzgerald's fourth goal came with less than two minutes to play, giving the Patriots some extra insurance at 6-3.