ANDOVER - Pat Donnelly perhaps summed it up best after guiding Phillips Exeter to a 21-13 upset win over archrival Phillips Academy-Andover yesterday in the 131st anniversary and 128th meeting at a packed Phelps Stadium.
"We played with so much heart today," said the former Longmeadow standout quarterback, who completed 11 of 20 passes for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Big Red ended a three-game slide against the Big Blue, and eliminated Andover's shot for a fourth consecutive NEPSAC postseason bowl berth.
Andover still holds a 68-50-10 lead in the nation's longest prep school rivalry.
Exeter forced the Big Blue into five turnovers, four in the second half, with the most devastating one on their final drive while they were trying to secure a tie. But Telief Lundervall ended all that, stepping in front of a Dan Hussey pass in the end zone to seal the game for Exeter.
"Our defense played tremendous today," said Phillips-Exeter coach Bill Glennon, whose team finished 6-3. "I wasn't sure if we could stop their offense, to be honest. We've been up and down all year, but we were as healthy as we've been in the last five games. Telief has been a good defensive back for us, and that was a big play by him."
Exeter entered set on stopping Andover running back Edward Houghton. A postgrad, Houghton was averaging 6.8 yards per carry, having racked up 1,018 yards and 14 scores. Yesterday, he was held to just 73 yards on 25 carries and never got into the end zone.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Andover drove 65 yards, capped by a Hussey 7-yard strike to Sam Auffant out of the backfield two minutes into the second.
It was then that Andover's turnover woes began. On their next possession, the Big Blue lost the ball inside their 25. Donnelly needed just two plays to capitalize, connecting with running back Sam Gardner on a rollout for a 19-yard touchdown strike. Shailin Thomas's PAT with 4:46 remaining before the half tied it at 7.
On its next possession, Exeter went on a long march, with Donnelly hooking up with Gardner again for a 7-yard strike with just 33 seconds remaining before the break, making it 14-7.
After Anthony Morlani picked off a Donnelly pass midway through the third, a 15-yard jaunt by Auffant into the end zone with 2:31 remaining in the third got Andover within a point.
However, Big Blue coach Leon Modeste opted to fake the PAT, going with a pass in an attempt to give his club the lead. However, the play backfired as defensive back Scott MacDonnell intercepted.
"I'm never going to play for a tie," said Modeste. "I just figured why not shoot the dice? I always want to put my kids into a position to win, so you give it a shot. Today we just didn't quite get there."
The Big Red defense held its ground and the offense added an insurance touchdown with 8:13 left on an Evan Sequeira 1-yard dive over the pile.
Sequeira had a big day, finishing with a workmanlike 99 yards on 24 attempts.