By Steve Palladino
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover’s defense fell victim to Masconomet’s big-play offense, which started small and then exploded with two long touchdowns in the second half.
By the end of the third quarter, Masconomet (9-2) ran out to a five-touchdown lead thanks to a pair of short TD runs, an interception return, and big-play scores by air and ground. The CAL/NEC I champions cruised to a 35-14 win at Joe Walsh Stadium.
North Andover finally got on the board in the fourth quarter when its star running back, senior Nick Oswald, scored a pair of late-game touchdowns.
“We were overmatched today,” said North Andover head coach John Rafferty. “They (Masconomet) got the job done and we wish them success in the playoffs.”
The Knights (4-6 during its first MVC season) did an admirable job moving the ball under the direction of second-string quarterback Matt Driscoll. He was thrust into action in the absence of star junior Casey Walsh (1,358 passing yards, 13 TD passes), who sat out for disciplinary reasons.
Driscoll and the Knights had impressive marches throughout the game but were snakebitten by a pair of interceptions and some key fourth-down stops.
Driscoll, who started as North Andover’s JV quarterback this season, was impressive in his first varsity start. Although he did allow two picks, the freshman signal caller completed 8 of 10 for 153 yards.
“Matt did a great job today,” said Rafferty. “That is a lot of pressure to have to come into a situation like that and he handled it well. He runs the system and we had all the confidence in him.”
That confidence was tested early as North Andover took the opening drive and used Oswald on seven straight rushes to place the ball on the Masconomet 23 where an interception squelched the drive.
“I had to put that out of my mind right away and forget about it,” said Driscoll. “I wanted to show these seniors that I was going to work as hard as I could to get them the win in their final game. I wish we could have got it done.”
A pair of 4-yard runs gave Masconomet a 14-0 lead late in the first half and that lead was elevated to 21-0 when Sean Antonuccio scored on a 53-yard pick six.
Down 35-0, North Andover averted a shutout on two quick drives.
Starting from its own 22 with less than five minutes to play, Driscoll hooked up with senior Tyler Whitley, who caught the ball at the 50 and made some nice moves to get down to the nine. From there, Oswald punched it in.
After stopping Masconomet on its next possession, North Andover set up shop at the Chieftain 33. After a 13-yard rush by Robert Shkliew, a Driscoll to Matt Ianonne 12-yard completion put the ball at the eight. Two plays later, Oswald scored.
“We were not going to give up and played hard right up to the end,” said Driscoll.
North Andover 14
agateText:Masconomet (9-2): 7 14 14 0 — 35
North Andover (4-6): 0 0 0 14 — 14
M — Mike Tivinis 4 run (Casey Tines kick), 2:00
M — Dylan Mann 4 run (Tines kick), 1:59
M — Sean Antonuccio 53 interception return (Tines kick), 1:15
M — Corey Tines 60 pass from Chris Schleer (Tines kick), 8:56
M — Mann 73 run (Tines kick), 3:18
NA — Nick Oswald 9 run (Ryan Quinn kick), 4:15
NA — Oswald 3 run (Quinn kick), 0:53
RUSHING: NA (36-153) — Nick Oswald 28-133, Tom Stabile 4-15, Robert Shkliew 3-9, Matt Driscoll 1-(-4); Masconomet (28-125) — Dylan Mann 4-85, Austin Cashin 4-17, Gavin Monagle 6-16, Mike Tivinis 6-14, Chris Schleer 1-4, Casey Tines 1-5, Drew Steinberg 1-(-2), David Drigo 1-(-2), Rob DeSchenes 4-(-12)
PASSING: NA — Matt Driscoll 8-10-2, 153; Masconomet — Chris Schleer 5-6-0, 168
RECEIVING: NA — Shkliew 3-44, Tyler Whitley 2-79, Matt Iannone 2-25, Dylan Petrovich 1-5; Masconomet — Mann 1-60, Corey Tines 2-62, Troy Bunker 2-46