Monday, November 26, 2018

Division 2 Super Bowl Preview: North Andover, King Philip A Matchup of Contrasting Styles

North Andover's Michael Roche hopes to help lead his team to its first Super Bowl since 1994. 

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

Throughout the week, SuiteSports will be previewing all eight Super Bowls scheduled to take place across Friday and Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

We'll take a look at each team's road to the Super Bowl, its key players, and provide a breakdown of what makes each team so successful. Lastly, we'll give our three keys to the game that we think will likely dictate who will ultimately emerge victorious.

We start tonight by looking at the Division 2 Super Bowl between North Andover and King Philip. Check back in tomorrow when we breakdown the Division 4 and 5 Super Bowls.

The Matchup: King Philip vs. North Andover 

King Philip

Road to Gillette: Braintree (21-7), at Natick (17-7), at Mansfield (10-7)

Super Bowl Victories: 2016, 2017 

Points Per Game: 20.6

Points Allowed Per Game: 10.6

Key Players: Ryan Halliday, Jr., RB/OLB; David Morganelli, Sr., WR; Jack Webster, Sr., MLB; Aidan Bender, Sr., DB; Robert Jarest, Jr., QB

North Andover

Road to Gillette: Westford Academy (49-0), Woburn (42-14), Lincoln-Sudbury (42-0)

Super Bowl Victories: 1994 

Points Per Game: 38.5

Points Allowed Per Game: 11.3

Key Players: Jake McElory, Sr., QB; Darren Watson, Sr., WR; Gabe DeSouza, Sr., ATH; Freddy Gabin, Sr., RB; Mike Roche, Sr., DE;

There are no teams going up against each other this weekend that feature more contrasting styles than these North Andover and King Philip.

North Andover comes into the Division 2 Super Bowl having absolutely decimated the competition for most of the season. Behind dual-threat quarterback Jake McElroy, outside weapons Gabe DeSouza and Darren Watson, and junior running back Freddy Gabin, the Scarlet Knights have scored an incredible 38.5 points per game.

What is perhaps even more jaw dropping is that despite the increasingly cold temperatures in November, its offense has not skipped a beat. In their four games dating back to its opening round contest with Westford Academy, the Scarlet Knights have scored at least 42 points in four consecutive games. The icing on the cake came in its sectional final win over Lincoln-Sudbury when a DeSouza pick-six on the third play of the game was just the start of a dominant, 42-0 victory.

With speed at every position, North Andover is a threat to score on the defensive side of the ball as well. They have allowed just 11.3 points per game on the season, allowing 14 points or more on just three separate occasions. DeSouza and Watson highlight the dangerous secondary, while Keegan Hardacre, Mike Roche and Ryan Slattery key the pass rush.

If North Andover is to win its first title since 1994, however, they will have to knock off a King Philip team that has shown no urge to give up its two-time defending Super bowl crown.

The Warriors rely offensively on a patient ground game that centers around power running back Ryan Halliday. Halliday has carried the ball 30 times or more on seven separate occasions this season. Junior quarterback Robert Jarest earned Super Bowl experience last year when he entered in the second quarter for Brendan Lydon and promptly steered his team to victory.

David Morganelli and Timmy Nault are Jarest's primary targets. King Philip, however, is once again buoyed by a defense that has been nothing short of stalwart this postseason. Jack Webster and Halliday have been key from the linebacker position, while Aidan Bender, Tyler Bartlett, and Deric Casado lead the secondary. King Philip has forced five turnovers in three postseason games. 

Keys To The Game

1. First Five Minutes

Its no secret that the 10 minute quarters could play a major impact in this game more so than any of the other seven super bowls. King Philip has thrived off long, sustained drives that last between six and 10 minutes long and keeps the opposing offense off the field.

That is what makes the first five minutes of this game so important. If North Andover is able to score quickly on its opening drive and dictate the tempo, its hard to envision King Philip winning an all-out track meet.

Conversely, if King Philip is able to get an early stop and go on of its 10 to 15 play drives right out of the gate, it could limit the dangerous North Andover offense to just two possessions in the opening half.

2. The Big Play

Throughout the season North Andover, has destroyed its opponent's will with its knack for the big play. In its sectional final win over Lincoln-Sudbury it came on the third play of the game with DeSouza coming up with a 35-yard pick six. 

Watson, meanwhile, showed his ability to turn the game on a dime with an 88-yard punt return in the Scarlet Knights Thanksgiving eve win over Andover. 

If King Philip is to contain North Andover on the scoreboard, its not only going to have keep the ball away from their top weapons on offense, but its also going to have go without turnovers in the middle of the field that can quickly turn into six points the other way. 

3. Ryan Halliday, Ryan Halliday, Ryan Halliday 

The most important aspect of this game, however, is going to be whether or not King Philip can run the ball behind back Ryan Halliday.

North Andover has a strong defensive front highlighted by Thomas Vance, Raphael Usuomon, Mike Roche, and Steve Ferullo. If they are able to win the battle up front and prevent the Warriors from gaining any traction on the ground, its going to be a long night for the King Philip offense.

Conversely, if Halliday can wear down the Scarlet Knights defensive line as the game goes on, like he has so many times this season, King Philip may be in a position at the end to steal another Super Bowl.