North Andover Scarlet Knights Football '18

Knights are Kings ... Division 2 state champs!

FOXBORO — Gabe DeSouza just stood speechless at the 30-yard-line.
North Andover teammates jumped and celebrated all around him. In the Gillette Stadium stands, fans donning scarlet and black yelled and hugged each other in pure joy.
But, despite all of the chaos around him, DeSouza just couldn’t find any words.
Mere moments prior, North Andover had just completed a perfect season by winning the Division 2 Super Bowl in front of approximately 9,000 fans, beating two-time defending champ King Philip, 6-0. The Knights (12-0) stood as tall, proud champions on the field Tom Brady calls home every Sunday.
Finally, torn between wanting to celebrate with his team or going to hug his mother in the stands, DeSouza finally found some words.
“This is crazy,” said DeSouza, head spinning before letting out a cry of joy. “I don’t even have words to describe this.
“You couldn’t have pictured a better story, like at all. You take out the two-time defending champs, you go 12-0, like what more could you ask for. Like, c’mon man!”
Fittingly, it was a Mike Roche sack which ended the game.
South champion King Philip (9-3) had one last gasp at the North Andover 36-yard-line with 6 seconds remaining and no timeouts. As QB Robert Jarest completed his drop, Roche was there to meet him and caught his ankle as the 6-foot signal-caller tried to spin away.
As Roche got up and let out a roar, he was met by his teammates who swarmed the field from the sideline.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Roche, a Maryland lacrosse recruit. “The last play, I saw him rolling out and I just knew I had to get him. So that’s what I did.”
A senior, the hard-hitting, 5-foot-9 Roche spearheaded a defense that surprised everyone by keeping the champs off the scoreboard. He got help from Darren Watson and DeSouza in the passing game, and big Matthew Samenuk up the middle.
Interestingly enough, the game played out exactly how King Philip wanted.
The Warriors were pounding the rock with junior back Ryan Halliday (29 carries, 97 yards), chewing up clock and keeping North Andover’s explosive offense off the field. 
Took it personal
If you would have told anyone that North Andover — a team that had scored at least 35 points 10 times this season — would score just six points Friday night, you would probably say that King Philip completed the three-peat. Probably in a blowout.
But no one could have expected how well the Knights were going to play on defense.
Well, almost no one.
“Our kids took it personal all week,” said North Andover coach John Dubzinski. “All they heard was how good (King Philip’s) defense was — and rightfully so, they’re a good defense. But our kids knew that they were a good defense and that we didn’t hear a lick about our defense. 
“They took it personal, said that we’re not going to allow them to move the ball ... but we never broke. We made the big play when we had to.”
When they talk about this North Andover team 50 years from now — which they will — that fact won’t be overlooked.
The Knights could beat you with their pure skill, 49-0, but they could also out-hit and out-tough any opponent and win with stellar defense.
“We can say that we can win a slugfest,” laughed Dubzinski. “A lot of people said that we couldn’t.”
McElroy scores
The lone score of the game came with 2:25 left in the first half, when on a 4th-and-goal from the half-inch line QB Jake McElroy barrelled his way in.
As it turned out, that was all the Knights needed.
“I feel amazing,” said senior Darren Watson. “I can’t even, I don’t even know how to explain this. It’s a blessing to win a championship with my family, for all of the fans, my teammates and my coaches. We just did it for the North Andover community.”
Watson capped the historic night (Knight?) with probably the best line — a line that summed up the thoughts of his teammates as well.
At the beginning of the season, did you ever think or dream you guys would be celebrating winning a state championship at Gillette Stadium?
“Of course, nothing less.”

North Andover 6, King Philip 0
Division 2 State Championship
King Philip (9-3): 0 0 0 0 — 0
North Andover (12-0): 0 6 0 0 — 6
Second Quarter
Jake McElroy 1 run (kick blocked) 2:25

RUSHING: NORTH ANDOVER (14-15) — Darren Watson 4-9, Jake McElroy 8-9, Freddy Gabin 2-(-3); KING PHILIP (36-121) — Ryan Halliday 29-97, Robert Jarest 3-14, Shawn Conniff 2-10, Sam Callanan 2-0
PASSING: NORTH ANDOVER — Jake McElroy 10-16-1, 117 yards; KING PHILIP — Jarest 5-7-0, 55, Cole Baker 0-1
RECEIVING: NORTH ANDOVER — Gabe DeSouza 5-64, Matt Chicko 2-25, Darren Watson 1-29, Jack Walsh 1-6, Freddy Gabin 1-(-7); KING PHILIP — Tom Nault 2-27, David Morganelli 2-22, Sam Sesay 1-6
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Football, 11/30/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

