Both men were on hand for a preseason scrimmage between Masco and North Andover this year, in a game both teams described as an intense battle that didn’t feel like the preseason. Anytime it’s Masco and NA, the kids playing want to win.
No one could have predicted back in August that the team posing for a picture with their Hall of Fame former coaches would play for the North title. They did, and they put on a display that’s up there with any in the rivalry’s proud lore.
“It was a pretty even game,” said Gilbert. “It was a lot of fun to be out there against those guys again. It was a good final.”
Since North Andover left the CAL for the MVC, the schools have tried to keep each other as non-league opponents. In Mitchell’s three years (he has a 57-6-6 record), he’s 3-0-1 in the rivalry. This year, the schedule didn’t work, and that prompted Mitchell and NA coach Kyle Wood to set up the scrimmage, just in case.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better result, from our side, and to play against such a class opponent,” said Mitchell.
It was a battle of North champions, with North Andover having won last year and Masco having taken Division 1 North in 2011. Now, the Chieftains have to keep their form against an unfamiliar foe, Walpole, in the D2 state final. Their seniors will stay within themselves, and they’ll work as hard as they can to make it happen.
“This team’s earned it,” said Panella. “We’ve earned every bit of it.”
Matt Williams is the assistant sports editor of The Salem News. You can contact him at MWilliams@salemnews.com, 978-338-2669 and follow him on Twitter @MattWilliams_SN.