00ANDOVER — Andrew Deloury wasn’t about to admit he shed a few tears. But as he was mobbed by teammates, friends and family on the Eugene V. Lovely Field turf, his face — caked with eye-black — showed the signs of his joy.
“Emotions overtook more than a few people,” the Andover High senior said with a smile. “This could have been the end. But we pulled through, and this is about as good as it gets.”
With a minute to go in the game, Will Heikkinen recovered an on-sides kick, and the Golden Warriors ran out the clock to earn the 22-19 victory over archrival Central Catholic that clinched their share of the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 title and their second postseason berth in three seasons in front of an estimated crowd of over 6,000 and the sidelines filled with TV cameras and sports reporters.
“I will remember this feeling forever,” said Heikkinen. “This is amazing. All year, everything we have done has led up to this, and now we are champs. This is the greatest feeling of my life.”
Andover, at 10-1 and 3-1 in MVC Division 1, finishes in a tie for the title with the Raiders and Lowell. But due to tiebreakers, the Golden Warriors earn Tuesday’s playoff trip against Catholic Conference champ St. John’s Prep. The Eagles (9-1) downed Xaverian yesterday to earn their league crown.
“This is just amazing,” said Warrior lineman Andres Christopulos. “I was sitting up last night thinking, ‘What if we win, but what if we lose?’ Let me tell you, this is so much better than I ever could have expected. This was a dogfight to the end. We had one goal all season, to win the MVC. Now our goal is the Super Bowl.”
It was Central Catholic that threw the first punch. Holding Andover to a three-and-out, Ryan Doherty blocked a punt and four plays later Thomas Jenoski booted a 38-yard field goal to give the Raiders a 3-0 lead.
It was then an unlikely hero that helped give Andover the lead, when superstar QB C.J. Scarpa twice connected with junior Cole Organisciak — who did not have a single catch for the season — with the second a 9-yard touchdown.
Central quickly responded with an eight-play drive that sophomore QB Michael Milano finished off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Doherty.
But Andover’s high-powered offense then struck back in dramatic fashion, when Scarpa found Cam Farnham, and the jet-quick receiver outran the defense for a 78-yard touchdown.
“The linebacker was trying to jam me at the line and there was no safety over the top,” said Farnham. “I made a quick move to get off him and C.J. threw a perfect pass. It felt like a huge play.”
The Golden Warriors’ defense, which had struggled of late, then took over. Led by linebacker Jake Flaherty (14 tackles) and defensive back Jack Sylvester (10 stops), the Warriors forced three punts, received a Heikkinen interception and allowed a field goal that was the result of an impressive goal-line stand after a long kickoff return.
“We really played our hearts out on defense,” said Deloury. “We knew Central was a very good team, and we knew we had to put the (Lowell) game behind us and play well today.”
Andover also added to its lead with a 15-play drive that Scarpa finished off with a 9-yard run. He then added the key two-point conversion on a toss to Flaherty to make it a two-score game.
As the clock ticked down, however, Central Catholic wasn’t finished.
Taking over with 2:12 to go in the game, Milano marched the Raiders 55 yards in seven plays, and found Michael Barry — who caught the game-winning score a year ago on Thanksgiving — for a touchdown with exactly a minute left.
“I had been having a pretty good day on defense but I got beaten on that one,” said Heikkinen. “So I knew I had to make a play after that. I was furious.”
Heikkinen received his chance a play later, when the Raiders booted the on-sides kick in his direction. The star receiver held on, and all that was left was a pair of Scarpa kneel-downs.
“This is the greatest day of my life,” said Farnham. “The day was perfect, the stands were filled. I was out there with these guys and we got it done. I can say, at this point in my life, I have never felt better.”
The Golden Warriors now advance to the playoffs on Tuesday against St. John’s Prep, the only other team to beat Central Catholic this season. The location of the game has yet to be determined.
Andover’s last postseason appearance was two seasons ago, when the Warriors fell to powerhouse Everett.
“This is just crazy,” said Flaherty. “When I walked out and saw this crowd, I had butterflies in my stomach. I’m not going to lie. But we came up huge and never let up. It is a quick turn-around for St. John’s Prep, but we can’t wait.”
Relive the history
For video highlights and interviews from Andover’s Thanksgiving victory over Central Catholic, visit eagletribune.com/sports or rallynorth.net.
Andover 22, Central Catholic 19
Central Catholic (9-2): 3 7 3 6 — 19
Andover (10-1): 7 7 8 0 — 22
CC — Thomas Jenoski 38 field goal, 4:15
A — Cole Organisciak 9 pass from C.J. Scarpa (Oliver Eberth kick), 2:03
CC — Ryan Doherty 14 pass from Michael Milano (Jenoski kick), 7:50
A — Cam Farnham 78 pass from Scarpa (Eberth kick), 6:58
CC — Jenoski 25 field goal, 8:41
A — Scarpa 9 run (Jake Flaherty pass from Scarpa), 2:48
CC — Michael Barry 25 pass from Milano (kick failed), 1:00
RUSHING: A (21-122) — Jack Sylvester 14-81, C.J. Scarpa 7-41; CC (26-109) — Santino Brancato 13-59, D’andre Drummond-Mayire 11-48, Michael Balsamo 1-4, Michael Milano 1-(-2)
PASSING: A — Scarpa 18-30-1, 229; CC — Milano 12-19-1, 109
RECEIVING: A — Cam Farnham 3-102, Andrew Deloury 6-68, Will Heikkinen 4-48, Cole Organisciak 2-11; CC — Cody Demers 3-41, Michael Barry 2-31, Ryan Doherty 1-14, Drummond-Mayire 2-15, Zach Coffey 1-10, Brancato 3-(-2)