By David Willis
---- — Andover football could not have imagined a better opening to its Thanksgiving Day.
Facing off against their archrival Central Catholic, which had already clinched a trip to the Super Bowl, it was the Golden Warriors that looked like the champs out of the gate, with a big defensive stop and a dynamic touchdown drive.
But that was as good as the holiday contest would get, as the Raiders regained their championship form to defeat the Golden Warriors 44-18 in their annual Thanksgiving Day match-up.
Central Catholic now leads the Turkey Day grudge match 21-19-1 all-time, including two of the last three. The Raiders will play Xaverian in the Division 1 Super Bowl on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
“We knew Andover was going to be a tough opponent,” Central Catholic star D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie said. “We were a little worried after that first touchdown.”
It took Andover no time to take charge of the contest.
The Golden Warriors held Central Catholic to a three-and-out on its first possession, but a terrific Raiders punt stuck the Warriors at their own 1-yard line to start the drive.
But Andover quickly struck back with a 99-yard drive that Oliver Eberth finished off by tossing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Will Eikenberry, giving the Golden Warriors a 6-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Andover, that was as good as the game would become, as the Raiders struck back for the next six touchdowns.
“We knew they were a very tough team,” Central’s Cody Demers said. “It’s Andover. You never want to lose to Andover, especially in my last game against them. We remember what they did to us last year (a 22-19 Andover win to earn the MVC title).”
The Golden Warriors did have two last shining moments in the fourth courtesy of running back Jack Sylvester.
They managed a late drive that Sylvester finished off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Then after Central responded, Sylvester took the following kickoff and ran it back 81 yards for a touchdown.
Sylvester finished the game with 11 carries for 52 yards, while Eberth completed 12 passes for 92 yards. Meanwhile, Ben Hartford made 10 tackles and Eikenberry had eight stops for the Warriors.
“Tough ending,” Sylvester said in the final moments. “But I feel like we did some good things this season.”