Boston High School: Brian Aylward

Recap: No. 10 Tewksbury 27, North Andover 7

September, 27, 2014
TEWKSBURY, Mass. – Saturday's Merrimack Valley Conference tilt between Tewksbury and North Andover was a struggle. Both defenses brought enough pain to share.

Some of that was left to Redmen senior Ryan Bednarek.

He nabbed the second of Tewksbury's two interceptions and capped the game with a spinning touchdown grab over a North Andover defender to seal the Redmen's 27-7 win at Doucette Field. It was Bednarek's first career touchdown catch.

“It was a buck sweep, bootleg pass. The kid bit, [Tewksbury quarterback Brett Morris] under threw me a little bit so I had to go up and get it. [It’s] my first career touchdown, I'll never forget it.”

Defense was the judge, jury, and executioner yesterday as both teams squashed much of what the other was doing. North Andover only managed 136 yards while Tewksbury wasn't much better with 216.

Tewksbury's final drive, which ended with Bednarek's touchdown, was a 10-play, 77-yard drive that chewed up four minutes, 42 seconds. It was the longest drive of the game in terms of plays, length, and time. North Andover did not have a drive longer than 40 yards.

“I think defense had a better game today,” Bednarek said. “For three years we've had the same [defensive] backs to get better every year, and this year we had them all coming back. We just stopped them with the two picks, and the linebackers did their job. [Defensive] line contributed and did good on D.”

The game started with a bang and a pop. Tewksbury drove 45 yards on its first possession and capped it with a one-yard touchdown run from James Sullivan. On the ensuing kickoff North Andover's Jukka Morales fielded the ball at the seven-yard line, cut right, shimmied past a gunner, and went 93 yards for the touchdown to immediately tie the game.

Four minutes later Tewksbury pried the wheels off of the North Andover bus. With the Knights driving inside the Tewksbury 40 a pass from Seamus Lambert took a deflection into the hands of Sullivan who went 68 yards for the score. Less than a minute later Bednarek read the eyes of Lambert and picked him off to set up a short drive that culminated with a James Hirtle touchdown run.

‘COACH’ SULLIVAN: Sullivan was one of the stars of last year's undefeated state championship team for the Redmen. Now as a senior he has taken on an added leadership role within the team that has his coach, Brian Aylward, calling him a player-coach.

“He's a very special player,” Aylward said. “He's been a big part of what we do for the last four years. It's going to be something that's going to be big that he gives us every single week. He gives us a great effort all the time and performance on defense week in, week out.

“He's the focal point of what our scheme is. We try to adapt to what the other team does best and he's very much a part of that.”

Sullivan rushed for 46 yards and caught one pass, but his presence was felt everywhere. He ran, blocked, played line backer, played safety, lined up as a slot receiver and a flanker, and returned kicks.

“He's like having a coach out there on the field,” Aylward said. “He's very bright and we can line him up in five different positions and he'll know what he has to do. He's a quiet leader.”

Top 25 Countdown: Nos. 25-21

August, 19, 2014
On Monday, we unveiled our statewide MIAA Top 25 preseason football poll. Today, we begin our annual countdown of the poll with Nos. 25 through 21.

Head Coach: Mark Mortarelli (5th season, 35-11)
2013: 10-1, lost to Barnstable in D2 South semifinal
Returning Starters: Five offensive; Six defensive.
Key Players: Jared Abbruzzese, Jr. WR/LB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; T.J. Collins, Sr. LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Brian Dunlap, Sr. WR/CB, 6-0, 175 lbs.; Chad Kidd, Jr. RB/LB, 5-6, 190; Trenton Wright, Sr. DE/TE, 6-2, 205 lbs.; Anthony Natarelli, Sr. OL/DL; Nick Olson, Sr. QB/FS; Tommy Ranucci, Sr. WR/DB.
Strengths: Passing game; defensive secondary; linebackers.
Weaknesses: Depth and experience on offensive line; size on defense.

