Friday, November 30, 2018

North Andover's Defense Slams The Door on Perfect Season, Scarlet Knights Crowned Div. 2 Champions

North Andover celebrates after taking home its first Super Bowl since 1994 (Photo Courtesy: Brendan Hall)

By Matt Feld (@Mattyfeld612)

FOXBORO -- Michael Roche did not play football his senior season, and he was not planning on playing again in 2018.

North Andover coach John Dubzinski convinced him to play, however, and he was rewarded by coming through with the game winning sack to close out the Super Bowl.

With its high-powered offense held to six points, North Andover's defense rose to the occasion as the Scarlet Knights stopped three King Philip drives inside the 35-yard line to put the finishing touches on a perfect season with a 6-0 win in the Division 2 Super Bowl on Friday night at Gillette Stadium.

Its the first Super Bowl for North Andover since 1994.

"We've put a lot of points on the board throughout the season. We knew that this would be a massive test," said Dubzinski. "They're very good on defense and they're tough up front. Luckily, our defense played great, too."

Trailing 6-0, two-time defending champion King Philip (9-3) got the ball back on their own 26-yard line with 23 seconds left. A pair of completions from Robert Jarest (5-of-7, 55 yards) to Timmy Nault, and a third to David Morganelli moved the Warriors to the North Andover 34 with six seconds remaining.

On the final play of the game Jarest rolled right and prepared to unload a Hail Mary pass, but Roche wrapped him up for a sack to give North Andover its first Super Bowl since 1994.

Roche, who is committed to Maryland for lacrosse, was begged by Dubzinski prior to the season to come out for his senior season. The senior linebacker relented, and he was rewarded with a championship.

"It feels amazing, to be apart of this team this season has been the best few months of my life," said Roche. "Everyone has been all in on all season. On that play I just went all out, and I was lucky enough to sack him."

The lone score of the game came late in the second quarter.

After an interception in the end zone by Nault appeared to swing momentum in King Philip's direction, Darren Watson made sure the Scarlet Knights got it right back. On second and 10 from the 20, Ryan Halliday (30 carries, 106 yards) took a toss to the left but Mark Federico jarred the ball loose allowing Darren Watson to pounce on it and give the Scarlet Knights the ball inside the Warriors 10-yard line.

Three plays later, on fourth and goal from the one, Jake McElroy (10-of-16, 106 yards) busted into the end zone on a second effort to give North Andover a 6-0 lead.

"I thought we were going to get things going after that, but they are a great team and play terrific defense," said McElroy. "Our defense won us the game."

Throughout the night, King Philip had opportunities to strike but came up empty.

On the opening drive of the game the Warriors executed their game plan to perfection with Halliday carrying the ball 11 consecutive times down inside the North Andover 25-yard line. After the junior back picked up four yards on third and nine, King Philip looked as though they were going to attempt a 42-yard field goal.

The Warriors instead elected to try and fake field goal, a maneuver that looked to be successful. Cole Baker's pass, however, was dropped along the sideline to force a turnover on downs.

Then, after King Philip's defense forced a three and out to begin the third quarter, the Warriors embarked on a 15-play drive, highlighted by a 12-yard pick up from Halliday, that brought them down near the 20.

On fourth and 10, Jarest rolled to his right but slipped escaping from the pocket and his throw ended up low ending the Warriors series.

"They ran the ball pretty well and chewed it up a lot of yards, but our guys didn't break," said Dubzinski. "In the third quarter when they drove the length of the field, took time off the clock, and didn't get it that was huge. Im just proud of our guys for winning a slugfest because a lot of people said that we couldn't."

Coming into the game, North Andover was averaging 38.5 points per game, but on Friday night they were forced into playing at a different tempo then they were accustomed to as the King Philip front put pressure on McElory all night long.

They gained just 132 yards of total offense, with only 15 of those coming on the ground. The Scarlet Knights accumulated just six first downs to King Philip's dozen, and ran only three plays in the third quarter.

It did not matter. Just like they had done against Central Catholic earlier this season, they were ready for a slugfest and prepared to win at all costs.

"We knew our defense was great," Watson said. "I don't think anyone else did. We just had to come out in the biggest game of the season and show them."

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