HAVERHILL — Andover looked to be on the verge of a massive comeback.
Following an E.J. Perry IV touchdown pass to John Boes early in the fourth quarter, the Golden Warriors recovered an onside kick and Perry IV found Joe Rockwell for a score to cut the Haverhill lead to eight points with 8:08 left in the game.
But the Warriors could not recover another onside kick, and surging Haverhill scored on its next two drives to close out Andover 56-34 in a battle of two of the top 20 teams in Eastern Mass.
Andover entered the game ranked No. 13 in Eastern Mass., while Haverhill, on the heels of upsetting Central Catholic, was ranked No. 5.
“Andover is a great team with an amazing quarterback in Perry and a lot of playmakers,” said Haverhill QB Broghean McGovern. “But our defense stepped up and our offense finished it off.”
Each time Haverhill seemed to be taking control of the game, Perry IV and Andover rallied back.
After the Hillies scored two quick touchdowns, Perry IV finished off a drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Haverhill scored again at the end of the first quarter, but Perry IV found Cedric Gillette for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 20-14 at halftime.
Perry IV ran for another score midway through the third, but Haverhill led 42-20 early in the fourth quarter.
That's when Andover began its rally, as Perry IV hooked up with Boes and Rockwell on touchdowns to make it 42-34. But the Golden Warriors would get no closer.
“Any time you go against a great QB like E.J. Perry you want to play your best,” said McGovern. “That is a really good team. But we could move the ball through the air early and on the ground late.”
Perry IV finished the day 24 of 47 passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a team-high 97 yards and two more scores. Gillette caught 12 of those passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
It doesn't become any easier for Andover, which will play Central Catholic on Saturday. The game has been moved to Haverhill High due to the damage to the Lawrence Stadium turf. Kickoff is schedule for 2:30 p.m.
Reach sportswriter/videographer David Willis on Twitter at @DWillisET