The learning curve for winning football can be steep at times.
A penalty here, a turnover there and inconsistent execution can make it tough to nail down a victory.
Andover discovered it repeatedly in its homecoming tussle against Campus on Friday. But the Trojans overcame three turnovers, three unsuccessful field goals and some untimely penalties to fend off Campus 19-14 at Andover District Stadium.
Two players who weren’t on Andover’s roster the last two seasons – quarterback Chase Oberg and wide receiver Jacob Brown – connected on a 10-yard pass late in the third quarter for the go-ahead points. Andover added a fourth-quarter safety, then held on for its fourth victory in five games after struggling to put the game away.
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“We needed a game like this, you know,” said Oberg, who completed 24 of 32 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns. “Two great teams going at each other. We came out with the win, and I’m so proud of these guys.”
After surrendering 50 points in a loss to Goddard two weeks ago, Andover’s defense was a difference-maker for the second consecutive week. The Trojans gave up 133 yards and 14 points to Campus in the second quarter, but kept the Colts from scoring in the second half.
“I felt like we played really hard,” said Campus coach Greg Slade, whose team fell to 3-2. “I told the kids I just felt like we made some mistakes that really hurt us.”
Campus ran for 223 yards behind its elusive quarterback, Federico Harvey, and reserve running back Sam Wise. But Harvey, who had 20 carries for 81 yards, left the game with an injury after he sacked early in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Harvey’s injury occurred shortly after Andover took a 17-14 lead with an occasionally disjointed 13-play, 98-yard drive. It included a 44-yard pass from Oberg to Brown, a 22-yard strike from Oberg to Evan Bell on fourth-and-15, and the Oberg-to-Brown touchdown, which Brown snagged in the back corner of the end zone after a Campus defender tipped it.
Bell finished with 11 receptions for 176 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Brown had four receptions for 68 yards.
“We went back to basics and just started putting the ball in the hands of our playmakers,” Andover coach Tony Crough said. “Jacob has kind of been laying in the weeds for us all year. We’ve been developing him and he came out and made some big plays for us that drive.”
Campus went backwards on its ensuing drive, giving Andover an opportunity for more points. A holding penalty and T.J. Sisson’s sack of Harvey helped push the Colts from their own 29 to the 1. On fourth down, Campus punter Dalton Rogers leaped to catch a high snap, but his feet came down outside the back of the end zone for a safety that put Andover up 19-14 with 10:53 remaining.
The Trojans marched deep into Campus territory on both of their fourth-quarter possessions. But a high snap kept Andover kicker Nathan Hammar from attempting a 28-yard field goal. Hammar then hit the left upright on a 21-yarder with 1:01 to play after a low snap.
With no timeouts, Campus backup quarterback Cameron Harvey marched the Colts near midfield. But Andover made the tackle on a hook-and-lateral play as time expired.
“Tomorrow the message is going to be, ‘You know, maybe you shouldn’t have won that game,’” Crough said. “That’s hard for kids to understand. When you make big mistakes like that and you win, sometimes they don’t take you seriously when you talk about it.
“We did a few things that could get us beat later in the season. But we’re going to talk about our heart and our character, but we’re also going to coach them hard.”
Andover could feel good about a strong start.
The Trojans needed just four plays to score the game’s first points. Oberg connected with Bell on a third-and-7 pass from the Trojans’ 42. Bell slipped a tackle at the Campus 35 and raced into the end zone to give Andover a 7-0 lead 57 seconds into the game.
Andover, which had a 171-33 advantage in total offense in the opening quarter, stretched the advantage to 10-0 by the end of the first quarter on Hammar’s 24-yard field goal. It capped a 17-play, 74-yard march that included a fourth-down conversion near midfield.
But Campus used gritty running from the 150-pound Wise and Harvey to rally for a 14-10 halftime lead. The Colts countered Andover’s field goal by going 65 yards in 12 plays, all on the ground. Campus was 3 for 3 on third downs before Wise barreled into the end zone from the 1.
Campus got an interception and a fumble recovery by Tyler Kahmann in the first half, and the Colts cashed in on the latter Andover miscue. The Trojans appeared to convert on third down when Oberg hit Michael Bell for 15 yards. But the ball popped out of Bell’s hands and Kahmann grabbed it at Andover’s 40.
Harvey kept the ensuing drive alive with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-9 from Andover’s 39. Andover’s defense forced fourth down four plays later. After a Campus timeout, Harvey connected with tight end Quinton Hicks on a seam pass for a 24-yard touchdown that gave Campus its first lead at 14-10.
A – E. Bell 58 pass from Oberg (Hammar kick)
A – Hammar 24 FG
C – Wise 1 run (Rogers kick)
C – Hicks 24 pass from F. Harvey (Rogers kick)
A – Brown 10 pass from Oberg (Hammar kick)
A – Safety, Campus punter steps out of end zone
Rushing – Campus, Wise 29-88, F. Harvey 20-81, C. Harve 6-55, Rogers 1-(-1). Andover, Bundy 25-110, Oberg 8-11, J. Smith 2-10, Wright 2-4, Windish 1-0.
Passing – Campus, C. Harvey 3-6-1-29, F. Harvey 1-6-1-24. Andover, Oberg 24-32-1-298.
Receiving – Campus, Hicks 1-24, Childers 1-10, Haak 1-10, Schroeder 1-9. Andover, E. Bell 11-176, Brown 4-68, M. Bell 3-29, B. Smith 5-18, Bundy 1-7.