FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the score knotted at 14 as Tewksbury and Plymouth South made their way into their respective locker rooms for halftime, Redmen head coach Brian Aylward pulled star tailback James Sullivan aside and drilled home a point that may have carried Tewsbury to a Division 3 championship.
Sullivan, only a junior still has another year of football ahead of time at Tewksbury Memorial High School. But for many of his teammates, this was their last one. And Alyward reminded him of that.
“We had a little conversation at half time and I said, ‘you know what, you are fortunate that you get another chance at this because these senior guys that you love like brothers don’t. And they need it from you to spill your guts out here like it is your last game.' And man oh man did he ever.”
Sullivan came out in the second half like a man possessed, as 78 of his 125 yards and two of his three touchdowns came in the final 20 minutes. He also added a pick-six in the final minute to ice what was already a sealed up game.
“I just saw him come to the flat and I saw the quarterback looking, so I tried to jump it and end the game and it worked out,” said Sullivan of the games final score.
Coming into the game, both the Panthers and the Redmen featured top-notch running games. Dylan Oxsen turned in another Oxsen-style performance in his final game, 27 carries for 149 yards and a pair of scores.
“He’s a great player and it took a long time to game plan around him,” Sullivan said of his counter-part. “You know we though if we stopped him we had a good chance and it was tough but I think we ended up getting the job done toward the end.”
The Redmen featured a similar offense with Sullivan, but added another dimension that the Panthers offense couldn’t match which was a passing game.
John Alyward was 10-for-11 and 125 passing yards and found senior Kevin Dick seven times for 83 yards and a score. Plymouth South on the other hand only attempted one pass, which Andrew Shortall completed for 21 yards. That one difference forced the Panther defense to try to stop the run while still respecting the passing game. Tewksbury had the advantage of loading the box without the fear of the long ball.
“[Dick’s] appreciate of the running game and our running game is appreciative of him because a lot of times the biggest thing he has done is to take at least another half guy out of the box ,’ said Alyward. “They can only bracket him so much without giving up something the front.”
The Tewksbury offense runs so many different formations that it is often difficult to read their point of attack. The Panther defense just found that out after the Redmen put up 42 points.
“You never really know where its coming from because we have so many guys, so many different formations, it can happen a bunch of different way,” said Sullivan.
“They were a very good team and tough defensively and it wasn’t easy by any means.”
As if they were looking for any more motivation to win this game, Tewksbury didn’t have to look any further than just two years ago when Duxbury blew them out of the stadium. Sullivan who was also a member of that team remembers that game and himself and Alyward refused to let that empty feeling of walking up to the podium in defeat come across them again.
“I can’t explain in words what I felt in my gut, standing up here, two years ago so much pride in our kids that went out there and were overmatched,” said Alyward of his team two years ago. “We go down 28-0, lose 35-0 and I took that personally, I think everyone of kids took that personally. We almost got laughed out of here and that was the rallying cry. We weren’t going to get laughed out of here today.”
With a balanced attack and a handful of key stops on Saturday night, this time it was Tewksbury that came up with a big victory.