ANDOVER — Friday’s game between Andover and New Jersey’s Wayne Valley was nearly 20 years in the making.
Listen to this.
Valley coach Roger Kotlarz is a UMass Amherst grad (Class of ‘94) who was roommates with teammate Brett Hammond of Andover. Hammond, if you recall, was our Eagle-Tribune Male Athlete of the Year in 1991, and played his high school ball with current Golden Warriors’ coach E.J. Perry’s brother, Matt.
So the two coaches have known each other for some time now. But while Friday’s 31-12 Wayne Valley victory may not be the beginning of a future rivalry, it was still a welcome reintroduction back into the football season for the Warriors.
“(Kotlarz) called me about 100 times,” joked Perry. “So I kept saying, ‘How good are you?’ And I guess we found out today that they’re pretty good.”
It technically goes down as a loss, but Friday’s game does not have any impact for the MIAA playoffs.
Wayne Valley came off the bus ready to go after a four-plus hour ride up I-95. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Indians marched down the field and scored after a 14-play drive that took up over half of the quarter.
That was pretty much the story of the first half, as Wayne Valley’s first three drives all finished in the endzone for a 21-0 lead.
It looked like things could get ugly, but the Warriors responded against the Indians, who went 6-5 last fall, losing in the North 1, Group 4 semifinals
Joshua Ramos ran hard, and got his team on the board with a 2-yard touchdown midway through the second to make it a 21-6 game at half. The Golden Warriors then received the second-half kickoff, and Ramos housed his second score when he bounced a 48-yard run to the outside and beat a defender down the sideline.
The Warrior defense, led by big AJ Heidtke (6-4, 273) on the line, forced two straight stops, but the offense couldn’t make it any closer than a 21-12 game. The Indians then added a touchdown and a field goal late in the fourth to salt it away.
“We responded well when we got down 21-0,” said Perry. “I like how we did that.”
Despite the loss, the Warriors still had positives to take away as they head into the season. The senior Ramos ripped off 104 yards on his 15 carries, and quarterback Victor Harrington showed his progression in his second year under center. The sophomore completed 17 of his 27 passes for 157 yards, finding top targets Kelvin Davila (7-68) and Michael Slayton (4-21) the most.
The Warriors host Franklin next Saturday at 1 p.m. Franklin beat Milford 34-27 in its opener on Thursday.