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.”