One afternoon this week, Central Catholic football coach Chuck Adamopoulos popped in a special game film for his team to watch.
It was of the “Game for the Ages,” or the “Field Goal or Not,” Thanksgiving game of 1989 between Central and rival Andover High.
“I don’t know why everyone still talks about that game,” said Raider captain Santino Brancato, of Salem, N.H., citing the controversial kick that is still debated now, despite the fact that he wasn’t born when it happened. “That field goal was absolutely good.”
That field goal — good or not by Central’s Glen Lacroix on that frigid November morning — is still, 23 years later, the rallying point for one of the state’s fiercest Turkey Day football rivalries between Central and Andover.
A reported crowd of 8,500 ringed Lawrence’s Veterans Memorial Stadium that Saturday after Thanksgiving, when earlier snow forced the holiday postponement. Tomorrow morning at 10:30, a similar-sized crowd is expected at Andover’s Lovely Field as Central and Andover hook up for the 40th reunion.
With Central, 9-1, and Andover, 9-1, that means the Merrimack Valley Conference champion and a trip to the upcoming Eastern Mass. playoffs are at stake. It is the main event on a holiday flock of main events here in Massachusetts. And it could be an epic.
By Tuesday afternoon, almost 3,000 advance tickets had been sold between the two schools.
“We’re expecting a sensational game out of Central Catholic on Thanksgiving,” said Andover quarterback C.J. Scarpa, the state’s most prolific passer this season with 30 touchdown passes. “As a senior in high school, it’s a dream.You can’t ask for more than facing your greatest rival with a championship on the line.”
Scarpa, following in the footsteps of his dad, Carmen, himself a former Andover QB, understands what history means in this rivalry, which stands at 20 wins for Central, 18 for Andover and 1 tie.
Tomorrow’s heavyweight collision is a stark contrast in styles. Andover has Scarpa and a high-flying stable of thoroughbred receivers in Andrew Deloury, Cam Farnham and Will Heikkinen who power a lethal offense that has put up 38.6 points a game.
Meanwhile, Central has taken more of a plodding approach, relying on a defense that has allowed only 16.2 points a game.
“We respect their offense and how they play, but our defense has been a dominant force all season long,” said Brancato, the No. 2 tackler on the Raiders defense behind sophomore Markus Edmunds.
If recent history is any indication, the fans should be treated to an absolute classic.
Last year, Central Catholic trailed by 20 points in the third quarter only to rally and stun Andover, 48-46. Two years ago in a pretty similar situation, Andover had its way in a 19-7 win that propelled E.J. Perry’s team into the Eastern Mass. Division 1 playoffs for the first time in 35 years.
“We expect to win,” said Brancato. “But whatever happens, we know it’s going to be an amazing event.”
A year ago after the win, an emotional Central offensive lineman Christian Nunez said, “This is, hands down the best day of my life.”
Expect that kind of sentiment again from one of the two teams early tomorrow afternoon.
BASKETBALL COACHES GET INTO THE SPIRIT It's been an amazing fall season for the Central Catholic and Andover High football teams, so much so that the boys basketball coaches at each school are looking to get into the spirit of tomorrow's Turkey Day classic showdown. Central coach Rick Nault and Andover's David Fazio came up with the wager on the game. If Central wins, Fazio has to wear Central colors for the Warrior game at Central this winter. Nault says he's got a sweet Central sweater vest all picked out for Fazio. If Andover wins, Nault will be dressed in Navy and Gold at Dunn Gym for their game. May the better team win.