CHELMSFORD, Mass.- Conventional football wisdom will tell you that if a team loses its placekicker to an injury, many aspects of the team’s performance will change: field goals and extra points get exponentially tougher, and kickoffs are no sure thing, which could give a team quality field position to start drives.
That wasn’t the case Friday for Andover. It scored two quick touchdowns in the first, and successfully converted the ensuing two-point plays, which put Chelmsford back on its heels and forced it to play catch-up the rest of the game.
The Lions could not catch up, eventually falling 42-22 to its Merrimack Valley Conference foe.
Andover’s (8-0) Mark Zavril, the team’s usual kicker, watched from the sideline in street clothes while his team rolled in its first league game of the season.
“We might have gone for the two, even if our kicking game was there, because we’ve been working on that,” Andover head coach E.J. Perry said. “We’re about 65-70 percent with the two-point and when you do the numbers, it’s almost better to go for the two. We also like to flip the numbers so we get a two-score advantage. They came toe-to-toe in the first quarter, but then we opened it up and made the twos and did a nice job.”
Chelmsford (4-4) was caught off-guard on the kickoff after the first Andover touchdown when the Golden Warriors sent a squib up the middle and recovered the loose ball. It scored a minute and a half later to put the Lions behind by 16.
Chelmsford quarterback John Campsmith (11-of-22, 138 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) answered on the next drive when he hit Greg Johnson on a 34-yard bomb down the right sideline. Johnson, a speedy wide receiver, split bracket coverage and outran both defenders to get the ball and get in the endzone.
In the end, the Andover no-huddle, spread offense proved to be too much for the home team to handle. C.J. Scarpa finished the game 14-of-23 for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns, each to a different receiver. He also had a two-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
--- While the Andover offense, and many other offenses in the Merrimack Valley for that matter, are known for their propensity to put up points, its defense also made a mark on the game Friday.
After allowing Campsmith to run for a first down on a third and 12 in the first quarter, it seemed like momentum had swung into Chelmsford’s favor and the game could’ve been well on its way to a shootout. Then on the next play, Campsmith tossed a bubble screen out to his wide receiver, but the ball bounced in the dirt. The receiver thought it was an incomplete pass, but because it was a sideways pass, the ball was live. Seeing this, the Andover defense jumped on the ball, killing the drive and Chelmsford momentum.
Andover scored on its opening driving after halftime, creating a 20-point deficit. On the first play of the ensuing Chelmsford drive, Chas Haseltine picked off Campsmith. The offense scored on its next possession, which turned what was a two-possession game at halftime into a four-possession game in two and a half minutes of game time.
“The defense doesn’t really get talked about a lot because our offense is so good,” Scarpa said. “Our defense is one heck of a defense. They kept us in that Xaverian game (a 15-13 victory), and we just knew our defense was pretty good. We practice as hard as we can against them, and they give us great looks and we give them great looks.”
--- Friday marked the first game in a four-week stretch when Andover plays league opponents. While it came into the latter part of the season undefeated, the team and the coaching staff know now is put-up or shut-up time for them.
“We told them coming in, ‘We’re starting 0-0, congratulations on being 7-0, but it’s time to go to work,” Perry said. “If you were in the huddle, one of the kids jumped in and said, ’1-0,’ and I like to hear that from our players.”
The team does feel confident, with the season steadily moving towards Thanksgiving and the playoffs.
“Eight-and-oh is great, but as everyone knows now, we’re 1-0 in the MVC, so we’re basically 1-0,” said Cam Farnham (3 catches, 22 yards, 1 TD). “We know if we win out, we’re going to the playoffs. We’ve got Lowell, Billerica, Central, and honestly, I think our conference is very tough but I think if we keep coming together as a team and keep battling hard, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
--- Andover’s quarterback C.J. Scarpa is anything but conventional. At 5-foot-8, he looks more like a scat back than a quarterback. Stand next to him, and you can not help but wonder how he can read the field beyond his offensive linemen. However, after Friday, he has tossed over 20 touchdown passes and is a senior captain of a team considered very much capable of winning the Merrimack Valley Large.
“Being 5-8 makes me me, so I just take it as it is,” he said. “I’m not going to try and be anyone I’m not. I’m 5-8, so be it. My parents aren’t tall, so I just take it how it comes.”
NO. 13 ANDOVER 42, CHELMSFORD 22
AND --- 16 6 20 0 --- 42
CHE --- 8 0 7 7 --- 22
A - Andrew Deloury 37-yard pass from CJ Scarpa (Deloury 2-point pass from Scarpa good)
A - Will Heikkinen 21-yard pass from Scarpa (Heikkinen 2-point pass from Scarpa good)
C - Greg Johnson 34-yard pass from John Campsmith (Johnson 2-point pass from Campsmith good)
A - Scarpa 2-yard run (Scarpa 2-point pass to Deloury no good)
A - Jack Sylvester 12-yard run (Deloury 2-point pass from Scarpa good)
A - Cam Farnham 10-yard pass from Scarpa (Nolan Leblanc kick no good)
A - Brandon Marti 8-yard run (Leblanc kick no good)
C - Connor Brimley 4-yard run (Charles Calenda kick good)
C - Johnson 8-yard pass from Campsmith (Calenda kick good)