Cora Scores 3 TDs As Surging Leominster Shuts Out Algonquin
LEOMINSTER -- Now that’s clinical.
The Leominster football team put together a rather impressive performance Friday night, as the Blue Devils’ first-choice offense accrued 273 yards and held stiff defensively en route to a 26-0 win over visiting Algonquin Regional at historic Doyle Field.
Leominster (2-6) saw a three-TD performance out of sophomore quarterback JC Cora, who ran the offense as if he were a senior. Cora was 6 of 11 passing for 72 yards, but he also showed off his wheels with nine carries for 68 yards.
After LHS’ first scoring drive of the second half accounted for the final score, Dave Palazzi elected to rest Adam Couch (18 carries, 85 yards, TD), the game done and dusted.
Palazzi was rather happy with his team’s performance, especially going against an Algonquin (1-7) team that went with a 3-5 defense.
“We got three weapons back there,” Palazzi said. “They’re playing 3-5 defense and took away our fullback, Connor (Marchand). They’ve got eight in the box, so we’re trying to go off-tackle with toss, dump it outside and get Adam outside. And JC got loose on the waggle keeper a couple of times.
“We had to pick our spots, and we attacked that right side.”
Leominster’s defense was also rather stout, holding the Gonk to 150 yards of offense. In addition, Algonquin was 1 of 8 on third down, and 1 of 4 on fourth down.
Adding this shutout with the three points allowed last Saturday, plus the 16 Wachusett Regional scored the previous week, the Blue Devil defense is getting the job done as of late.
“That’s more of the story the last two weeks,” Palazzi said. “We’re playing with a sense of purpose. We’ve won two in a row, three left. We’ll see who we have next.”
The Central Mass. Football Committee will decide Leominster’s next opponent as part of the non-playoff round on Sunday.
LHS got things started right from the word go, as a 13-play, 65-yard drive found itself capped off with Couch plowing in from 2 yards away. The drive was mainly Couch on the run, but a big fourth-down play saw Brian Rodriguez, on a reverse, toss to Cora for a gain of 11 on fourth-and-9 to keep the drive from stalling prematurely.
Two plays later, Couch swept the left side and, thanks to a stiff block by Rodriguez, got inside the 10 with a gain of 13.
Two plays afterward, Couch scored.
Pablo Rodriguez’s point-after gave LHS a 7-0 lead after holding the ball for the first 7:03 of the game.
“I haven’t been in that position in a while,” Palazzi said of the ball control displayed in the first series. “That’s old-school Leominster football; you can’t score if you don’t have the ball.”
After sending Algonquin three-and-out on its first series, the Blue Devils doubled their score as Cora sneaked through the line from the Tomahawk 1 to end an 11-play, 55-yard drive. The big play? A direct snap to Couch on fourth-and-2, and he got just enough yardage to keep the drive going.
Couch also had a key third-down conversion, before Cora called his own number twice.
The two-point conversion failed.
Another three-and-out later, LHS embarked on another 11-play, 73-yard drive, with Cora showing off his wheels a few times.
But Cora found B-Rod for a 12-yard strike that was just shy of the goal line; Rodriguez showed his athleticism to go up for that one. On the next play, Cora sneaked through the line again to make it 19-0.
The pass failed.
Algonquin would get its offense going slightly at the end of the first half, as quarterback Brendan Hermanspan went 5 of 7 passing for 46 yards to get down to the Leominster 3 with two seconds left.
But an impressive Leominster pass rush by Kyle Philbin caused Hermanspan to drive the last pass of the half into the turf, short of a target.
Leominster held Algonquin to 50 total yards in the first half, while the Devils accrued 202.
LHS would put it away midway through the third, as Cora -- after Connor Marchand picked Hermanspan off to send it 24 yards the other way -- scored his third TD of the night, rolling right and tucking it into the crook of his arm. Zach Khallady’s block paved an open lane into the end zone, and Pablo Rodriguez’s kick made it 26-0 with 6:19 left.
It would stay that way for the remainder of the game.
Blue Devils 26
Algonquin Regional (1-7) 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Leominster (2-6) 7 12 7 0 -- 26
L -- Adam Couch 2 run (Pablo Rodriguez kick), 3:57
L -- JC Cora 1 run (pass failed), 8:35
L -- Cora 1 run (pass failed), 2:39
L -- Cora 5 run (P. Rodriguez kick), 6:19