Even as he sat in the cramped clubhouse that has housed countless major league players, then walked through the old halls towards baseball’s holiest ground, North Andover quarterback Jack O’Connell , still struggled to believe the moment was real.
Was he actually about to play a football game at Fenway Park?
“I couldn’t imagine playing at Fenway Park at all until I was walking on the grass,” said O’Connell, who threw two touchdowns. “Playing in such a historic park was truly a gift. Being in the clubhouse before the game was also pretty great. The atmosphere was electric in the stands. During the warm-ups I took a second to really look around and enjoy the moment. It was really unreal.
Almost a week after clashing, footballers from North Andover and Andover High still savor their moment at the iconic Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, where they played their annual game of Thanksgiving last Tuesday.
And while the Scarlet Knights won one thriller, 27-26, it remains an extremely special moment for athletes from both schools.
“Playing Fenway is a time I’ll never forget,” said Andover quarterback Scotty Brown. “I watched so many games on TV and in the Fenway seats. Thinking about the whole history of the park and all the magic that happened there is special. Despite the loss, playing Fenway was unreal.
For North Andover High wide receiver Nick Ankiewicz, the moment struck him as he walked through the more than century-old shelter.
“Playing Fenway was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Ankiewicz, who caught three passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. “Getting out of the legendary canoe at the start of the game was certainly one of the moments I will remember the most. Then seeing the park go crazy with North Andover fans was surreal.
Andover running back Lincoln Beal caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from Brown in the fourth quarter – what was then the go-ahead score – a moment he knows to be always special.
“The best part of the game was definitely scoring a touchdown at Fenway,” said Beal, who finished with a high of 88 receiving yards and 73 rushing yards. “It’s something that I’m going to be able to tell everyone about for the rest of my life. Playing Fenway was by far the coolest thing I have ever experienced while playing soccer.
The winning touchdown was scored by North Andover senior Jack Ferullo, running 13 yards with 2:23 left in the game, his second score.
“Having the chance to compete in one of the world’s most legendary stadiums in front of thousands of people is something I will never forget,” said Ferullo. “The best part of it all was when we first ran onto the pitch and got to soak up all the emotions around us. Playing soccer at Fenway Park has certainly been one of the coolest experiences I have had in my life so far.
Brown, an outfielder who pledged to play baseball at UMass Lowell, was struck by the iconic Green Monster.
“The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘How are people hitting over this wall?’ Said Brown, who threw for 195 yards and three touchdowns on Tuesday.
Andover receiver / defensive back added Tyler Fabbri: “Playing Fenway was something my teammates and I will never forget. Emotions ran high from the start of the bus ride until the last play. It was so special to be able to play Fenway for my last game with some of my best friends.
North Andover’s victory tied the young Thanksgiving rivalry at 3-3. The Scarlet Knights have won three of the last four holiday meetups.
“Playing Fenway has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life, especially against Andover,” Knights lineman David Cooperstein said. “For our seniors, that was the only way we wanted to get out, beating Andover. The emotions were extremely strong and the wait was a victory, and it happened. I wouldn’t want to go out other than to beat our rivals at Fenway Park.