North Andover, Andover

ANDOVER — Cold, wind and ice all presented late November obstacles here at Lovely Field on Wednesday night.
North Andover High’s speed and explosiveness negated them all.
The unbeaten Scarlet Knights rolled up a 28-0 halftime lead, sent the starters to the bench in the second half and finished off rival Andover High, 41-27. 
North Andover moves to 11-0 on the year, evens the Turkey Day series with the Golden Warriors at 2-2 and now, after a day to feast with the family, can set its sights on King Philip Regional and the Nov. 30 Division 2 state championship at Gillette Stadium.
“Come out, put points on the board, get out healthy and get ready for the next game. That was the plan,” said Darren Watson, following his three-touchdown night.
For the most part, North Andover did just that, although some gritty play from Andover, plus some creative onside kick work by Shamus Florio forced the Knights’ starters back on the field after thinking their night was complete.
The outcome in this one was clear early.
“Their speed was very evident, and you can see why they’re so good,” said Andover coach E.J. Perry, whose club finished at 3-7. “We gave up three big plays on special teams to them, and that was the difference. You just can’t do that against a team like that.”
Fourth down simply was not Andover’s friend.
On the Knights’ opening drive, facing a 4th-and-4, Jake McElroy got things started with a 25-yard TD pass to Watson.
Andover went three-and-out, then on fourth, Gabe DeSouza hauled in a punt and dashed 82 yards on the return. In a blink, it was 14-0.
Another Warrior punt, and this time it was Watson, speeding 88 yards to paydirt.
“We haven’t had any kind of returns for touchdowns this year,” laughed Watson. “Gabe was calling for me to reverse but I thought I saw something.”
What Watson saw was a patch of green and ultimately the end zone.
The final fateful fourth down wasn’t a score, but it set up the fourth TD of the first half, just before the intermission.
On fourth-and-10 on his own 41, DeSouza, from punt formation, chose to tuck it and run, racing 31 yards down the left sideline.
Four plays later, Freddy Gabin got into the act, with a 13-yard TD.
The dominance continued into the third when McElroy hit Ryan Slattery for 4 yards and a 34-0 lead.
That sent the regulars to the bench.
Andover wasn’t done, though.
Freshman QB Victor Harrington (13-34, 266 yards, 4 TDs) and the Warriors got on the board late in the third with a 65-yard strike to senior Nick Zalanskas.
Harrington would add a 9-yarder to Zalanskas and a 30-yard hookup with Brendon Moody, slicing the margin to 34-21 and forcing the Knight regulars back into action.
A Watson 12-yard interception return for touchdown finally put it away, although Zalanskas did catch his third score with a minute to play, allowing for the final margin.
The senior ended his career in style with seven catches for 126 yards.
“Zalanskas was excellent, and I was impressed with Harrington again,” said Perry. “Under the pressure and stress in a game like this, the freshman handled himself well He’s the real deal. Now, we need him to keep working harder and improving his game.”
Watson caught seven passes for 117 yards on the night, and McElroy finished his performance at 10 of 18 for 141 yards. Defensively, the Knights made big plays when they had to with Steven Ferullo and Mike Roche splitting three sacks evenly. Thomas Vance had an interception.

North Andover 41, Andover 27
No Andover (11-0) 21-7-6-7 — 41
Andover (3-7) 0-0-7-20 — 27

First Quarter
NA — Darren Watson 25 pass from Jake McElroy (Gabe DeSouza kick) 7:56
NA — DeSouza 82 punt return (Gabe DeSouza kick) 4:45
NA — Watson 88 punt return (Gabe DeSouza kick) 2:46
Second Quarter
NA — Freddy Gabin 13 run (Gabe DeSouza kick) 1:10
Third Quarter
NA — Ryan Slattery 4 pass from Jake McElroy (kick blocked) 2:02
AND — Nick Zalanskas 65 pass from Victor Harrington (Shamus Florio kick) 1:06
Fourth Quarter
AND — Nick Zalanskas 9 pass from Victor Harrington (Shamus Florio kick) 8:46
AND — Brendon Moody 30 pass from Victor Harrington (Shamus Florio kick) 3:56
NA — Darren Watson 12 interception return (Gabe DeSouza kick) 2:29
AND — Nick Zalanskas 3 pass from Victor Harrington (Shamus Florio kick) 1:19

