The Andover Townsman
---- — With bragging rights in the 135-year-old rivalry on the line, Ryder Stone and Andover’s Phillips Academy locked down one of the most thrilling finishes in the historic series with Phillips Exeter on Saturday.
The undefeated Big Blue (8-0) now advances to the New England Prep School A championship game this Saturday against the Brunswick School in the Jack Etter Bowl at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut.
The win against Exeter — Phillips Andover’s first victory over its rival since 2007 — didn’t come easy.
With 31 seconds left and Andover trailing by five, Stone took a handoff and burst in from 3 yards out to give the Big Blue the lead.
That capped off a 90-yard, seven-plus-minute drive, which proud alums will be talking about for decades to come.
Alec Tolentino picked off a pass in the waning seconds to give the Big Blue a 13-12 win and a perfect regular season.
“It was bedlam on the field after we won,” Andover coach Leon Modeste said. “I got crushed by the mass of people that charged the field to celebrate. It was a great win.”
Exeter, which was 6-1 coming into the game, held a 12-7 lead with approximately eight minutes left.
To make matters worse, the Big Red then pinned their rival at their own 10-yard line.
But Andover responded with a 90-yard drive that ate up 7:30.
Quarterback Ian Maag converted a pair of fourth-down plays, scrambling for one first down and connecting with Brandon Michel for another. That set up Stone for the game-winner.
“We just controlled them the rest of the way with that drive,” Modeste said. “That is how you complete a drive and win a game. Our guys stepped up.”
Another key play came in the first quarter.
After Exeter scored, Michel blocked the extra point, which proved to be the winning margin.
Maag scored Andover’s first touchdown on a QB sneak.
Saturday’s New England Prep School A championship game starts at 1 p.m.
Phillips Andover 13, Phillips Exeter 12
Phillips (8-0): 0 7 0 6 — 13
Phillips Exeter (6-2): 6 0 6 0 — 12
PE — Vince Sansone 4 run (kick blocked)
PA — Ian Maag 1 run (Tom Mullen kick)
PE — Augie Roberts 9 run (pass failed)
PA — Ryder Stone 6 (run failed)
RUSHING: PA — Ryder Stone 22-96, Michael Moore 5-20, Ian Maag 10-41
PASSING: PA — Maag 8-16-1, 53
RECEIVING: PA — Michel 3-7, Matt Rusk-Kosa 2-24, Matt Illialio 2-20