EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Countdown to kickoff


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — TALKING TURKEY

Are you frying your turkey on Friday night or letting it savor, slow-roasting in your smoker all day Saturday.

Thanksgiving comes early in Massachusetts where holiday rivals Central and Andover, Methuen and Dracut, Greater Lawrence and Whittier, Pentucket and Triton, and Georgetown and Manchester all collide.

Throw in the Saturday night special, the Mack Plaque trophy weekend decider in Londonderry at Pinkerton and you’re talking a huge slate of high school football into which you can sink your teeth.

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALL RIGHT

Expect someone between 3,000 to 4,000 fans to trek through the woods, led by the sparkling new lights at Pinkerton’s football stadium when the Londonderry Lancers invade Saturday evening.

With both rivals at 2-1, it’s a clash with huge implications, something we haven’t seen in this one since 2008 when the 3-1 Astros knocked off the 4-0 Lancers in coach Jon Rich’s first season on the sidelines.

“Our kids understand we played pretty well last week (in a loss to unbeaten Bedford). With six minutes left, it was a 7-0 game,” said Rich. “If we bring that effort again Saturday night, they know it will be a ballgame.”

Despite how Londonderry hasn’t won this game since 2001, Rich said his kids believe and that he didn’t need to sell them on being able to win.

“We’ve lost, so obviously we’re vulnerable,” said Astros coach Brian O’Reilly. “But we’re getting there. All these rankings with us No. 1 in the state early in the season were nice, but nobody paid attention to the fact that we had to replace our entire offensive line and three-quarters of our backfield. We’re going to be fine. But we’re not quite there yet.”

Stop Manny Latimore and you stop Pinkerton. But the Lancers? It’s tough to focus in on just one weapon in Rich’s single-wing attack.

“There is no one person who makes them go,” said O’Reilly. “It’s what makes that offense so tough.”

‘DA-NA-NA, DA-NA-NA’

Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos called his crew “emotionally scarred” and “a national embarrassment” after ESPN made St. John’s Prep’s 107-yard TD return by Johnny Thomas a staple for every SportsCenter midweek.

The Raiders have little time to recover, what with the short jaunt to Andover Friday night.

“I never watched it on ESPN. I saw the video twice, plus when I showed it to the team to show how bad we were on it,” said Adamopoulos. “This is going to be tough. They have a good defense, and I’m assuming (Jack) Sylvester will be healthy running the football.”

QUICK HITS

I need to meet the genius who placed Sanborn of Kingston in the West Conference of Division 2. That aside, the Indians’ road trip to Monadnock Regional in Swanzey — yes, they deserve to be West — will probably decide the top spot in the conference. ...

Triton at Pentucket, despite both being unbeaten, just won’t be the same without that Northeast November wind chasing down the Merrimack and freezing every bone in your body. Still, the Sachems will let the world know if Triton is indeed for real. ...

And one only semi-area thought. Life gets no easier for QB Mike Geaslen and St. John’s Prep. Saturday, Geaslen, “Johnny Rockets” and the rest of the Eagles host Everett in a clash of two of the state’s top 10 teams.