FOXBOROUGH — If you woke up Saturday to hear that the Division 2 Super Bowl was a defensive slugfest in which the state champion held on for a 6-0 victory, the prevalent assumption would be a third consecutive title for low-scoring King Philip.
Yet it was North Andover, a team that made headlines all season with a prolific offense, that prevailed, 6-0, in Friday’s thrilling state final at Gillette Stadium, on the strength of a strong defensive effort.
“I’m proud that we could win a slugfest like that, because a lot of people said that we couldn’t,” North Andover coach John Dubzinski said.
“This shows that the kids have a lot of character and can deal with pressure situations. People think, well, they’re not used to a close game. These kids showed that they can. This is a character-building win, a good program win.”
As in the past two Super Bowls, King Philip (9-3) controlled the clock by running the ball early and often. The Warriors took 7:16 off the clock on their first drive and churned out 121 yards rushing.
“That’s how I would’ve coached it against us,” said Dubzinski. “We’ve put all kinds of points on the board this season. We knew this would be a massive test. [KP] is very good on defense, luckily our defense played great, too.”
North Andover senior quarterback Jake McElroy overthrew a wide open Darren Watson in the end zone midway through the second quarter. The pass was intercepted by Warriors senior Timothy Nault, but Watson recovered a fumbled toss two plays later to set up the offense at the 7-yard line.
After he was narrowly denied on third and goal, McElroy fell into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth down, thanks to a helpful push from fullback Mike Difo. Gabe DeSouza’s extra point was blocked.
North Andover (12-0) stopped KP on three more drives in the second half, sealing the victory with a sack from linebacker Mike Roche, who didn’t even play football last year, but made the Merrimack Valley Conference all-star team this season.
“We just came up a little short,” said KP coach Brian Lee. “We didn’t do the things well that we usually do. A lot of miscues on offense prevented us from stealing this one.”
DeSouza (five receptions, 64 yards) helped captain the defense along with Watson, adjusting to the Warriors’ varied rushing formations and combining for a huge pass breakup on third and 10 to knock the ball out of David Morganelli’s hands and force a KP punt with 4:49 to play.
From there, McElroy (10-of-16 passing, 117 yards; 8 rushes, 9 yards, TD) effectively sealed the win by hitting Watson and Matt Chicko for first downs to leave the Warriors with almost no time left for a response.
“Our game plan wasn’t to come out and score 40, it was to shut them down on defense,” said DeSouza.
“Relentless, is the word you could use. We never gave up. [KP] drove on us and we bent, but we didn’t break.”
North Andover 6, King Philip 0
at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
King Philip (9-3)
North Andover (12-0)
NA — Jake McElroy 1 run (kick blocked)
RUSHING — KP, Ryan Halliday 29-97, Robbie Jarest 3-14, Shawn Conniff 2-10, Sam Callanan 2-0; NA, Darren Watson 4-9, Jake McElroy 8-9, Freddy Gabin 2-(-3)
PASSING — KP, Robbie Jarest 5-7--55, Cole Baker 0-1--0; NA, Jake McElroy 10-16-1-117
RECEIVING — KP, Timmy Nault 2-27, David Morganelli 2-22, Sam Sesay 1-6; NA, Gabe DeSouza 5-64, Darren Watson 1-29, Matthew Chicko 2-25, Freddy Gabin 1-(-7)Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.