TEWKSBURY, Mass. -– Down six points and time dribbling away, Tewksbury called for James Sullivan to take a sweep to the left from the 21-yard line. As he rumbled behind a pair of blockers Marblehead's Dean Fader lined him up and locked on his target.
Sullivan slipped out of Fader's grasp and finished off the touchdown run, the Redmen's second touchdown in 30 seconds. The home sideline erupted in a fit of ecstasy. Fader laid prone on the ground, he and his team's chance at a title gone. Victory is sweet. Defeat is sour.
Sullivan's second touchdown of the game capped Tewksbury's entertaining 34-21 win over the Magicians in the Division 3 Northeast final at an over-capacity Doucette Field.
“It must have been fun from an outsider's perspective,” Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward said. “Two teams that never quit and kept fighting.”
With the game tied at 21 late in the fourth the Redmen forced the Headers to make a mistake. Tom Casey jumped a sideline route, picked off Matt Millett and returned the ball 25 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 2:43 to go. Eddie Matovu strip-sacked Millett on the Magicians' next offensive play that set up Sullivan's late touchdown.
“Plays like Casey make are really what change games like that at the end,” Motavu said. “That was the biggest play of the game by far.”
22-MINUTE TRACK MEET
The first half was an emotional ride for all involved.
Marblehead turned over the Redmen 81 seconds into the game and capped the ensuing 58-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown reception from Brooks Tyrrell. Tyrrell caught four balls for 55 yards and ran for a team-high 124 yards all while nursing a sprained ankle.
“He probably shouldn't have been in today,” Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. “Anything he gave us was gravy. I give him a lot of credit. We had a lot of kids banged up today. They played a great game today.”
Two plays later, Matovu took an inside-counter toss 78 yards to tie the game. The teams traded interceptions on consecutive plays four minutes later.
Sullivan scored from five yards out on the first play of the second quarter to put Tewksbury ahead only to see the lead disappear immediately when Mark Cohen took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score. Millett and Tewksbury's Johnny Aylward exchanged passing touchdowns in the waning minutes of the half to end the chaotic first 22 minutes tied at 22.
ADJUST AND ADVANCE
If the first half was all about explosion then the second half was a slow burn.
The first two possessions of the third quarter were three-and-outs, and seven of the first eight combined possessions of the half ended with punts.
“The defense is definitely one of the better ones we've seen,” Johnny Aylward said. “Every adjustment we made they adjusted right back. It just came down to our execution and finishing strong.”
Rudloff said that his team played well defensively, but blinked at the wrong times.
“Defense played great the entire game except those five minutes and even then it was a play here, a play there,” Rudloff said. “That's been the story of us all year. I thought the things our team did in the second half that kept them from putting yards together helped us a lot and made us a much better team.”
The teams combined for three plays of 30 or more yards in the first half, but the defenses held them to just two plays of 20 yards or more in the second half.
As a two-way player, Matovu said that it was hard to adjust but that there was a job to be done.
“Coach has a saying that he read in a book, 'Charlie Mike', and it really just means to keep going forward no matter what,” Matovu said. “That showed in this game a lot. Don't think about the last play; think about the next play.”
GILLIS BOYS SHINE
Marblehead cousins Jeremy and Liam Gillis were a menace on defense from kickoff to final gun. The hard-hitting pair of linebackers were able to put a wrench in Tewksbury's ground attack for much of the game.
Jeremy also caught a pair of balls for 13 yards.
“Liam Gillis has been our leader on defense for two years,” Rudloff said. “Jeremy, this year, was the first year he really stepped up especially with about six games to go. Immense leadership from both of them. Mature kids.”
Rudloff said that the cousins Gillis lead by example and are model players on and off the field.
“They're the type of kids you want dating your daughter,” Rudloff said. “They're just good people, and they're important to this team because it's important not only to be good football players but to have good leaders, good young men on your team. It makes coaching fun; you come back to coach kids like that.”
KEVIN DICK DOES IT ALL
Tewksbury's Kevin Dick did everything he could for the Redmen and more. He caught four passes for a game-high 72 yards and a touchdown, and he intercepted two balls on defense.
Having a multi-faceted weapon like Dick on the field is pivotal at this time of the year, a fact that wasn't missed by Johnny Aylward.
“Kev's an outstanding player and a great athlete,” Aylward said. “He's just a gamer no matter what the situation is. You can always rely on him to make a play."