Statistical Leaders
NORTH ANDOVER: Darren Watson 2-6, Freddy Gabin 9-32, Jake McElroy 4-60, Gabe DeSouza 1-31
ANDOVER: Tommy Duncan 7-34

NORTH ANDOVER: Jake McElroy 10-18-2, 141
ANDOVER: Victor Harrington 13-34-2, 266

NORTH ANDOVER: Watson 7-117, Slattery 1-4, Matt Chicko 1-7, DeSouza 1-13
ANDOVER: Zalanskas 7-126, Moody 3-95, John Gemmell 2-41, Duncan 1-4
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Football, 11/21/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

North Andover wins Division 2 North crown, earns title game berth

NORTH ANDOVER — Gabe DeSouza could not fight back the tears of joy that ran down his face as he stood, overcome with emotion, celebrating on the Walsh Stadium turf.
“This is unreal,” said DeSouza, wiping away tears. “This is the greatest moment of my life. Everything that happened to me, all the struggles, changed my life. And it has all paid off now.”
A season ago, DeSouza left the Division 2 North title game in an ambulance, after suffering a life-threatening heart arrhythmia.
A year later, on Friday, he and his North Andover teammates left the field as champions.
On the third play of the game, DeSouza intercepted a pass and ran it back 24 yards for a touchdown. It was all North Andover from there, as the top-seeded Scarlet Knights surged to the Division 2 North crown with a dominant 42-0 victory over No. 2 Lincoln-Sudbury.
North Andover fell to Lincoln-Sudbury in the North title game last fall.
“I’m the happiest man on Earth right now,” said Knights tri-captain Darren Watson. “This was the revenge tour. This was the biggest game of our lives. We’ve worked four years for this, and to be here is the best feeling.”
The win sends North Andover (10-0) to the Division 2 state championship game at Gillette Stadium, where they will play South champ King Philip (8-2). The game will be played on either Nov. 30 or Dec. 1.
It is the first North title for the Knights since beating Haverhill for the crown in 2014. They then lost in the now-defunct Division 2 state semifinal.
“It’s crazy,” said running back Freddy Gabin. “We saw what (the North final) was like last year. So we had this all planned out. Coach (John Dubzinski) laid out the blueprints. We got after it, and we got it done.”
With rain pouring from the opening kickoff, North Andover set the tone right away.
On the third play of the contest, DeSouza jumped a route and cruised into the end zone for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 1:06 into play.
“That play turned the game,” said Gabin. “Once I saw him pick off the pass and go into the end zone, I knew we were going to win.”
After a Warrior 3-and-out, Watson took North Andover’s first offensive play and broke a 67-yard run. A play later, QB Jake McElroy ran in a 3-yard score, and the Scarlet Knights were rolling.
“I saw the hole and hit it,” said Watson, who finished with 80 yards rushing and 103 yards receiving. “The guys gave me a big hole to run through, and I took it.”
After another 3-and-out and a blocked punt, Gabin sprinted in for his first of three touchdowns, an 11-yard score.
Watson then made it 28-0 at halftime, taking screen pass from McElroy and breaking free for a 51-yard touchdown.
Lincoln-Sudbury only threatened twice, both late in the first half. 
The Warriors advanced to the Knights’ 39-yard line, but defensive lineman Charlie Regan knocked the ball out of the QB’s hands, and it was recovered by Thomas Vance. 
Lincoln-Sudbury later made it to the North Andover 14. But Keegan Hardacre and Mike Roche each had a sack to force a turnover on downs. 
North Andover continued to dominate in the second half, with Gabin adding touchdowns of 10 and 9 yards. The Knights did not punt once.
DeSouza (two interceptions) led a North Andover defense that allowed just 153 yards of offense, 76 of those in the second half with the game well in hand.
Vance added six tackles, Ryan Slattery had eight stops and Watson had five tackles.
“Everything was working on defense,” said DeSouza. “Our line was getting pressure, our linebackers were doing their job and we were shutting it down in the secondary.”
North Andover now has its eyes set on Gillette Stadium and the chance to win a state title.
“I can’t wait!” said DeSouza. “I can’t wait to play at Gillette. It’s a dream come true. It will be amazing.” 
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Football, 11/09/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Knights spread the wealth in romp

NORTH ANDOVER — Once a workhorse in the North Andover backfield, senior speedster Darren Watson no longer gets many touches.

