Bill Burt: Happy return of real high school sports

Bill Burt, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·3 min read

Apr. 11—I was in a press box. A full press box.

Several hundred fannies, in front of me, were in the seats.

Parents of senior players, managers, cheerleaders, etc. were lined up — about 80 people in all — as if they were getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

Football ... make that ... real football, was back.

While it wasn't Thanksgiving Day, when Central Catholic and Andover gave this area some football doozies over two decades, there was a lot to be thankful for when these rivals met at Lawrence Veterans Memorial Field Friday night.

There is a lot to complain about. And we have, with me at the front of the line, when it comes to dealing with this pandemic.

I believe that the fear-based information we have received at all levels has elongated this painstaking process by many months. But that is an argument for another day.

It's the first time in over a year that I've attended a sporting event that felt normal.

The blue skies at the start were epic. The backdrop of the vast, North Andover tree line, to the north, was picturesque.

The best part, though, was inside the white lines.

It didn't look like a disjointed event in which the student-athletes put in about 25 percent of the work they normally would for a season.

This was good, tough football, which is to be expected when Central and Andover meet.

We got to see a few, future bright lights, Andover sophomores Scott Brown Jr. and Lincoln Beal, a quarterback and running back respectively, show signs of greatness.

We got to see Central's junior quarterback Ayden Pereira do what he does best, which is change the course of a game when it seems to matter most.

In the end, we got to see "the gold standard" as Andover High football coach E.J. Perry said about Central, hitting its stride in key spots.

The hitting was November style. Same with execution. Brown and Pereria are not normal. They are part of the new brand of QB, feet and arms included.

It wasn't the prettiest football game, but when is it really pretty? These games against good teams are usually decided by mistakes. The team that makes the fewest, which was Central on Friday night, usually wins.

The best part, though, for me was after the game.

The teams, per the rules, are supposed to meet with their coaches for a post-game meeting soon after the clock expires.

That didn't happen. About 20 to 30 players on each team started mingling, shaking hands. It represented the entire game, really. No cheap shots or personal foul penalties.

It was as if they were saying, "Great to see you Andover" and "Great to see you Central."

We can enjoy sports "hate" all we want and, I have to admit, sometimes it's fun to follow.

But the respect shown afterward was a great, meaningful sign that they, really all of us, are in this together.

I assume there were rules broken — see COVID-19 manual — but sometimes you have to get out of the way.

Thanks to Central and Andover for a great night. The only thing missing was the postgame turkey.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.