Central Catholic Raiders Football '14

Milano, Central surge past Andover on Thanksgiving

ANDOVER — It may not have been the Super Bowl, but Mike Milano and his Central Catholic classmates couldn’t have imagined a much more perfect way to cap off their high school football careers. “It’s not just a win, it’s beating Andover,” said Milano. “And it’s beating Andover three times in one season. We wanted this so bad, to end the year and finish the entire rivalry on top. And this is about the best way I could have imagined ending the season.” Led by one last terrific performance by their All-Scholastic QB, Central Catholic made the final edition of the Central-Andover Thanksgiving Day rivalry all Raiders, closing out the 42-year tradition with a decisive 41-21 victory Thursday afternoon. “Coach A (Chuck Adamopoulos) gave us a speech before the game saying the series was tied 20-20-1,” said Milano. “So whoever won was going to be the champion of the series. So this is pretty awesome.” The victory marked the third time Central has beaten the Golden Warriors this season — also winning a regular season and playoff meeting — and fifth straight win for the Raiders over their rivals dating back to last season. “It’s so great,” said Central offensive lineman Dan MacDonald, an Andover resident. “To win over our archrivals, on the last Turkey Bowl, against my hometown school is pretty great. If we had ever lost this game it would have haunted us for the rest of our lives. We had to have it and we took it.” While Thanksgiving may no longer count in the playoff race, in final game of this series — with the Golden Warriors moving on to play North Andover and Central facing Lawrence on Turkey Day 2015 — the Raiders were determined to finish with a bang. “Thanksgiving means everything to us,” said nose guard Jorge Elias. “So for the seniors to end our high school careers with a win over Andover, in the last game of the series is amazing. We took the momentum and knew we just had to keep punching.” Milano wasted no time giving his team control. On the Raiders’ fourth play of the day, the reigning Eagle-Tribune All-Star threw a dart to receiver Steven Jackson, who sprinted into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown. The Golden Warriors bounced back by driving inside the Raider 10-yard line, but Jorge Elias scored a sack, Robert Fitzgerald knocked down a pass and Central turned them away without points. The Raiders added a crucial score on the final play before halftime, with Mike Balsamo plunging in from 1 yard out on fourth down for a 14-0 lead. “That was a huge play,” said Elias. “That gave us a ton of momentum going into halftime and made us feel really good going into the second half.” Central handed Andover a 3-and-out to start the second half, and made it 21-0 when Milano and Jackson connected on their second score of the day, a 17-yard TD. Milano extended the lead a possession later, dumping a screen pass off to Omar Deschamps, who ran 75 yards for a score. Balsamo then did the rest, returning a kickoff back 82 yards for a touchdown, then icing the win with a 44-yard TD run, “It was a great day,” said Balsamo. “The turkey always tastes better with a win. We wanted a 3-0 record against Andover this year, and we did it. The whole team played great.” Despite losing 2013 Eagle-Tribune defensive Player of the Year Markus Edmunds before halftime with a severe gash on his arm, the Raider defense had more than enough. Pat Dziedzic won Player of the Game honors with 10 tackles, Elias had 1 1/2 sacks and six stops and Johandy Gonzalez made an interception. Milano threw for a season-best 238 yards on a sharp 11-of-18 passing, while for Andover, E.J. Perry threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns.  “It really is bittersweet,” said MacDonald. “It is bitter because it is the end of our careers and the end of the rivalry. But it is sweet because we won. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”

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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Central Catholic’s hopes of title repeat ended in crushing loss to St. John’s Prep

DANVERS — It wasn’t supposed to end like this, not for defending Division 1 Super Bowl champion Central Catholic and the All-Scholastics and All-Stars that returned this fall.

But once again, St. John’s Prep proved to be the Achilles’ heel for the Raiders.

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Football, 11/08/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Central outlasts Andover for playoff win

LAWRENCE — Dan MacDonald did need any extra incentive. A playoff game against his school’s longtime archrival was more than enough motivation for the Central Catholic captain to be fired up.

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Football, 10/31/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Crazy final minutes gives Central heartstopping win

Miracle Mike Milano and Central Catholic got the ball back with 2:17 remaining trailing Chelmsford by 10. No problem. The Raiders scored twice in 68 seconds for a crazy 35-31 victory.