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Football, 11/02/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Undefeated North Andover wins MVC title, No. 1 seed

 BILLERICA — This September, the North Andover High football team was expected to be in position to have a special season.

At 7-0, clinching a Merrimack Valley Conference small schools title, with signature wins over Central Catholic, Tewksbury and Methuen, the Scarlet Knights have checked all of the boxes.

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Football, 10/19/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Gabin sparks North Andover

 Jeff Hamrick


DRACUT – Freddy Gabin didn’t have a carry until the third game of the season, but once he saw playing time he proved he belonged in the North Andover backfield mix. Friday night, the junior showed he has no problem being the main man. Blasting for three long touchdowns highlighted by both power and speed, Gabin scored on three long first-half touchdowns as the Scarlet Knights clinched the MVC Division 2 title with a convincing 40-21 victory over Dracut. After rushing for 277 yards in his first two outings while sharing the load with Darren Watson, who was out with a dislocated shoulder, Gabin finished with 273 yards. He had two scoring runs of 49 yards and another of 56 among his first eight attempts as the Knights grabbed an early 19-7 lead. “It kind of felt like the last two games when I was dominant,” said Gabin, who moved the chains on 14 of his 26 carries. “But there wasn’t anything different. I felt like I belonged out there, so I was ready. “That (273) felt nice. I mean it’s progressing every game. The coaches tell me to keep my head up, and if I keep working on fundamentals I can get better every game.” North Andover (3-0 MVC, 6-0 overall) exploded out of the gate, taking a 13-0 lead on Gabin’s pair of 49 yarders, the second of which came on a play Gabin appeared stopped after a short gain with 4:42 left in the first. After a 74-yard Dracut drive cut the lead to six, Gabin went 56 yards two plays later as the Knights opened a 19-7 lead. “We knew this was going to be a dog fight,” North Andover coach John Dubzinski said. “They are a very good team. I think we came out with a good spark on offense. Freddy ran great, the offensive line blocked well and (quarterback) Jake (McElroy) did a perfect job managing the game.” McElroy provided the game-winning score on a 1-yard sneak early in the third. Michael Difo (2-yarder) and Mark Federico (8-yarder) had the final two rushing touchdowns as the Knights finished with 351 yards on the ground. “We have so many options, you just can’t stop all of us,” Gabbin said. Dracut scored twice in the second half on a pair of Devin Lambert to Cameron McCullough passes of 72 and 68 yards. “I think (four 15-yard) penalties had something to do with it,” Dubzinski said of the defensive lapses. “We had a roughing the passer on third-and-long and they scored (two plays later). Penalties will kill you no matter what. (The Middies) were physical. Holding them to 14 going into the final quarter isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad.” Watson is expected to return to practice this week as North Andover prepares for Billerica in a final tune up before the Division 2 playoffs. “He hurt his shoulder on the third play of the game (in Week 5 against Chelmsford) on a block,” Dubzinski said of Watson. “We held him out and we’ll see going forward. (Gabin) did a great job. He waited his turn. It’s a great example for young kids who might not be starting at the beginning of the year. When your number is called, you have to be ready.”

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Football, 10/12/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

