John Dubzinski was hoping this would be the night – under the lights against a traditional Thanksgiving rival, frozen snowbanks surrounding the playing field – that his North Andover football team finally would score a touchdown on special teams.
The Scarlet Knights had two before their star quarterback took the field for his second offensive series on Wednesday night.
The Division 2 Super Bowl-bound Knights built a 21-0 lead over Andover in the first seven minutes courtesy of two impressive punts, and pushed the margin as high as 34 on the way to a 41-27 victory at Eugene Lovely Field to keep their perfect season intact.
“That was huge for us, winning the special teams battle – I think that won us the game,” Dubzinski said.
North Andover (11-0) marched straight downfield for a 7-0 lead on the game’s first drive, Jake McElroy taking a deep dropback on fourth and 4 and finding Darren Watson (215 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs) by himself at the near pylon for a 25-yard score.
The next time McElroy took the field, he was up three scores thanks to two jaw-dropping returns that totaled 169 yards and even had a few Andover fans cheering.
First it was Gabe De Souza, who, after gathering the ball at his own 18 with a stepback, a juke, a pause and then another step-back, broke to the North Andover sideline for an 82-yard sprint.
Watson then followed that with a pretty return of his own, shaking once to his left and then cutting straight up the seam for an 87-yard scamper and three-score lead just seven minutes into the contest.
“I heard Gabe say, ‘Reverse it’, but I said ‘No, I might just hit this hole’,” Watson said of his run. “The hole was open so I just took the space and ran with it.”
The Knights got in one more score before the close of the first half, a 13-yard Gabin run off an option pitch to the perimeter, and led 34-0 with 2:32 left in the third quarter on a 9-yard slant from McElroy to Ryan Slattery out of a run-pass option.
North Andover got one more score late in the game when Watson walked in a 12-yard interception return to make it 41-21 with 2:29 to go.
North Andover plays King Philip in the D2 Super Bowl a week from Friday at Gillette Stadium. Andover finished 3-7.
Old Rochester 35, Apponequet 14 — Not only did the Old Rochester football team need to keep its health intact in advance of next weekend’s Division 6 Super Bowl against Stoneham, but the Bulldogs were determined to maintain their unbeaten record before their arrival at Gillette Stadium.
Check and check.
Old Rochester ran through, and over host Apponequet at Griffith Stadium Wednesday night in the teams’ 38th holiday meeting, piling 364 yards rushing in a convincing victory.
The most encouraging sign for the Bulldogs (11-0) was the play of senior tailback Will Garcia, who missed six games this season with an ankle injury. In his third game back, the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Garcia racked up 184 yards on 15 carries, rushing for touchdowns of 69, 7 and 31 yards.
“It feels great, everybody’s been counting on me to return,” Garcia said.
“I really wanted to play this season and make it a big season for the team. When I went out, it was really disappointing; I let down a lot of friends, a lot of family, so performing like I did tonight, it feels really good.”
The South Coast champions also received 104 yards from Desmond Dias , including a 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter which snapped a 14-0 run by the Lakers (4-7).
Wayland 48, Weston 8 —In his final game in a Warrior uniform, senior Wellington Pereira was a brute force, rushing for 325 yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries — punctuated by two 60-yard scoring runs in the second half. ‘‘He put us on his back,’’ said Wayland coach Scott Parseghian. ‘‘Unbelievable performance, what a way go out, running over people. We had our second-string quarterback in, it was so cold we could not throw the ball, so we just fed the beast. He has been outstanding for us, a four-year varsity player.’’ The 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Pereira, the two-time Dual County League Small MVP, surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season with his effort.
Brighton 42, Chelsea 0 — Kendrell Ledbetter had touchdown runs of 55 and 65 yards in the first quarter as the Bengals (4-7) won the inaugural Thanksgiving meeting between the schools.
Bishop Feehan 23, Bishop Stang 9 — In Attleboro, the Shamrocks (6-5) stayed perfect in the six-year series on TD runs from William Lynch, Tim D'Ambrosia, and Nick Guggliotta. Ryan Jones ran for 95 yards on 16 carries.
Cardinal Spellman 22, Archbishop Williams 21 — The Cardinals (5-5) erased a 21-8 halftime deficit in rallying for the win to capture the Gravy Bowl. Will McAlpine hit Shane Foley with an 8-yard scoring pass to cut the margin to 21-20 before Mike Finneran rushed for the go-ahead conversion. Jovan Marrero had scoring runs of 70 and 2 yards.
Lincoln-Sudbury 49, Newton South 14 — Senior James Dillon punched in two short scoring runs in the first quarter and Braden O'Connell connected with Cam Anderegg on a 72-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter for the host Warriors (9-2) in the 46th Thanksgiving meeting between the Dual County League rivals. L-S leads 35-10-1.
Central Catholic 39, Lawrence 12 — The Raiders (8-3) shared the wealth with six scorers in the second Thanksgiving meeting. Aidan Gordon threw for two touchdowns, and Anthony Caggianelli had one receiving and one rushing. Chase Dunn blocked a punt for a safety, and kicker Nick Mazzie drilled a 19-yard field goal to go along with four PATs. For Lawrence, Jacob Tamayo caught a 19-yard touchdown pass and Brandon Santel had a 1-yard TD run.
Northeast 40, Essex Tech 6 — Zach Sanderson ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries as the Golden Knights (9-3) picked up a win ahead of the State Vocational Finals next week.
Somerville 23, Cambridge 19 — Louis Montina tallied his third touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run with 16 seconds remaining to carry the Highlanders (4-7). Montina also had touchdown passes of 56 and 58 yards.
Arlington 21, Arlington Catholic 20 — In the 11th meeting between the Spy Ponders (5-6) and Cougars (2-8), senior quarterback Adam Bowler paced host Arlington with touchdown passes of 11 and 19 yards and a 6-yard scoring run to finish his career with 63 total touchdowns.
Bourne 39, Wareham 0 — Jaimon Scott rushed for touchdowns of 5 and 17 yards and James Cahoon fired a 79-yard scoring pass to Sean McDonough and scored on a 1-yard keeper for the Canalmen (6-5).
Globe correspondent Jake Levin reported from Lakeville..