NORTH ANDOVER — Matt Abel, for one, always looks forward to Mauro Pappalardo’s annual Christmas Party in North Andover.
It’s where and when most of “the guys” get together to talk about their families, their busy holidays and, of course, “The Game.”
“The Game” in question has special meaning to Abel and a few dozen of his buddies this week, 25 years after North
Andover went to Andover and stunned their crosstown rivals, 21-6.
“It was the one time of year we knew (The Game) was going to be brought up,” said Abel, an assistant principal at the North
Andover Middle School. “At Mauro’s Christmas party.”
This victory was not a just a victory. Not even close. This, according to a dozen or so close friends who played that day for North Andover High, was a life-changing event, one that has bonded several former teammates together forever.
Both teams entered the game at 6-1 with aspirations of qualifying for their respective Super Bowls (Andover in Div. 1, North Andover in Div. 2). More important, it was the first time the towns had met on the football field in 13 years. And the last time, North Andover had beaten Andover was in 1957.
The roles that day were well known. Andover, of the Merrimack Valley Conference, was considered “Goliath” and North Andover,
of the Cape Ann League, was “David.”
“The week of the game Joe Harb and I were interviewed on the local radio with their two tackles (Mike) Marinaro, who played for Boston College, and some other guy with blue and yellow stripes in his hair who I believed played at URI,” recalled Doug Dreffer, a guard and linebacker for the Knights. “Combined they had 100 pounds on us, easy.”
But the biggest factor was that it was Andover vs. North Andover. And this game in 1987 was the first time the school had met on the football field in 13 years and it had been 30 years since — 1957 — that North Andover actually beat Andover.