NORTH ANDOVER — Having suffered two straight Thanksgiving Day defeats, Andover entered Thursday with a clear objective.
“This game meant everything,” said quad-captain Kelvin Davila. “We were embarrassed last year. I had never won on Thanksgiving. So to win it like this feels so amazing.”
Andover rode a dominant rushing attack to touchdowns on its first six possessions of the game, and rolled to a decisive 41-8 Turkey Day victory over North Andover at Walsh Stadium.
The Golden Warriors (8-4) not only snapped a two-game holiday losing streak, but took a 3-2 advantage over North Andover (6-5) in the young Thanksgiving rivalry.
“We wanted this one bad,” said quad-captain Michael Slayton. “We haven’t had much luck against North Andover recently. We look forward to this game all year. This is what we prepared for, and since we lost in the (North) tourney, this is the game we were focused on. We knew we could come here and dominate.”
Facing driving rain, heavy winds and cool conditions, Andover kept the ball on the ground, with stellar results. The Warriors piled up 303 rushing yards, just off their season-high, led by a career-best 131 yards by freshman QB Scott Brown and three TDs for Josh “Bibi” Ramos.
“We ran a lot of outside zone reads and used a lot of motion,” said Brown, who scored two touchdowns. “They were biting on Bibi, so I was able to keep it up the middle and pick up yards. There were no nerves. I was ready.”
Andover wasted no time flexing its muscle.
North Andover fumbled on the game’s first play, which was recovered by Aneudy Moreno. Four plays later, Ramos plowed in for a 5-yard touchdown.
The Golden Warriors then forced a punt — which was blocked by linebacker Shamus Florio — and five plays into that drive Ramos sprinted in for a 16-yard score.
After another 3-and-out, and other Ramos TD run, the Golden Warriors erased any thought of a comeback thanks to a pair of turnovers.
First, freshman Lincoln Beal intercepted a pass, setting up a Brown 17-yard TD. Then, on the following kickoff, kicker Florio punched the ball out of the return man’s hands, and the fumble was recovered by Victor Harrington. Brown then added another TD.
“This game was amazing,” said Ramos, who had 86 rushing yards. “We knew what we could do. We don’t underestimate anyone, but we felt like we could dominate. The fact that Scotty can run so well really opens it up. So defenses don’t know what to expect.”
Defending Division 2 state champion North Andover, which lost in this year’s North finals to Lincoln-Sudbury, avoided the shutout when, just before halftime, QB Will Schimmoeller found Matt Chicko for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
But Andover responded with a Beal 41-yard TD run to start the second half.
While the Andover offense was rolling, the defense also excelled, allowing just 153 yards of total offense, and only 29 after halftime.
“We knew the defense would make big stops,” said Davila. “We sent a lot of blitzes, and that confused them. They had some fumbles, and that was key.”
Florio (12 tackles), Slayton (8 tackles) and Moreno (7 tackles) led the defense. Jonathan Davila added an interception, and Seth Jablonski delivered the hit of the game, absolutely demolishing a receiver over the middle to force an incomplete pass.
“We knew we were a better team than we were the last few years,” said Slayton. “Our effort on defense was outstanding. We have a talented defense, and so much heart.”
The win completes quite a turnaround for Andover, which won 6 of its last 7.
“I feel like it started in the first Methuen game (a 28-0 win) and we just kept getting better from there,” said coach E.J. Perry. “We even had a great battle with St. John’s in the playoff loss. Then, to come back and beat Everett, and beat a very good North Andover team, this team was on a mission, and they accomplished it.”
Defense leads Andover’s turnaround
After opening the fall 2-3, Andover went 6-1 the rest of the way, with its lone loss to St. John’s Prep in the Division 1 North semifinals.
A major reason for that turnaround was the defense.
In its last seven games, Andover has allowed just 13.7 points per game. That’s quite an improvement from the 28.4 it surrendered in the first five weeks.
The Warriors held five teams under 100 yards passing during that seven-game run, and allowed just two 100-yard rushers.
Andover gave up just 68 yards passing and 87 yards rushing on Thanksgiving.
Andover 41, North Andover 8
Andover (8-4): 13 21 7 0 — 41
North Andover (6-5): 0 8 0 0 — 8
A — Bibi Ramos 5 run (Shamus Florio kick) 10:22
A — Ramos 16 run (kick failed), 2:55
A — Ramos 2 run (kick blocked), 11:24
A — Scott Brown 17 run (Florio rush), 4:22
A — Brown 4 run (Florio kick), 0:28
NA — Matt Chicko 44 pass from Will Schimmoeller (Freddy Gabin rush), 0:12
A — Lincoln Beal 41 run (Florio kick), 7:22
RUSHING: Andover (39-303) — Scott Brown 17-131, Josh Ramos 16-86, Lincoln Beal 3-77, Michael Slayton 2-4, Seth Jablonski 1-5; North Andover (19-87) — Freddy Gabin 12-56, Matt Chicko 1-9, Will Schimmoeller 4-1, Ricky Brutus 2-21
PASSING: Andover — Brown 5-6-0, 45 yards; North Andover — Schimmoeller 5-7-1, 63 yards; Peter Radulski 1-5-1, 3 yard
RECEIVING: Andover — Jackson McCarthy 4-34, Beal 1-11; North Andover — Chicko 3-46, Sebastian Vente 1-12, Brutus 1-4, Gabin 1-4