LAWRENCE — It was the question on everyone’s mind heading into Thanksgiving Day.
Already secured a spot in the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in nine days, would Central Catholic play its starters in its annual holiday contest against Andover with nothing at stake but pride?
“Are you kidding, I wouldn’t miss this game for the world,” said Raiders senior D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie. “This is tradition, and our last game ever at (Lawrence) Stadium. And we remember how they beat us last year. We weren’t going to sit on the sidelines.”
Led by a dynamic performance from senior receiver/defensive back Cody Demers — who recorded 174 overall yards, two touchdowns and an interception — the Central regulars not only started, they starred, leading the Raiders to a 44-18 romp.
“You never forget Thanksgiving,” said Demers, a Dracut resident. “It’s Andover. You never want to lose to Andover, especially in my last game against them. We remember what they did to us last year (22-19 loss). We wanted to win this and take some positive energy going into the Super Bowl, and we did that.”
Demers certainly will not forget his performance yesterday.
“Cody came up huge for us,” said Raiders QB Mike Milano.
“After he got that really long run it sparked something in us that lasted the rest of the game.”
Demers gave Central the lead with a 37-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, but it was his 80-yard touchdown run — in which he took the handoff on a speed sweep, bolted off tackle past the defense and sprinted to the end zone — that gave the Raiders the spark they needed.
“Cody is a terrific player,” said Drummond-Mayrie. “He is so elusive. I knew, right when he went around the corner, that he was gone. When he scored that long touchdown it was a huge momentum boost.”
It was a play that Demers had been waiting for the coaches to call for weeks.
“We installed it earlier in the season but we haven’t really used it,” said Demers, who at halftime had already rushed for 97 yards on just two attempts, caught five passes for 74 yards and scored twice. “I just took it and ran. It felt great.”
Demers, who had carried just four times for seven yards on the season, rushed for exactly 100 yards and had 74 more yards receiving. He also intercepted a pass and returned it 65 yards before being caught at the 2-yard-line. The Raiders scored three plays later.
“I knew I wanted to be out there,” said Demers. “You can get hurt anywhere. You can get hurt in practice. So why not play?”
At the start, it hardly looked to be a decisive Central victory.
After the two teams exchanged punts, Andover took the ball at its 1-yard line and drove 99 yards, with Oliver Eberth finishing off the trip with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Will Eikenberry.
“We got a little worried after that first score,” said Drummond-Mayrie.
“But we knew we just had to stop making dumb mistakes.”
Central, which also beat Andover 26-7 on Sept. 27, soon found that groove.
First it was Milano’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Demers, then a possession later the QB hit Cam Manning for a score.
One play after Manning picked off a pass, Demers hit for his long TD run, then the Raiders closed out the half on a 30-yard field goal by Paul Karamourtopoulos.
Central iced the victory with TD runs by Milano in the third and Markus Edmunds on the first play of the fourth. That was the end of the day for the starters.
Central finished with three interceptions on the day, the other grabbed by Gavin Anderson.
“For years every Friday night we have come out onto this field and played our hearts out,” said Demers.
“This is the last time (the seniors) will be playing here, so it is sweet to go out by beating Andover. Now we have that momentum going to Gillette Stadium.”
Central Catholic 44, Andover 18
Andover (6-5): 6 0 0 12 — 18
Central Catholic (10-1): 7 17 7 13 — 44
A — Will Eikenberry 5 pass from Oliver Eberth (pass failed), 2:53
CC — Cody Demers 37 pass from Mike Milano (Paul Karamourtopoulos kick), 1:43
CC — Cam Manning 12 pass from Milano (Karamourtopoulos kick), 9:41
CC — Demers 80 run (Karamourtopoulos kick), 4:31
CC — Karamourtopoulos 30 field goal, 0:04
CC — Milano 20 run (Karamourtopoulos kick), 6:21
CC — Markus Edmunds 1 run (Karamourtopoulos kick), 10:33
A — Jack Sylvester 1 run (pass failed), 6:23
CC — Mike Mercuri 50 run (QB takes a knee), 0:58
A — Sylvester 81 kickoff return (pass failed), 0:08
RUSHING: Central (37-289) — Cody Demers 3-100, Mike Mercuri 1-50, Mike Milano 8-34, Mike Balsamo 6-38, Markus Edmunds 4-18, D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie 9-23, Matt Horgan 2-19, Omar Dechamps 3-5, Blades Shields 1-2; Andover (22-75) — Jack Sylvester 11-52, Oliver Eberth 10-27, E.J. Perry IV 1-(-4)
PASSING: Central — Mike Milano 8-12-0, 99; Andover — Eberth 12-22-2, 92, Perry 2-4-1, 17
RECEIVING: Central — Demers 5-74, Cam Manning 2-25, Drummond-Mayrie 1-0; Andover — Will Eikenberry 5-41, Christopher Nicholas 4-44, Sylvester 4-26, Alex Marshall 1-1