By David Willis
---- — ANDOVER — An army of TV cameras waited anxiously for his attention. Reporters including legendary Boston sports anchor Mike Lynch tossed question after question his way.
Following another tremendous performance, always soft-spoken Andover quarterback C.J. Scarpa seemed almost embarrassed when asked to sing his own praise.
But while the record-setting signal-caller worked to side-step self-congratulations, his Golden Warrior teammates couldn’t say enough about their unassuming leader.
“C.J. was great again,” said senior receiver Cam Farnham. “He was fantastic. C.J. is the best player I have ever played with. He led us to victory again today, just like he has all season.”
In the most important game of his football career, Scarpa added possibly the greatest chapter to his record-setting campaign, as he accounted for all of Andover’s scores in the 22-19 victory over Central Catholic that clinched his Golden Warriors a playoff berth.
“He was amazing,” said receiver Andrew Deloury. “But C.J. amazes us every day, whether it’s practice or Friday nights. So many people questioned him, and he has certainly proved them wrong.”
Once doubted by many due to his size — listed at 5-foot-9 and 162 pounds — Scarpa’s numbers long ago told the story or a prolific passer. He entered the Thanksgiving encounter having already shattered the single-season Eagle-Tribune area record with 30 touchdown passes to go with 2,302 yards through the air in 2012.
And yesterday, with his team’s season on the line, the star came through in style, doing it all to secure a victory and a trip to the playoffs.
Scarpa put his team ahead with a pair of touchdown passes, including a 78-yard bomb to Farnham and a 9-yard rocket to Cole Organisciak. He then clinched the victory with his feet, scrambling for a 9-yard score against the MVC’s premier defense (16.2 points allowed a game).
“We knew Central Catholic had a really tough defense,” said Scarpa. “So we knew that if we were going to beat them we had to do something different. I hadn’t run much this season, so we decided to try something different.”
Known as a pocket passer, Scarpa caught the Raiders off-guard when he faked a handoff and took off running, juking a pair of defenders on his way to a 23-yard gain that set up his first touchdown. He finished the day with a season-high 41 rushing yards.
“People always talk about his passing and call him ‘Golden Arm,’” said Will Heikkinen. “Everyone says he’s short and can’t run. But C.J. can do anything.”
While he may have showed his moves, once again it was through the air that Scarpa did his most damage.
He completed 18 of 30 passes for 229 yards, always calmly leading the Golden Warriors’ fast-paced offense in the toughest spots. That included a 12 for 17 second half, with key third-down completions to Deloury (20 yards) and Farnham (13 yards).
“Those passes to Cam and Del were huge,” said linebacker Jake Flaherty. “And his touchdown to Cam early really gave us the momentum.”
For good measure, Scarpa, who’ll continue his career at Division 1-AA Elon University in North Carolina, added one more huge play after his final score.
As the holder for the extra point, Scarpa took the snap, rolled out and fired a dart to Flaherty for the back-breaking two-point conversion. That proved to be key, as it made it a two-possession game heading into the fourth quarter.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the usually-subdued Scarpa showed rare emotion, hoisting the ball in the air then sprinting to the sidelines to celebrate the victory.
After the day he had, Scarpa had all the right in the world to celebrate.