NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.- The season started about as bad as it could have for the Andover Golden Warriors Friday against North Andover. On the initial hit after catching the opening kickoff, Jack Sylvester fumbled the football away at the Scarlet Knights' 32 yard line.
Seven plays later, North Andover quarterback Brandon Walsh scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Andover quickly found itself playing from behind. But Andover was able to forge ahead and overcome two more first-quarter turnovers however, and came away with a 30-20 victory at Walsh Stadium.
“I think at this point in the season, they weren’t as good as us, and that’s why we beat them,” said Andover running back Andy Coke (20 carries, 123 yards). “We still respect them as a team, but we came into this thinking we were the better team and we played like it. We had a few fumbles that could have cost us, but didn’t. We did our best and they did theirs.”
Three plays into the ensuing drive of Andover (1-0), the center sent a low shotgun snap at Coke’s feet, and it was recovered by a North Andover defensive lineman. Later in the quarter, Andover quarterback C.J. Scarpa threw his only interception of the game.
North Andover (0-1) was unable to capitalize on the two turnovers, and the Warriors were able to get one of their own in the second. Walsh threw his first of three interceptions into the chest of defensive lineman T.J. Leeman. Three plays later, Coke ran off left tackle from two yards away to tie the game at 7.
From there, the teams traded touchdowns in the second. Because of a missed North Andover extra point, Andover took a 14-13 lead into the half.
“I said to the kids at halftime we actually gave them 13 points,” said Andover head coach E.J. Perry. “They came out and gave us their best shot, we had to come out and just play.”
The Warriors came out of the locker room with a renewed energy and focus having overcome those early turnovers.
“Coach has been stressing all week to us to keep the ball,” said Scarpa, who was 9-of-19 for 136 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game. “Once we kept the ball after the first three turnovers, we knew we had the game. Our offense struggled a little bit but we knew if the defense kept us in the game, eventually we were eventually going to get a push, and that’s what we did.”
Walsh was noticeably limping in the third quarter. On the sideline between series, he was working with a trainer to loosen up his right leg. His mobility was hindered for the remainder of the game, but he already had 110 yards and two touchdowns by halftime.
“I was sad to see Brandon cramping because I just respect him so much,” said Perry. “I’ve seen him at camps, so I like to beat him when he’s healthy.”
Walsh ended the game 17-of-30 for 218 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions through the air.
While he could not run effectively, he still lead his team on a 4:11 drive to start the third quarter. It appeared the team was on its way to another score when senior wide receiver Dan Laorenza lost a fumble on the Andover 16-yard-line, ending the drive.
Walsh briefly gave his team the lead in the fourth quarter when he connected with his brother Casey for a 61-yard touchdown down the left sideline.
Andover answered back quickly when Scarpa hit Cam Farnham down the seam for a 60-yard touchdown, making it 23-20 Andover with seven minutes left. On that particular play, Scarpa lined up as a wide receiver with Coke taking the direct snap. Running to the left, Coke flipped the ball to Scarpa, who was running right, opposite his linemen. He caught the toss and threw it deep to Farnham, hitting him in stride for the touchdown.
“You never keep that play in your pocket,” said Perry. “I was on the headphones with the coaching saying I was going to run the trick play. They argued with me, so I turned off my phone and sent CJ out and said, ‘We’re running the trick play,’ and then it was a touchdown.”
Coke intercepted Walsh on the first North Andover play after the ensuing kickoff. Minutes later, Scarpa hit Will Heikkinen with a pass from 10-yards out to give Andover the 30-20 lead and ultimately, the victory.
No. 11 ANDOVER 30, No. 21 NORTH ANDOVER 20
AND --- 0 14 3 13 --- 30
NA --- 7 6 0 7 --- 20
N - Brandon Walsh 2 run (Glen Hartford kick good)
A - Andy Coke 2 run (Mark Zavri kick)
N - Walsh 1 run (Kick failed)
A - Will Heikkinen 35 pass from C.J. Scarpa (Zavri kick)
A - Zavri 28-yard field goal
N - Casey Walsh 61 pass from Brandon Walsh (Hartford kick)
A - Cam Farnham 60 pass from Scarpa (Zavri kick)
A - Heikkinen 10 pass from Scarpa (Zavri kick)