NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover High coach John Rafferty has seen a lot of things over the few thousand football games he has seen as a player, coach or even a fan the last five decades.
But he had never seen one particular number posted like the one posted by his star running back, Nick Oswald, last night:
402 yards rushing.
It is believed to a record in the Merrimack Valley and Southern N.H. region. A boy from Putnam, Mass., Melquawn Pinkney, rushed for 421 yards on 17 carries with six TDs in a 66-0 win last September.
This was different. Most of Oswald’s yards came when the game was still a game. The Knights beat Dracut 56-28.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Rafferty about 20 minutes after the game. “I’ve been around awhile. I’ve seen games on TV with Tony Dorsett, and guys like that. I played and I’ve coached a long time. I’ve never heard of 400 yards rushing in one game. Never.”
Oswald had played the game of his life two weeks ago, when the Knights clobbered Methuen, 35-0. Oswald scored all five touchdowns and finished with 201 yards rushing.
Last night, he had compiled that by halftime (22 rushes, 228 yards).
“I knew I had a pretty good game, but I figured it was somewhere under 300 yards,” said the 5-foot-7 Oswald. “I had no idea. I just kept getting the ball and I kept running. Honestly, my line and my fullback were amazing. Every time I got to the line of scrimmage there was a hole. I just ran through it.”
Oswald ran for four touchdowns. He had TD runs for 23 and two yards in the first half. In the fourth quarter, he scored on runs of 33 and 50 yards.
“Other than those (last two runs), most of his runs were for 10 or 15 yards,” said Rafferty. “He also had some tough yards, for five and six yards, in the middle of the line. Usually when guys have 200- or 300-yard games, they get a few 70-yard runs. That’s not what happened. Maybe that’s why I didn’t realize it.”
Oswald is in a long line of great North Andover running backs, particularly in the last decade. One common bond among a few of them is they didn’t get to be “The Man” until their senior seasons.
Last year it was John Iannone. The year before it was Jack Murphy.
“John (Iannone) told me to keep working hard and take advantage of the few carries you get as a junior,” said Oswald. “Watching him, I realized this would be my year if I worked hard. And I did.”
Defense an issue
After waxing poetic about Oswald’s performance last night, coach Rafferty shook his head when the topic of his defense came up. Last night, Dracut amassed 464 yards of offense in scoring 28 points, including 21 points by halftime. Last week, the Knights defense was torched early and often by Tewksbury in the 49-42 loss, which may have cost his team a shot at the post-season.
“It’s a problem that we better fix quickly with Haverhill coming up next week and Masconomet on Thanksgiving,” said Rafferty. “A lot of it mental, lack of concentration. We have guys in position, but we’re not making tackles. Honestly, it’s disheartening, but I think we will improve. Trust me, we will work on our defense a lot this week.”
North Andover 56, Dracut 28
Dracut (2-7): 14 7 0 7 — 28
North Andover (4-4): 14 14 7 21 — 56
NA — Casey Walsh 1 run (Ryan Quinn kick),9:18
D — Tyler Bassett 34 run (Chris Seidl kick), 6:52
NA — Walsh 1 run (Quinn kick), 2:59
D — Bryant Tuff 56 run (Seidl kick), 1:32
D — Jeff Breen 13 pass from Bassett (Seidl kick), 10:53
NA — Nick Oswald 23 run (Quinn kick), 9:29
NA — Oswald 2 run (Quinn kick), 2:16
NA — Robert Shkliew 31 run (Quinn kick), 9:44
NA — Shkliew 10 run (Quinn kick), 10:34
D — Tuff 11 pass from Bassett (Seidl kick) 7:27
NA — Oswald 33 run (Quinn kick), 5:49
NA — Oswald 50 run (Quinn kick), 1:30
RUSHING: NA — Nick Oswald 39-402, Robert Shkliew 3-45, Casey Walsh 13-46, Tommy Stabile 1-16; D — Tyler Bassett 15-117, Bryant Tuff 5-63, Jacey Hebert 5-36, Zach Bassett 4-(-2)
PASSING: NA — Walsh 7-9-1, 76; D — T.Bassett 21-37-2, 264
RECEIVING: NA — Tyler Whitley 2-19, Matt Iannone 2-21, Shkliew 2-16, Dylan Petrovich 1-20; D — B.Tuff 7-109, Breen 4-59, Herbert 5-50, Pat Noonan 2-34.