A season ago, North Andover football was the favorite, a preseason title pick that more than lived up to expectations by dominating its way to the Division 2 state championship.
One year later, the Scarlet Knights find themselves in a very different spot.
No. 4-seeded North Andover (5-3) is the clear underdog on Friday, when it travels to top-seeded Reading (6-1) in the Division 2 North semifinals. But the Scarlet Knights are far from afraid.
“We’re very confident,” said top lineman Tim Iannarone. “After a great win (in the North quarterfinals) over Westford, we know what we are capable of. If our defense is stout, and we’re able to dominate up front, we’ll be well-equipped to beat Reading.”
North Andover isn’t the only team that finds itself an underdog. Andover and Pinkerton each also have their eyes set on postseason upsets on the road this weekend.
An advantage for the Scarlet Knights are the lessons learned en route to last year’s state title.
“‘Play with an attitude’ is definitely when I learned the most last year,” said defensive back/receiver Shaun Nichols. “No matter what, always have each other’s back on every play.”
After starting the season 1-3, North Andover has won four straight heading into Friday, outscoring opponents 133-41 during that stretch.
No. 1 seed Reading has won seven straight since losing its opener to Lincoln-Sudbury. The Rockets are paced by freshman QB James Murphy (966 yards, 13 TDs passing).
“The team has come together and we’re feeling as confident as ever,” said North Andover receiver Matt Chicko. “We need to start this game fast and limit our mistakes.”
ANDOVER PREPPED FOR PREP
Few teams have been hotter than Andover over that past four weeks. The Golden Warriors are 4-0, outscoring opponents 129-33.
But No. 3 Andover (6-3 overall) faces a very tough task at No. 2 St. John’s Prep (7-1) on Friday (7 p.m.)
“We believe we’ve been playing at a very high level of football,” said Golden Warrior defensive back Kelvin Davila. “We know that we can win this game.”
The defending Division 1 state champ Prep’s lone loss this fall was to Division 1 South top seed Catholic Memorial (8-0). Leading the Eagles are receiver/defensive back Matt Duchemin of Haverhill and running back James Guy (9 touchdowns).
“We’re confident going into this game on a winning streak,” said Andover quad-captain Matt Comeau. “But everyone needs to show up and do their jobs.”
MACK PLAQUE REMATCH
Pinkerton finds itself in a rare position as an underdog, but the opponent is very familiar.
The No. 4 Astros (6-3) will travel to top-seeded archrival Londonderry (9-0) on Saturday (2 p.m.)
The Lancers snapped a 22-game losing streak to Pinkerton on Sept. 27. For the season, Londonderry has allowed just 95 points while scored a whopping 430 points, led by running back Jeffrey Wiedenfeld (16 TDs) and QB Jake McEachern (1,142 passing yards).
“It’s going to be a very intense game,” said Pinkerton star Jake MacInnis. “We have to be ready for anything. We know we can win, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Top-seeded Central Catholic (7-1) has a few close connections to No. 4 Everett (7-1), which it will host in the Division 1 North semifinals on Saturday (noon).
Raiders top receiver/defensive back Nick Donatio (432 yards, 7 TDs receiving) is the son of former Everett football captain Paul Donatio (class of 1984). His great uncle is late ex-Everett great and NFL fullback Ralph Pasquariello.
Central Catholic kicker Nick Mazzie (26 PATs, 2 field goals) is the son of Everett Police Chief Steven Mazzie. Nick kicked the game-winning field goal in the Raiders’ upset of Everett in last year’s North semifinals.