CHELMSFORD — Playing its first season in the Merrimack Valley Conference, North Andover needed a victory to fire up a season that’s had a sluggish start.
The Scarlet Knights just might have gotten it last night.
“It’s not going to cool it off, that’s for sure,” North Andover coach John Rafferty said after his squad’s 28-21 come-from-behind victory over Division 1 Chelmsford, which dropped its second straight to a Division 2 squad after winning its first four.
North Andover (2-3) twice trailed by at least 14-points, but three touchdown passes by Casey Walsh and another by Robert Shkliew, who also hauled in two of Walsh’s, powered the Knights’ rally. The final Walsh-Shkliew hookup was for 2 yards with 8:47 left and was the only score after intermission.
“I’m very proud of this team tonight,” Rafferty said. “We were down and had a lot of adversity there. We weren’t doing ourselves any favors by making some mistakes and putting us in a hole. But we hung in there, made some adjustments and kept on fighting.”
First-half firepower: The two teams combined for 531 yards on 57 first-half plays (9.3 yards per snap) but 322 (60.6 percent) of those yards came on six scoring plays, which averaged 53.7 yards. Those six touchdowns came on possessions that lasted a combined 12 plays, three of which were two plays or fewer.
Putting out the fire: While the offenses were scoring from long range in the opening half, it was a couple of defensive stands that helped North Andover rally to tie with a couple late touchdowns. Ahamdi Ogwuru recovered a fumble that halted a Chelmsford drive at the Knights’ 37 with 2:56 left. Shkliew hooked up with Tyler Whitley for a 63-yard scoring pass on the ensuing play.
A strong defensive-line effort led by Nate Hitchcock then pressured Chelmsford quarterback John Campsmith on the Lions’ next possession, which ended on a fourth-down incompletion at the North Andover 48. Four plays later, Shkliew tied the score at 21 on a 15-yard scoring pass from Walsh with 38.5 seconds left before intermission.
“There were a lot of individual efforts that turned into a team victory,” Rafferty said.
Getting more than enough help: Chelmsford lists 18 assistant coaches on its roster for head coach Bruce Rich.
North Andover 28, Chelmsford 21
North Andover (2-3): 0 21 0 7 — 28
Chelmsford (4-2): 7 14 0 0 — 21
C — Gregory Johnson 35 pass from John Campsmith (Charles Calenda kick), 9:26
C — Jeff D’Auria 81 run (Matthew Rabbito run), 10:05
NA — Nick Oswald 55 pass from Casey Walsh (Ryan Quinn kick), 7:51
C — D’Auria 73 run (run failed), 4:49
NA — Tyler Whitley 63 pass from Robert Shkliew (Quinn kick), 2:28
NA — Shkliew 15 pass from Walsh (Quinn kick), 0:38.5
NA — Shkliew 2 pass from Walsh (Quinn kick) 8:47
RUSHING: NA (35-153) — Oswald 20-79, Walsh 12-69, Matt Iannone 1-9, Shkliew 2-5; C (30-205) — D’Auria 16-177, Campsmith 13-26, Sean Sarault 1-2
PASSING: NA (14-20-241, 0 interceptions) — Walsh 13-19-1778, Shkliew 1-1-63; C — Campsmith 16-29-178 (1)
RECEIVING: NA — Shkliew 7-63, Oswald 4-70, Whitley 2-65, Tyler Salois 1-43; C — Eric Van Gelder 8-86, Johnson 7-75, Joseph St. Hilaire 1-17