By David Willis
---- — Central Catholic feels readyto face Central Catholic
Even Andover knows the challenge is great after its regular season loss.
The Golden Warriors’ Thanksgiving rival, Central Catholic, has already punched its ticket for the Division 1 Super Bowl, and will be playing at the home of the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, on Dec. 7.
But first, the Raiders will have to take on Andover High.
And the Golden Warriors have every intention of sending their archrival to the Super Bowl on a sour note, with a Gold and Blue victory on Thanksgiving Day.
“Being able to say that you beat the league champion and eventual state champion would be huge,” Andover senior linebacker Will Eikenberry said. “We are thrilled. We know they are great, but we are working hard and we feel like we have the skills and ability to beat them.”
Andover and Central will renew their Thanksgiving rivalry for the 40th straight season when they face off at Lawrence Stadium on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
Central Catholic currently leads the Turkey Day grudge match 20-19-1 all-time, but Andover has won five of the last seven meetings, including two of the last three years in contests that decided the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1 title and a trip to the playoffs.
Forget that the Raiders defeated the Warriors 26-7 in a rare regular season meeting back in September. The Andover squad that took the field for practice in freezing rain late last week feels like a different squad than the one that was on the field that day, and believes it can take down the Raiders.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” running back Jack Sylvester said. “It’s a little intimidating, but also really exciting. They bring size and toughness, but if we are tough and disciplined, we can beat them. Beating Central in my last football game ever would just be the icing on the cake.”
Since losing two straight to Central and Chelmsford, the Golden Warriors have won five of their last six games, including three straight heading into Thanksgiving.
“We feel very different than the last time we played Central,” offensive lineman Matt Sutliff said. “Our offense is clicking more, our defense is more secure. We feel like that game was the first half and this is the second half of the game. Taking them out before they go to Gillette would be great.”
After averaging 11.5 points in its three losses, the Golden Warrior offense certainly has been clicking of late, averaging 33.3 points a game in its three straight victories and 37 points per game in its last five wins.
Sylvester and quarterback Oliver Eberth have been at the heart of the offensive resurgence.
In six game played since the Central contest, Sylvester has rushed for 636 of his team-high 770 yards, including 200-yard performances against Billerica and LaSalle and 131 yards and a pair of scores in a revenge victory over Chelmsford last week.
Eberth, the sophomore QB, had the game of his career last week with 174 yards passing and 134 yards rushing, and has 1,541 combined yards for the season (872 passing, 583 passing, 86 receiving) along with 14 total touchdowns. He is complemented at QB by freshman E.J. Perry, who has passed for 408 yards and seven touchdowns and caught two more scores.
The Golden Warrior defense faces a tough task in a Central Catholic offense that is paced by QB Mike Milano, University of New Hampshire-bound running back/defensive back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie and dynamic receiver/kick returner Cody Demers.
But Andover believes it can not only keep pace, but complete the job.
“This is just huge,” lineman Chris Tully said. “Coach (E.J. Perry) has been talking to us about what we need to do to win the game.
“This is a revenge game, and if we could bring it home, it would be just amazing.”