Outlook: Even without last year’s Mr. Football winner, Troy Flutie, the Redhawks will still be able to air it out with the best of them, as senior Nick Olson gets his first crack at playing varsity quarterback. A returning starter at safety, Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli isn’t concerned about how the first-year signal-caller will fit in. “He’s used to the spotlight,” Mortarelli said of Olson. “He started every game for us at safety. He was a tremendous safety for us, he was all-league. He’s a varsity basketball player, too, so I think all of things in combination, this isn’t the first time for him under the lights.” Olson’s transition will be advantage by the return of a healthy Brian Dunlap. The Harvard commit was forced to sit out his junior year with a Lisfranc injury, but Mortarelli is happy to report he’s back at 100 percent. While defensive coverage schemes will naturally set around Dunlap, the Redhawks should be able to expose a soft underbelly as second-year starting running back Chad Kidd can provide tough yards in between the tackles. “I think we’ll run the ball a little more [this year],” Mortarelli said. “Coach [Matt] Brenneman, our offensive coordinator, likes to the throw the ball around a little, but we have a great running back in Chad Kidd. He’s a big, strong kid; he can handle the workload.” Meanwhile, Mortarelli is counting on junior Jared Abbruzzese among others to create complementary options in the passing game. On defense, Natick’s athleticism shines again. With a ball-hawking secondary last year, the Redhawks were routinely able to win the turnover battle. Natick graduated the leader of that group – Mike Abbruzzese -- but returns a few starters in Olson and Tommy Ranucci. The strength of Natick’s defense runs up the middle, with returning all-league selection T.J. Collins quarterbacking the group. While the Redhawks will not be the biggest defense in the state, they should be able to gain consistent pressure off the edge with returning three-year starter Trenton Wright. “We’re going to need to generate some pressure up front with a four-man rush,” Mortarelli said. “We can’t be blitzing all the time, so Trenton’s going to be a big part of that. He can create some havoc; he’s a rangy kid. We’re going to rely on him a lot for that.”

Coach: Lou Silva (34th season, 205-139-7)
Last Season: 5-6 (4-2 ACL), lost in Div. 2 South Quarterfinals.
Returning starters: 16 (8 offense, 6 defense)
Key Returnees: Jack Masterson, Jr. QB, 6-1, 190 lbs.; Dan Dalton, Jr. TE/LB, 6-5, 235 lbs.; Frank Catanoso, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Jason Darcy, Jr. WR/DB, 6-2, 185 lbs.; Matt Armstrong, Jr. TE/DE, 6-1, 180 lbs.; Shane Leonard, Jr. C, 6-2, 230 lbs.; Pat Kielty, Jr. OL, 5-11, 200 lbs.; Ian Duffy, Jr. LB, 5-8, 160 lbs.; Chris Lunn, Jr. RB/DE, 6-0, 185 lbs.; Fred Allen, Jr. MLB, 6-1, 210 lbs.; Josh Ramos, Jr. OL/DL, 6-3, 240 lbs.
Strengths: Quarterback, tight ends, offensive line, linebackers.
Weaknesses: Pass defense, experience at running back.
Outlook: The Rams offense found their identity down the stretch of the 2013 campaign and that was largely based on the superb play of quarterback Jack Masterson. As a sophomore, Masterson broke three school passing records and has many more in his sights for his junior season. Masterson’s favorite target, Dan Dalton also returns for his junior year and will present mismatches in the passing and running game. Dalton can lineup anywhere on the field and has all the tools for a monster season with his large frame (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), sure-hands and quick speed. Protecting the junior signal caller, center Shane Leonard anchors an experienced offensive line that also returns Pat Kielty and Josh Ramos. The Rams defense had difficulty taming high-powered offenses last season, allowing 40 or more points four times. Looking to this season, the Rams will have a talented front seven returning, led by MLB Fred Allen and Dalton at defensive end, but their defensive backfield remains a question mark with the loss of a handful of defensive backs. Offensively, the Rams running game took a big hit, losing their three top tailbacks to graduation in the offseason. Junior Chris Lunn is the favorite to take the brunt of the carries this season, while the search continues to another tailback to compliment him with. It has taken two years for the Rams to climb back to their perennial power status, but their talent-laden junior class will make Marshfield a team to watch out for this season. An experienced offensive line and the ability to stretch the field will give their young running game an added boost. With the Atlantic Coast League shrinking down to five teams this season, circle their September 26th matchup at No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth to likely decide the ACL title.

