The Brightest of Knights
They saw the smoke in the sky followed by the endless piercing sounds of the sirens. In the middle of practice they were told to evacuate school property immediately, Still wearing helmets, pads and cleats they headed home. Some found their streets blocked to all traffic, many were told they couldn't go home. They were startled, confused and aimless. What was happening and when would it end? Their gymnasium was transformed into a temporary residence for their friends and neighbors. Throughout all of the chaos they somehow never lost focus of their ultimate prize. Day after day, week after week the North Andover football team continued to show up for practice, unsure if some of their teammates had a place to sleep, shower or eat.
"When it happened it was tough. Some kids didn’t have gas so we went to each others houses to shower," recalled Gabe DeSouza. "It really brought us closer together. We didn’t fold and it showed how close of a family we are." “We really hit our lowest point at that time. There were players on the team without gas. Many of them had to go to a friends houses just to get hot water and stuff," said captain Matthew Samenuk. "It really fueled the fire for us for the rest of the season." In those trying times of adversity and uncertainty bewildered people were looking for leadership. They didn't have to look very far. “We said to the kids how great would it be for the people of North Andover to pick up the newspaper on the next morning after our first game following the explosions and see that North Andover won? How great it would be for the town if we had a dream season and won a championship?" Head coach John Dubzinski told me. "We took on the responsibility of stepping up for the town and the players embraced the idea.”
As the town began to reassemble the football team did its part putting temporary smiles on strained faces that were waiting for heat, hot water and other necessities. The Knights might as well have been wearing shining armor when they took their undefeated record all the way down Route One to Foxboro and into Gillette Stadium playing for the Division 2 Super Bowl. On a cold November Evening the Friday night lights belonged to THE Knights of North Andover and a recovering community. North Andover completed a perfect season by shutting out two time defending Super Bowl Champion King Phillip 6-0, setting up a celebration for the ages. “It is an unbelievable, feeling, I'll never have an experience in my life like it," gushed running back Ryan Slattery.
"It’s a once in a lifetime experience, it’s unbelievable." "It’s an awesome feeling," concurred quarterback Jake McElroy. "We've been working for it all year as our goal and we finally got it. "Yup, a great feeling” Chiming in captain Darren Watson just shook his head when asked what life has been like as a state champion. “Light, light...light" replied Watson
A perfect season helped light up an entire town just when it needed it the most. The 2018 North Andover football team was indeed the brightest of Knights!