By David Willis
NORTH ANDOVER — Oliver Eberth knew the play he wanted.
Christopher Nicholas knew the ball was coming his way.
The rest was picture perfect.
With the ball at the 7-yard line and trailing by six points in overtime, the sophomore dropped back and swung a pass to Nicholas who found the corner of the end zone for a touchdown that tied the game.
Senior kicker Ryan Payne then booted the extra point to give Andover a dramatic come-from-behind 33-32 overtime victory over rival North Andover at Walsh Stadium.
“Just amazing,” said senior Will Eikenberry. “We knew once we took it to overtime that we were going to win. We didn’t come all the way back just to lose in OT. The young kids stepped up and made some big plays and have never been more impressed than I am of Payne.”
North Andover took the ball first in overtime and grabbed the lead when Casey Walsh hit his favorite target, Bubba Shkliew on a 6-yard touchdown pass.
But the Knights elected to go for the 2-point conversion and senior lineman Ben Hartford burst through the line to sack Walsh.
“That was a big play because we knew that if we stopped that all we needed was the extra point to win and Payne was on fire,” said Hartford. “And we have gotten it done in overtime over the years.”
After being sacked on first down, QB Eberth — who did not start the game but came on in the second quarter — had an idea what would work.
“That’s my play,” he said. “I talked with our offensive coordinator (Neil Powers) and we decided to go with it,” said Eberth. “I knew I was going to throw it to Nicholas as long as he was open.”
Nicholas also knew the ball was coming his way.
“It was a great call,” said the junior receiver. “We tried a run and it didn’t work. They came up with that great play and I was confident it was coming to me. I ran a good option route, was open and Eberth made a great throw.”
The touchdown tied the game, and Payne booted through the winner that set off a large celebration at the 50-yard line.
“Payne really stepped up for us,” said Eikenberry. “Two field goals and the extra points. Great day.”
It looked for a while like Andover may not have the opportunity.
With 8:29 to go in regulation, James Foote picked off a pass and scampered 8 yards for a touchdown that gave the Scarlet Knights a 26-19 lead.
North Andover then forced the Golden Warriors into a turnover on downs with 3:49 left to play at the Knights’ 9-yard line. The Andover defense delivered and the Warriors got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining.
“We knew we still had a chance,” said Eikenberry. “We just needed something big.”
Hartford delivered just that, smashing through the line and blocking a punt with the help of Ommel Bonilla that gave the Golden Warriors the ball at their 9-yard line.
Three plays later, Eberth scampered into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown, and Payne’s kick tied the game.
That set up the final heroics.
“I just went crazy after the kick,” said quad-captain Matt Sutliff. “North Andover is our rival and there is basically nothing better than beating them.”
Eikenberry was a force on defense, making 17 tackles and scoring the first Andover touchdown of the game on a 76-yard run. Bonilla was also dominant with 14 tackles, eating up the inside.
The prettiest play of the day came with 47 seconds to go in the third. Freshman receiver/QB E.J. Perry IV lined up at quarterback for his only play of the game. He tossed the ball to Zach Walker, who moved it to Eberth. The QB then launched a pass to Perry down the right sideline for a 38-yard score. It was Perry’s first of three catches.
Shkliew starred for North Andover with two touchdown catches and a TD run. Collin Couillard added 14 tackles for the Knights.
“As a senior, I don’t think anything has been better than this game,” said Hartford. “It means the world to us to do this.”
agateHed:Andover 33, North Andover 32
agateText:Andover (1-0): 3 10 6 7 6 — 32
agateText:North Andover (0-1): 6 6 8 6 7 — 33
agateText: A — Ryan Payne 23 field goal, 5:35
NA — Bubba Shkliew 29 pass from Casey Walsh (kick failed), 1:41
agateText: NA — Shkliew 6 run (kick failed), 10:55
A — Will Eikenberry 76 run (Payne kick), 9:38
A — Payne 18 field goal, 0:30
agateText: NA — Matt Iannone 39 pass from Walsh (Iannone pass from Walsh), 5:42
A — E.J. Perry IV 38 pass from Oliver Eberth (pass failed), 0:47
agateText: NA — James Foote 8 interception return (pass failed), 8:29
A — Eberth 6 run (Payne kick), 1:53
agateText: NA — Shkliew 6 pass from Walsh (run failed)
A — Christopher Nicholas 7 pass from Eberth (Payne kick)
agateText:RUSHING: A (34-156) — Will Eikenberry 12-98, Oliver Eberth 15-51, Brandon Marti 6-5, Connor McCullough 1-2; NA (34-131) — Tom Sabile 16-93, Bubba Shkliew 4-27, Casey Walsh 14-11
agateText:PASSING: A — Eberth 11-15-1, 95, McCullough 7-12-1, 55; NA — Walsh 14-31-0, 164
agateText:RECEIVING: A — E.J. Perry IV 3-49, Alex Marshall 4-47, Christopher Nicholas 4-29, Cam Davey 3-16, Zach Walker 1-5, Ryan Payne 1-2, Brandon Marti 1-1, Will Eikenberry 1-1; NA — Shkiew 7-69, Matt Iannone 4-80, James Foote 2-12, Tyler Salois 1-3