Coach: Chris Whidden (Fourth season, 28-8-0)
Last season: 9-2 (3-0 OCL), lost in Div. 2 South Finals.
Returning starters: 4 (2 offense, 2 defense)
Key Players: Owen Murray, Sr. OL/DL, 6-4, 250 lbs; Clyde Perry, Sr. MLB, 5-11, 225 lbs; Colton Bergal, Sr. LB, 6-1, 225 lbs; Bo Delaney, Sr. WR, 5-11, 165 lbs.
Strengths: Linebackers, offensive line, coaching staff.
Weaknesses: Overall experience, defensive secondary, offensive backfield.
Overview: The Red Raiders have many holes to fill at the skill positions on both sides of the ball after losing 30 players to graduation, but Barnstable has the tendency to reload rather than rebuild. Of the 307 points scored in Barnstable’s 2013 campaign, only 16 points hit the scoreboard from non-seniors, meaning there will be plenty of position battles when the Red Raiders open camp. Head coach Chris Whidden praised his roster, citing their work ethic and coach-abillity as strengths for the team. Senior Owen Murray will bolster the offensive line from his position at right tackle, diverting the pressure from first-year starting quarterback Griffin Burke and carving holes for the running back-by-committee system in the backfield. MLB Clyde Perry is also one of the few returning starters on the Red Raiders defense and with Murray on the defensive line, Barnstable has a strong core up the middle to build around. It will be a trail by fire for this young Red Raiders team to begin the season. The first four weeks consist of No. 12 Dennis-Yarmouth, at No. 24 Marshfield, No. 15 BC High and at top-seeded Xaverian which will put Barnstable to the test early and often. Barnstable doesn’t begin Old Colony League play until mid-October, which gives them plenty of time to get their game on-track to defend their three-consecutive OCL titles and perhaps more importantly, an automatic bid to the Div. 2 South playoffs. Entering his fourth year at the helm, Whidden has never had a losing season and has shown that he can lead his troops into battle while getting the most out of each player on the field.

Coach: Jeff Cormier (16th season, 136-43 overall)
Last Season: 8-3, lost in Division 5 Central Quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key Returnees: Mark Wright, Sr. RB/DB, 5-8, 180 lbs.; Dillon Bruso, Sr. OL/DL, 6-2, 250 lbs.; Josh Furmanick, Sr. FB/DL, 5-8, 195 lbs.; Nick Thomas, Sr. LB, 5-6, 160 lbs.
Strengths: Running game, receivers, competitiveness in camp.
Weaknesses: Depth.
Outlook: After going 63-2 with five Super Bowl titles from 2008-12, with a 41-game win streak sandwiched in between, the Rockets were as green as any point in Cormier's tenure last fall, returning just one starter on either side of the ball. It showed early, and again late when they were one of just four home seeds in Massachusetts to lose their first round playoff game, taking one on the chin to SWCL rival Bartlett in D5 Central. But it was quite the revelation for Wright, who led CMass in carries (258), rushing yards (2,111) and rushing TDs (25) in his first year starting with the varsity. "Once we get five yards, Mark will make his one cut and explode through the hole. As long as we get some decent blocking, he'll be able to make a play," said Bruso. Still, there's a bitter taste in the Rockets' mouths about the way things ended in 2013. "Everywhere we had to hear about it. Even kids from our own town were telling us we were done," Furmanick said. The Rockets are most known for their power running scheme, deploying two-back, double-tight personnel and seeking to outweigh their opponents at the point of attack. This year, with a giant target on Wright's back and a good grouping of perimeter skill players, the Rockets may throw more. Cormier is not ready to name a starting quarterback yet, with several players in the mix, but keep an eye on sophomore Steve Saucier. The undersized signal-caller puts good zip on the ball for a player of his frame, and showed some great flashes as a freshman last fall.

Coach: Brian Alyward (17th year, 102-82-1)
2013: 13-0, Division 3 State Champions
Returning Starters: Six (2 offense, 4 defense)
Key Returnees: James Sullivan, Sr. RB/SS, 5-11’ 215 lbs; Tom Casey, Sr. FB/MLB, 5-9 190 lbs; Ryan Bednarek, Sr. S, 5-9 160 lbs; Ethan Eloi Sr. DT/NG, 5-9 226 lbs.; Alex Schelfhaudt, Sr. T/DE, 6-0 195 lbs; Brendan O’Connor Sr. WR/CB 5-7 145 lbs; Mitchell Miskell, Sr. K, 5-10 160 lbs; Jimmy Hurtle, Sr. RB/CB 5-9 167 lbs; Jimmy Doran, Sr. OG/DT, 5-11, 215 lbs; Ryan Carey, Sr. RB/DB, 5-6 143 lbs.
Strengths: Physicality, running game.
Weaknesses: Inexperience at offensive line.
Outlook: Tewksbury will never be confused for its Merrimack Valley Conference neighbors that run spread offenses and like to throw the ball all over the field. The hallmark of Tewksbury has been its continuous physicality. Its run to last year’s Division 3 state championship was predicated on (no pun intended) its ability to run the ball and outmuscle teams on both sides of the ball. While it lost some linemen to graduation, impact players like Eloi and Casey return to anchor the middle of the defense. Sullivan will play behind them at strong safety, flanked by other skilled defenders. Offensively, the team will continue its multiple-running back approach that brought it so much success last season. “We feel pretty confident in all our backs,” said Alyward. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute. We’re not going to have a need for a one-man show, nor do I think that would be effective. We’re going to try to stay as multiple as we can and try to use the same format as we do every year.” The starting offensive linemen on last year’s Super Bowl-winning team were lost to graduation, leaving spots open for players to try and create running lanes for Sullivan and others. Last year’s line continuity helped the team steamroll through D3 and allowed Sullivan to score over 20 touchdowns. “We have about 10 kids that are vying of those spots that have been good kids in our program,” said Alyward. “We’ll work with them and learn more about what we can do and what we can’t with them.” John Aylward, the quarterback of that undefeated team, also graduated, so the Redmen will have someone new under center to go along with that new offensive line. Juniors Brett Morris and Steve Hamel are in the running to take over for Aylward, with Morris the early odds-on favorite to win the job. On top of all that, as a defending state champion, the team now has a target on its back. It has not lost a game since November 2012, so it will get its opponent’s best game every week as they try to dethrone the champion. How the team reacts and responds to that pressure will determine whether the Redmen can duplicate last year’s success. “I told the kids at the start of our first practice, ‘Hey guys, you had such a special experience last year and a state championship under your belt and that’s money in the bank that no one can ever take away from you,’’ said the coach. “But now you just have to put it aside and understand that doesn’t buy us anything but a little more attention than in years before. So now we’ve gotta get ready to fight.”

