Andover Central took the ball for its final possession Friday night with the ending of two stories still waiting to be told.
Central is trying to rebound from a 2-7 season and recapture the dynamic offense from two years ago that helped the Jaguars make a postseason run.O’
Andale was going for its first win without former coach Gary O’Hair, who resigned after last season, in 16 years.
Those fates hung in the balance as Reagan Jones’ fourth-down pass sailed toward the end zone. It fell incomplete and Andale escaped with a 28-21 win.
Central showed flashes of returning to form as Jones passed for 226 yards and three long touchdowns. But Andale rushed for 320 yards, including 158 by Sawyer Simon, with an attack that resembled the run-first philosophy of O’Hair.
“It’s awesome,” first-year Andale coach Dylan Schmidt said. “I couldn’t ask for more from our guys. You felt like we were going to get control of the game, then it swayed back their way. Our guys just worked so hard and I’m just so proud of their efforts digging down and gutting it out.”
Andale led 14-0 before Central found consistency with its passing game. A slow-but-sure second-quarter series culminated on a catch-and-run touchdown by Xavier Bell, whose three receptions all went for more than 15 yards.
The teams traded touchdowns, with Central’s Matt Macy catching 39- and 53-yard touchdowns as the Jaguars stayed within a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Andale’s first punt gave Central the ball in the final minutes and Central advance inside the 30-yard line. Jones tried another long throw on fourth-down, but it was defended well in the end zone.
“Obviously we got beat with a few deep balls,” Schmidt said. “So that was the deal, to make sure we were (defending) over the top and maybe give up some stuff underneath, then tighten up as we got down there. …For our kids to just find a way was awesome.
Andale used seven rushers but wound up featuring Simon, who had 28 carries. Parker Herbst ran for 70 yards and quarterback Ethan Baalmaan had 54 rushing yards. All three ran for a touchdown.
Even though Andale never took control of the game, its long drives helped keep Central at bay. Its first two scoring drives took more than 11 minutes combined, and its first two series of the second half, both ending in touchdowns, took nearly 12.
“We’re kind of running back by committee,” Schmidt said. “But (Simon) is definitely a guy that we’re excited about to carry the load. He’s got good speed and all those things. Without a doubt he’s a guy that can handle it.”
Schmidt, a five-year assistant under O’Hair, immediately resumed the winning ways of the three-time state champion. It wasn’t a different look for Andale, but it was tough to miss the change.
“(O’Hair) was good, he was traditional,” Simon said. “But Coach Schmidt, he’s carrying it up. He’s just as good.”
Andale—Baalmann 1 run (Bugner kick)
Andale—Simon 2 run (Bugner kick)
AC—Bell 26 pass from Jones (Schoonover kick)
Andale—Simon 10 run (Bugner kick)
AC—Macy 39 pass from Jones (Schoonover kick)
Andale—Herbst 3 run (Bugner kick)
AC—Macy 53 pass from Jones (Schoonover kick)
Rushing—Andale, Simon 28-158, Herbst 16-70, Baalmann 10-54, Marx 3-12, Mohr 3-10, Hunter 1-10, Meyer 3-6; Andover Central, Anthemides 4-19, Bell 1-15, Allison 7-14, Jones 6-2.
Passing—Andale, Baalmann 3-8-49-2 INT; Andover Central, Jones 12-23-226-1.
Receiving—Andale, Simon 1-20, Bruce 1-16, Cates 1-13; Andover Central, Bell 3-62, Jensen 3-44, Rodd 3-29, Macy 2-92, Allison 1-(-1).