Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

November 7, 2013

Week of a lifetime

Nicholas soaks in World Series win, then delivers career day on gridiron

By David Willis

---- — In the world of sports, it may be impossible to top the three-day stretch Andover High’s Christopher Nicholas experienced last week.

Last Wednesday, Nicholas was at Fenway Park, sitting on the third base line as his beloved Red Sox clinched the World Series title with a dominant victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Two days later, Nicholas was back at Eugene V. Lovely Field, delivering the game of his career with two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Golden Warriors blasted Lawrence.

“It was a lot of fun,” Nicholas said. “To go out there and play like that was amazing, and being at Fenway for the World Series was unforgettable.”

It was the culmination of a breakout season for the Golden Warrior receiver/defensive back, who is thrilled to finally be sharing the experience with his father, John Nicholas, who has served in the U.S. Army since he was 17 years old.

“It’s been rough having father in the military,” Nicholas said. “But I look up to him every day and he is truly my hero.”

Christopher Nicholas’ connection to sports — and Fenway Park — date back even before he was born. His parents met at Who’s On First, a bar that sits across the street from the beloved Red Sox ballpark.

The younger Nicholas grew up dedicated to playing football and baseball, and rooting for the Red Sox. But it was often without his father, who was frequently deployed overseas, including a trip to Afghanistan as part of “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

“He was deployed several times,” Nicholas said. “The worst was when he was sent to Afghanistan and Kuwait, because he was gone for a whole year. That was when I was in middle school. Most of the time when he was deployed, he would be able to come home for a few weeks to visit and then be home for the summer.

“It is so hard to grow up without your dad at such a young age when you have questions and need advice. I really missed him. But with the help of my family and friends, I got through it pretty well. And I admire what he did for the country so much.”

As he matured, Nicholas also began to emerge as an athlete. A season ago, he played receiver for the Andover High JV team. Over the summer, he set his sights on becoming an impact player on the varsity team.

“I was really determined to be as productive as I could be this year,” he said. “But I didn’t know it would happen as quickly as it did,”

In Week 1 of this season, Nicholas caught the game-winning, overtime touchdown pass from Oliver Eberth that gave the Warriors a victory over North Andover.

“I was shocked,” Nicholas said. “I couldn’t believe I had done that. It didn’t sink in for a while. It was just amazing to make that kind of play.”

Nicholas has continued to impress at receiver, leading the team in catches (18) and receiving yards (247) and touchdown catches (5), and also at defensive back, with a team-best four interceptions.

“He has improved so much since Day 1,” Golden Warriors coach E.J. Perry said. “He had to step up this year. He’s fast, big for a receiver (6 feet, 160 pounds) and he is a smart player.”

Surprise of a lifetime

A life-long Red Sox fanatic, Nicholas received the gift every Sox fan dreamed of last week — tickets to Game 6 of the World Series, the game the Red Sox took home the title.

“The day before the game, some family friends had people drop out so they gave my family tickets,” he said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget.

“When (Shane) Victorino hit the ball off the Green Monster, Fenway Park was the craziest I have ever seen it. When the game ended and the Red Sox won, I was just jumping up and down and high-fiving random people. I had my phone recording the whole time so I could always remember it.”

Two days later, he made more amazing memories, this time on the field.

Against Lawrence, the Golden Warrior receiver caught five passes for a whopping 112 yards and two touchdowns, both from E.J. Perry IV, and caught a two-point conversion on a halfback pass from Jack Sylvester.

On the defensive end, he twice picked off Lawrence QB Nelson Valerio.

“It was sad we weren’t in the playoffs, so we wanted to make a statement that we are a good team,” Nicholas said. “It started with the interception in the first quarter. The ball kept coming my way ... and I kept making plays. It was amazing.”

Making it even sweeter is he now has the chance to share those moments with his father, who now lives full-time at home and trains soldiers locally.

“It’s really amazing to have his support,” Nicholas said. “I think he gets more excited than I do when I make plays. It’s really great to have him home. Hopefully I can keep contributing to the team and making plays.”