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Football, 10/28/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Central rips through Lowell

LOWELL — The Friday night showdown expected here at Cawley Stadium between No. 4 Lowell and No. 5 Central Catholic never materialized.
The reigning Division 1 Super Bowl champions never let it happen.
With an offense that played angry and a defense looking to make amends for its last two outings (31.0 points a game allowed), Central simply steamrolled the previously 4-0 Red Raiders from the opening snap right through garbage time, 44-7.
"They came in 4-0, but we know we've played great competition so far," said Raider lineman Pat Dziedzic. "We knew that, so we just took it to them."
Dziedzic, who had two big sacks, and the Raiders allowed Lowell a total of 10 yards of offense on 36 plays. Lowell's lone first down of the night came with 1:10 left in the second quarter, and that was it.
"We're in the driver's seat now with the league and that feels good," added Dziedzic.
Offensively, Central called its shots. On the ground, the Raiders chewed up 222 yards on 32 dashes. In the air, Mike Milano had an off-the-charts night, hitting 16-of-18 for 192 yards and three TDs. In all, the savvy senior connected with seven different targets.
The hosts hardly knew what hit them, and when Syracuse-bound Shy Cullen left the game with some sort of foot midway through the second with Central already up, 18-0,  you might as well have stopped the fight.
"The bye week was huge for us," said senior Mike Balsamo, who had a big night running for two TDs and catching another on a "Cannoli route" hookup from Milano — the quarterback, not the city in Italy.
"Andover and St. John's Prep were hard, hard games for us. We had some very good, very key practices where we worked on some of those mistakes we had made."
For Central, now 4-1 overall, that's three up and three down in the MVC large race with only (0-5) Billerica and a road trip to Chelmsford standing between the Raiders and a third straight conference title.
About the only gripe a Central fan could have had is about the struggles in the point-after kicking game. The Raiders missed conversion kicks or runs on its first five TDs, including one dribbler through legs on the offensive line. It took senior Nick Worden to knock in Central's first PAT in the third quarter. In the fourth, sophomore John Mooney made his try as well.
Lowell's only points came on a late, 95-yard Egan Ojunga kick return against the Central sophomore cover team.

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Football, 10/10/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Andover's Eberth, Prep crunch Central

DANVERS — Turnovers, stupid penalties and multiple drops … Not the way you knock off one of the state’s premier football powers.

“It was probably the most frustrating game I ever coached,” said Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos, minutes after watching his team turn the ball over on five straight second-half possessions to hand St. John’s Prep a 27-12 win before about 2,000 fans here yesterday.

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Football, 09/20/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Central crushes Haverhill for second straight blowout win

LAWRENCE — Two weeks into the season, staring at the only team to knock them off last year, Central Catholic's only problem might be going the distance.
For the second straight week, the Raider starters had the helmets unbuckled for good by the mid-third quarter, making quick work of Haverhill High before about 1,200 fans here last night at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"Our coaches condition us every day, so we'll be fine playing the full four quarters," said Raider halfback Mike Balsamo, who steamrolled his way to 54 yards on just seven carries.
The Raiders will need it. Saturday, they travel to 2-0 St. John's Prep, fresh of last night's 14-6 victory at Brockton.
St. John's defeated Central here a year ago. The Raiders have gone on to rip off 11 straight wins since, including the drive to the 2013 Division 1 Super Bowl championship.
Central simply smothered the visiting Hillies, who came in riding the high of a last-minute opening win over Beverly.
But when the Raiders recovered their own opening kickoff — kind of a side-of-the-foot-flopper that came to rest in no-Hillies-land — they went to work.
Markus Edmunds dove in for the first of his three TDs on the night — five for the young season — and a fumble on Haverhill's second snap from scrimmage set up No. 2.
"That's our preparation, and we were hyped up for this one," said Balsamo. "We have some pretty experience guys like myself, Markus, Mike Milano. We have a lot of key starters back. So we're ready for challenges like this."
Central's starters dominated nearly every second they were in there, outgaining the Hillie regulars 304-20.
Edmunds, Milano and Balsamo combined to run 24 times for 205 yards on their own.
Fans got to see a hungrier, maybe even nastier Balsamo.
"That's my style of game," said the senior, who's already gotten offers from Wofford and Bryant. "I'm 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and I'm going to use it all I can to punish defenders and move the chains.
Now the Raiders can look ahead to the Prep and try to forget the nationally-acclaimed 40-21 loss that saw Eagle Johnny Thomas make ESPN's SportsCenter for his 106-yard interception return for a TD.
"I never watch (the video)," said Edmunds. "I want to vomit every time I watch it."
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Football, 09/12/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars