CHELMSFORD — When he finally got his chance, North Andover senior Peter Radulski seized the moment.
Starting at quarterback for the first time in the absence of junior starter Will Schoemmoeller (out 3-4 weeks with a knee injury), Radulski threw a perfect spiral to Matt Chicko for a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to help key a dramatic 22-20 victory over Chelmsford.
At the time, the score was tied 14-14 but, after Ricky Brutus ran in the extra points, the Knights had the eight-point cushion they needed to improve their record to 2-3. It was only the fourth pass of the game for Radulski, who mainly handed the ball off.
“I’ve been waiting to do that my whole life,” said Radulski. “It felt good when the ball was in the air. We saw on film during the week something that (indicated) we could run on them, but we got them on that (pass) play.”
Other than that one play, the Knights prevailed with a strong ground game that totaled 257 yards, with Freddy Gabin (16 carries, 109 yards) and Brutus (14-70) getting tough yards throughout the game, and a defense that stuffed Chelmsford.
No play was more clutch than when Chelmsford attempted to tie the game with two seconds on the clock after the Lions completed a desperation 30-yard touchdown pass from Brett Baker to Dylan Brotherston, who somehow made the catch between two defenders. That came three plays after another desperation pass to Brotherston went 37 yards on a 4th and 28.
Other than those two plays, North Andover’s defense was stout, led by senior captain Tim Iannarone, who was in on four quarterback sacks. Jack Carbone, Sebastian Vente and Brutus were among others who came up big time after time.
On Chelmsford’s two-point attempt to tie the game, Baker took the direct snap and attempted to run it up the middle only to be stopped inches short of the goal line.
“Just about the whole (defensive) line was in on the tackle,” said Iannarone. “That was just a huge stop ... (and) this was a huge win for us. We had to have this one.”
The game got off to a sour start for the Knights when they were forced to punt on their first possession and the kick was blocked, giving the Lions the ball on North Andover’s 9-yard line. Three plays later, scoring on a shovel pass, Chelmsford was suddenly up 7-0.
But the Knights came back quickly. Brutus returned the ensuing kickoff nearly 65 yards to the Chelmsford 22 and Jadyn Mencia ran it in on the next play for the score. The extra-point kick was blocked, but the Knights scored again on their next possession on a four-yard Brutus run that came seven plays after a short punt. Gabin ran in the extra points to provide North Andover with a 14-7 halftime lead.
The Knights might have scored again before halftime, given that they had timely interceptions by Christian Ortega and Jack Carbone, but a fumble deep in Chelmsford territory and a remarkable 72-yard punt by the Lions held them back.
“It wasn’t a perfect game but we got the job done,” said North Andover coach John Dubzinski. “We had to work for it and I’m proud of our effort.”
North Andover will attempt to get back to .500 next week when it hosts Dracut, currently set for Friday at 6 p.m.