By Dave Dyer
---- — TOPSFIELD — Masconomet senior Troy Bunker got a second, and then a third chance to redeem himself, and snake-bit North Andover paid the price yesterday morning before about 900 fans.
With North Andover ahead early in the fourth quarter, Bunker threaded a perfect 37-yard scoring strike to Harry Cwik. But, against a stiff and swirling wind, Bunker missed the extra-point kick, leaving the Chieftains still trailing by a point.
“I was unbelievably frustrated and upset,” said Bunker. “But I felt our defense would give us another shot.”
And, as it did throughout most of the game, the Masco defense responded, limiting the Knights to 20 yards the rest of the way while blocking one punt and forcing another to travel just 17 yards.
That final kick gave Masconomet the ball on its own 40 with 3:18 to play. Led by junior Gavin Monagle (22 carries, 104 yards), the Chieftains (7-4) drove down to the North Andover 10 when, on 4th-and-goal with 23 seconds left, Bunker tried a 26-yard field goal that went just wide.
The Knights (5-6) started celebrating, but not for long. A roughing-the-kicker penalty gave Masco the ball back with a first down on the 5-yard line. A 2-yard gain brought the ball to the 3 with time for just one more play. After a timeout, the Chieftains lined up like they would try to run the ball in for a TD when North Andover called timeout, giving Masconomet coach Jim Pugh time to reflect.
“We were going to run it, but I changed my mind the more I thought about it,” said Pugh. “Troy has booted them pretty good all year.”
Pugh’s decision was a wise one as Bunker kicked it through with just one second left to provide a dramatic 16-14 victory.
“I’m no kicker, and I was nervous, but I was glad to have another chance,” said Bunker, who plans on playing at Union College next year. “There’s no better way to end my career than this.”
On the other hand, there could be no worse way for the Knights to lose. They’ve been on the short end of close decisions all year and, amazingly, this is the second game they lost on a field goal with one second left, having lost to Waltham 30-28 in the same manner.
“This is another one,” sighed North Andover coach John Rafferty. “It’s been a difficult year. We played well at times, not so well at other times.”
The Knights had trouble generating offense all day, both because of Masconomet’s stout defense, and a stiff wind that limited the effectiveness of quarterback Casey Walsh. Both of their touchdowns were because of short fields.
A fumbled snap gave North Andover the ball on Masco’s 16 in the first quarter and, five plays later, Walsh ran it in from 3 yards for a 7-0 lead. Then, in the third quarter with the score tied, the Knights got the ball on Masco’s 8 following a 2-yard punt into that aforementioned wind.
Tom Stabile scored on the next play to make it 14-7, setting up the late heroics by Bunker.
Overall, the Chieftains clearly had the better of play, outgaining Masconomet 247-136, collecting 15 first downs to just four for the Knights and running 70 plays from scrimmage versus 42.
Complementing Monagle was impressive sophomore back Scott Foden. In only his second varsity game, he ran hard for 50 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
“This was a great win and a win we deserved,” Pugh told his cheering squad.
Stabile led the Knights with 60 hard-earned yards on 23 carries and Walsh was limited to 39 yards through the air. Tyler Salois had an interception and had a strong defensive game.
Masconomet 16, North Andover 14
at Walt Roberts Field, Topsfield
North Andover (5-6) 7 0 7 0 — 14
Masconomet (7-4) 0 7 0 9 — 16
NA- Casey Walsh 3 run (Kyle Young kick)
M- Scott Foden 2 run (Troy Bunker kick)
NA- Tom Stabile 8 run (Young kick)
M- Harry Cwik 37 pass from Bunker (kick failed)
M- Bunker 20 field goal
RUSHING: North Andover — Tom Stabile 23-60, Casey Walsh 5-32, Bubba Shkliew 2-5; Masconomet — Gavin Monagle 22-104, Scott Foden 11-50, Austin Cashin 6-13, Troy Bunker 3-6, Roby Deschenes 3-(-8).
PASSING: North Andover — Walsh 4-8-39-0-0; Masconomet — Deschenes 5-10-37-0-1, Bunker 1-1-37-1-0.
RECEIVING: North Andover — Joe Samuelman 1-22, James Foote 1-12, Stabile 1-0, Charles Patane 1-5; Masconomet — Harry Cwik 3-51, Bunker 1-1, Corey Tines 2-22.