LYNN — It wasn’t at all pretty, but a win was a win for the Tech football team in its Saturday night season opener at Manning Field.
The Tigers and Nashoba Valley Tech combined for more penalties and turnovers than total points scored. In the end, Chance Buono’s third-quarter touchdown run proved to be all the offense the hosts would need en route to a 6-2 win in a clash of the state’s top vocational school squads from a year ago.
“It was ugly, but the most important thing was that we never buckled,” Tech coach James Runner said. “Everyone is expecting the highlight reel show, but we’re a defensive team this year. I was proud of my guys for not folding, and I think it was big for us to come from behind and play a little tougher.”
The departure of star running backs Steffan Gravely and Keoni Gaskin among a slew of graduates left key holes for Tech, but Buono and senior quarterback David Barrios helped fill in the offensive gaps, each posting double-digit carries to help deliver a win for the Tigers.
The teams were both unsuccessful on their first drives, but Nashoba drew first blood with 7:37 left in the opening quarter as an incomplete pass and a penalty backed Tech up inside the 5-yard line. A tackle in the end zone led to a safety.
Nashoba grabbed a first down on its third series of the game, but Lynn’s defense then held Vikings junior Brent Robinson to just 2 yards on three straight carries and forced a punt. Tech took over with 62 seconds remaining in the first quarter and possessed the ball for nearly the entire second quarter, running 19 plays on a drive that started on its own 1-yard line.
Tiger juniors Luis Pineiro and Haidar Bdaiwi as well as Buono and Barrios contributed rushing yardage during the drive, but a false start penalty ultimately cost Tech the opportunity to take the lead. Nashoba took the ball back with 55 seconds left in the half after Pineiro made a catch but he was stopped at the 2-yard line.
“It makes defenses prepare for multiple backs, plus David getting the ball out of the backfield,” Runner said. “Even though we didn’t score there, that’s important for us.”
In the third, Tech got the ball back after it was immediately forced to punt as senior Edward Cuevas recovered a fumble on Nashoba’s attempted return. Barrios and Buono did all the work on the ensuing series, with Buono scoring from 2 yards out five minutes into the quarter.
Eli Norton brought Nashoba into opposing territory three times after Lynn took the lead, but two of those opportunities ended in turnovers. Kenneth Perez recovered a fumble with 8:55 left, then Barrios did the same after senior classmate Elvin Gonzalez bobbled an interception less than four minutes later.
“It was really special going out on the first night of senior year,” Barrios said. “A lot of guys stepped up. It was tough but we got over it. We pushed harder in the second half and got it done. We faced adversity today.”
Nashoba was unable to make forward progress after taking over with 3:23 left, and Tech clinched the win as Barrios gained 10 yards in the last minute.
“They’re a division higher than us, play against tougher teams than us, and we were out here with our backs against the wall,” said Runner. “We showed our home crowd we’re ready to play ball.”
The Tigers visit Mystic Valley Saturday (1).