North Andover hammers Chelmsford

NORTH ANDOVER – Looking at the Scarlet Knights’ schedule, it was easy to see Week 5 shaping up as a trap kind of game for sixth-ranked North Andover.
After all, not only was visiting Chelmsford winless, but the Lions had scored only seven points while losing their first four. And up next for the Knights is Dracut, which entered the weekend undefeated and a half-game ahead of North Andover atop the MVC Division 2 standings.
“We don’t look ahead at anybody,” Gabe DeSouza said. “Every week we prepare as if it’s the Super Bowl, and we don’t take anything for granted. So, all week we prepared for them like it was going to be for a state championship.”
It proved to be a solid philosophy as DeSouza provided his share of the points and the North Andover defense held the visitors to only five first downs as the Knights dominated the Lions in a 37-0 rout.
North Andover (2-0 conference, 5-0 overall) took advantage of a Mike Roche blocked punt midway through the opening period that set up a 2-yard Darren Watson scoring run one play later. Two possessions later, DeSouza connected on a 32-yard field goal, capping another short drive.
Those same two play makers then provided North Andover a 24-0 halftime lead with a couple sterling plays. First it was Watson, who blasted an off-tackle play behind linemen John Roche and Matthew Samenuk and went untouched for 52 yards. Then it was DeSouza’s turn grabbing a highlight-reel 23-yard reception from Jake McElroy at the goal-line flag with 46 seconds left. 
“I told Jake, ‘Let me make a play,’ and I’ll take care of the rest,” DeSouza said. “We’ve had a connection since the first day I got here. He has faith in me, and I have faith in him to put the ball where it needs to be. It’s just like playing catch.”
Freddy Gabin, who ran for a game-high 141 yards, scored on a 40-yard run early in the third before DeSouza and McElroy hooked up on an 8-yard touchdown to finish the scoring with 3:28 left in the third.
Chelmsford (0-2, 0-5) was held to 108 yards of total offense – 39 of it on 21 rushing attempts. Watson and Shaun Nichols each had an interception for the Knights.
“We just basically tell the kids that we have a faceless opponent every week, and we’re both 0-0,” North Andover coach John Dubzinski said. “It’s the same mantra: we want to practice well to win high school games … We had a great week of practice and the kids responded very well. The defense played well. They were aggressive and were attacking.”
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Football, 10/05/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

North Andover takes historic win over Central Catholic

NORTH ANDOVER — With history on the line, North Andover’s Jack Walsh would not allow the ball to escape his hands.
“I went up for the ball and I took a beating,” said Walsh. “But I did everything I could to hold onto the ball. My teammate covered me up and it was just perfect.”
Central Catholic recovered a fumble with just over a minute left in regulation, and quickly scored to cut North Andover’s lead to seven points.
But Walsh was there to recover the ensuing onside kick and lock down a historic 14-7 victory for the Scarlet Knights in front of approximately 2,000 fans.
The win was the first win for North Andover over Central Catholic in football since the Eagle-Tribune began keeping complete records in 1984. The only other time the two teams met was in 2012, a Raiders victory.
“We’ve been looking forward to this since the day we found out they were on our schedule,” said Walsh. “We’ve had this circled on our calendar all offseason. I am happy for the team, the coaches and the whole community.”
After QB Jake McElroy took a final knee, the Scarlet Knights rushed the field to celebrate the win, a battle of the favorites in Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 and Division 2.
“It’s unbelievable,” said McElroy. “They are a tough team to beat, and to get it done on our home field in front of all these fans is amazing. We knew they were coming in and it could be a big win, and we were determined to get it.”
Leading the way was a North Andover defense that allowed Central just 51 rushing yards on 20 carries and spent the entire game in the Raiders’ backfield.
Senior defensive end Mike Roche had 2.5 sacks, lineman Raphael Usuomon had two sacks and Ryan Slattery chased down the QB once. 
Walsh added an interception, and Mark Federico picked off a pass. 
“We were pushing through the line well,” said Roche. “We knew they were going to be tough. It’s a lot of fun rushing the passer and making plays. Everyone stepped up.”
North Andover’s offense wasn’t as polished as it had been in the first two weeks. But the Knights were able to deliver just enough.
In the second quarter, North Andover marched 82 yards on nine plays, and McElroy scrambled in for a 12-yard score.
The Knights added the eventual game-winning points in the fourth thanks to an 11-play, 88-yard drive that JD Allen finished with a 6-yard TD.
“We spread them out and ran read-option about 10 straight plays and they didn’t stop it,” said McElroy. “We weren’t really clicking on offense. But we did enough, And our defense was amazing. They should have had a shutout. They played an amazing game today.”
Central made it a game in the final minute, when Anthony Caggianelli scored a 6-yard TD with a minute left. 
But Walsh held onto the onside kick and clinched the win.
“I was just hoping someone got it,” said Roche. “And Walshy got it. He had a great game. It was awesome.
“This feels great. We did it at home, and this means a lot. We knew it would be a tough game. We were pumped, and we got it done.”

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Football, 09/21/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Dominant start: DeSouza (3 TDs), Knights drub Woburn in opener

WOBURN - On a nonchalant first-and-10 from the Woburn 25-yard-line, Gabe DeSouza ran a fade down the right sideline and leaped over two defenders to haul in his third touchdown of the first half.

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Football, 09/07/18 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars