READING — Long live the champs, at least for one more week.
North Andover may have started the fall 1-3, but the defending Division 2 Super Bowl champions aren’t ready to hand over their trophy just yet. The visiting Knights beat Reading, 21-18, Friday in the Division 2 North semifinals and will play Lincoln-Sudbury next week for the sectional title.
“The only people who thought we’d be here right now are the guys in the locker room,” said North Andover coach John Dubzinski. “I think a lot of people wrote us off. But this is not shocking to us.”
North Andover (6-3) was led by senior Freddy Gabin, who ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns, his 10th and 11th of the season. His scoring runs of 68 and 46 yards gave North Andover a 13-6 halftime lead.
It was a game that came down to the conversions. Both teams scored three touchdowns, but Reading went 0 for 3 on the conversion attempts and North Andover got an extra-point kick by Seth DiSalvo and a 2-point run by Gabin after Ricky Brutus’s 65-yard, fourth-quarter score.
“I didn’t feel good going for it because we missed the previous one,” said Dubzinski of the decision to run instead of kick an extra point after North Andover’s third score. “I thought we were running the ball pretty well, so I thought we had a shot and should take it. If it works, you’re a genius, if not, you’re a moron.”
It took two plays for Reading (7-2) to jump out to a first-quarter lead, freshman quarterback Jimmy Murphy hitting Dan DiMare for 41 yards, followed by a Murphy-to-Patrick Harrigan 41-yard score. But the Rockets’ conversion run failed.
After Reading’s score, Gabin scored on the next offensive play, taking it 68 yards for a 7-6 lead after DiSalvo’s kick. North Andover made it 13-6 in the second quarter on Gabin’s second scoring run. On Reading’s next possession, the Rockets went on an 11-play drive that ended with a fumble at North Andover’s 2-yard line. The mistakes continued for Reading in the third quarter when Murphy was intercepted after driving to NA’s 6.
After a scoreless third, Murphy hit Colin DuRoss on a 52-yard scoring strike, his second of the game and 20th of the season. But again, Reading’s conversion attempt failed and left the Rockets down, 13-12.
Brutus’s 65-yard run made it 19-12, and when Gabin ran in the conversion, Dubzinski looked like a genius. DiMare cut the margin to 21-18 with 4:09 to play on a 16-yard run, but when Reading got the ball back with 2:25 to go, North Andover’s Jack Carbone sealed the win by intercepting Murphy.