“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.