If the old boxing adage that “styles make fights,” is true, a galactic football epic is upon us.
Central Catholic vs. Andover, with Valley supremacy on the line.
The unstoppable Andover High offense vs. the unwavering Central Catholic defense — Thanksgiving morning (10:30) at Lovely Field — with the Merrimack Valley Conference Division1 title and a trip to the EMass Division 1 playoffs hanging in the balance.
We haven’t seen one this huge on Turkey Day since the 1989 “Field goal” game, two Super Bowl champs — the fiercest of rivals — in a battle that could draw upwards of 5,000 fans.
“Like we told the kids, they don’t know how lucky they are,” Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos said. “They have a chance to compete and play in a game that people will talk about forever.”
Andover and Central, both 9-1, have been hovering in the state’s top 20 since practice started in August. Each club has lived up to the hype. And once the Warriors were able to weed through the Algebraic mind-teaser known as the MVC’s tie-breaking point system, they realized how large this game looms.
“I wouldn’t say there was worry, but there was a ton of confusion,” said Andover receiver Will Heikkinen.
Central is 3-0 in the conference, while Lowell is 3-1 and Andover is 2-1. Lowell plays non-divisional foe Haverhill on Thanksgiving.
A Raider win over the Warriors means Central is the lone champ and clear winner.
An Andover win muddies the waters, making all three entities 3-1. Since head-to-head doesn’t solve anything (All three teams would be 1-1), the next step would be the points system is invoked (see the accompanying box).
Because of points on a page, Andover also has the “win and we’re in” tag attached to the game.
“Coach Perry certainly did his homework on the point system, doing all the work on it,” said Heikkinen.
“The fact that one of us is sure to go on seemed most fair to me. We’re just excited now to play the game.”
Since the opening snap, Andover, which averages 37.6 points a game, has been one of the most prolific offenses in recent history.
“They’ve been so great on offense all season long,” said Central linebacker Ryan Doherty.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve done all year, that is play good, hard-nosed defense and stop them.”
Doherty and the Raiders, who haven’t lost since a September struggle with St. John’s Prep, didn’t have to test their math skills when this one popped up on the schedule.
“We’re not worried about any kind of tie-breakers, just winning, that’s all,” said Doherty, who scored a touchdown in Central’s upset win last year on Turkey Day.
“To have it come down to a game like this is pretty amazing.”
SORTING OUT THE MVC POINTS SYSTEM In the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1, Central Catholic, at 3-0, remains in the driver's seat. Beat Andover on Turkey Day and there is no issue, the Raiders are solo champs and win it outright. The tie-breaker system comes into play, if Andover beats Central, creating a 3-way tie. Central beat Lowell, Lowell beat Andover, and if the Warriors beat Central, all are 3-1 in the league and 1-1 against each other, invoking step 2 of the tie-breaker, which is the points system. Each team gets: 5 points awarded for each MVC Divisional win 4 points awarded for each MVC Crossover win 2 points awarded for each opponent's win, within the MVC that you defeated 1 point for each opponent's win, within the MVC, that defeated you Since each team played 8 games in the MVC … small or large .. we'll eliminate the last step which is divide the total by number of games played. So let's get to the math, assuming a couple things: Central win over Andover; A Lowell win over Haverhill; And a Dracut win over Methuen Note: we won't include the Chelmsford-Billerica game because CC, Andover, Lowell all beat both, so no advantage is gained either way. Each team's total MVC wins … Andover 7, Billerica 2, Central 7, Chelmsford 2, Dracut 2, Haverhill 5, Lawrence 2, Lowell 6, Methuen 1, North Andover 4, Tewksbury 6 Andover League wins: Central (assumed), Chelmsford, Billerica, NA, Methuen, Tewksbury, Lawrence League loss: Lowell 5 for large wins …. 15 4 for small wins … 16 2 for each mvc win by teams you beat … 48 1 for each mvc win by teams you lost to … 6 85 points total Central League wins: Lowell, Billlerica, Chelmsford, Lawrence, Methuen, Tewksbury, NA League loss: Andover (assumed) 5 for large wins …. 15 4 for small wins … 16 2 for each mvc win by teams you beat … 46 1 for each mvc win by teams you lost to … 7 Total points … 84 Lowell League wins: Andover, Billerica, Chelmsford, Lawrence, Dracut, Haverhill (assumed) League losses: Central, Tewksbury for large wins …. 15 4 for small wins … 12 2 for each mvc win by teams you beat … 40 1 for each mvc win by teams you lost to … 13 Total points … 80 Bottom line is Lowell needs Andover to beat Central to win a share of the title, but Lowell cannot go to the postseason. A Central win and Central wins the league outright and goes. An Andover win and it's a three-way tie, which Andover wins via this kookie points system.