EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

November 25, 2012

Leading the 'D'

Hard-hitting Flaherty emerges as Andover's top tackler

ANDOVER — When the call was made for the fake extra point late in the third quarter on Thanksgiving Day, Andover’s Jake Flaherty was sure the pass would be going to star receiver Will Heikkinen.

And why not? Heikkinen entered the play with 60 catches for over 1,000 yards receiving on the season while Flaherty — a linebacker — had exactly zero catches on one target in his entire high school career.

“I just thought I was going to be the decoy in the back,” said Flaherty. “Then I saw C.J. (Scarpa) throw the ball and realized that it was going in my direction. I just thought, ‘Oh God, don’t drop this in front of 8,000 people.’ It felt like the ball was in the air forever, and my hands were a little shaky, so I let it go into my body. I was pretty fired up.”

That conversion on a fake field goal proved to be the key score in clinching the Golden Warriors’ 22-19 victory over Central Catholic.

It was also no real surprise that Flaherty made the big play, since the senior has done all that has been asked of him and more this season.

A role player a season ago, Flaherty has emerged as the Golden Warriors’ top tackler this season with a team-high 97 stops, and tomorrow the weak-side linebacker will lead Andover into action against St. John’s Prep in the Division 1 semifinal at 7:45 p.m. at Lowell’s Cawley Stadium.

“Flaherty has been unbelievable this season, especially in the big games” said Andover coach E.J. Perry. “He flies around, he is always first or second on the team in tackles and plays with so much intensity. He has really stepped into the role of the leader of our defense.”

Flaherty first cracked the rotation a season ago, starting five games at defensive end. But the real breakthrough came before this season when he was moved to linebacker.

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