Thanksgiving Day: To play or not to play?

November, 26, 2013
WESTWOOD, Mass. – On a cold and dreary Tuesday afternoon, Xaverian football went through its practice paces at the high school. It was like any other practice, except that it’s St. John’s Prep week. The Hawks kicked off the session with a chorus of “Beat Prep” after running through stretches.

Although Xaverian still has another game to play past its Thanksgiving Day duel against its Catholic Conference rival – the Division 1 state championship against Central Catholic to be played Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium – they weren’t looking any further than the task at hand.


If you were the head coach of a state championship-bound team, how would you approach Thanksgiving Day?


Discuss (Total votes: 498)

The Hawks are one of 12 teams in Massachusetts presented with the same conundrum this week: With a state championship game looming, how do you approach a game that essentially has become exhibition?

Now, with that being said, in this scenario, the Catholic Conference is a bit of an outlier. With the MIAA’s new playoff guidelines taking hold this year, the conference is an exception in the state, as league foes meet only once on Thanksgiving to count for its regular date, keeping with tradition. So while other Thanksgiving rivals who also happen to be league foes might be playing for the third time this season (Holliston vs. Westwood, Plymouth North vs. Plymouth South, etc.), Xaverian will be seeing the Eagles for the first time come Thursday.

It also sets up a duel for the Catholic Conference regular-season championship – no small pot.

And so Hawks head coach Charlie Stevenson is preparing as if there were no tomorrow.

“If one of my players didn’t want to go out there and play Thursday and beat Prep, I would think there’s something wrong with them,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson stands in support of a handful of statewide coaches who are staring down state championship games beyond Thanksgiving who also answered the question of whether to play starters on Thursday with the retort, “Let them play.”

So, during the weekend, we took the matter to those who will be charting the course with the question of whether to play, or not to play.

The responses were varied, from Dennis-Yarmouth head coach Paul Funk’s Belichick-ian, noncommittal approach, to this pearl from Plymouth South’s Scott Fry, on the status of star running back Dylan Oxsen: “You don’t think we should give it to Oxsen 30 times on Thanksgiving Day?”

Here it is in their words:


Peter Afanasiw, Cohasset

“We’re going to try to roll out a team that stays healthy, competes and, hopefully, comes away with yet another win. No team in school history has ever registered 11 wins.”

Brian Aylward, Tewsbury

“It is a rite of passage for any football player that plays football in Tewksbury. It's an 80-year tradition against Wilmington; it's the one chance you get to play them in front of all your family and represent your town and do battle. And that's exactly what we're going to do. We have to. We're not good enough not to play."

Scott Fry, Plymouth South

“We expected, if we won this game, that a lot of our kids weren’t going to be playing on Thanksgiving. It’s the third time we’re going to play [Plymouth] North and we’ve already canceled the J.V. game because of that reason. The young kids are going to play on Thanksgiving. You’re going to need a different roster for the Thanksgiving Day game.”

Paul Funk, Dennis-Yarmouth

“We’re going to do what’s best for our football team.”

Ken LaChapelle, Northbridge

"We're going out to win that game. I'm not going to have Uxbridge start chanting the score [if they win] during the basketball season. I'm playing to win that game. Do I maybe not run [quarterback Koby Schofer] 20 times? Maybe. But I'm playing to win the game and Uxbridge better be prepared because we're coming to win."

Michael Lynn, Littleton

"We can’t even put some of our backup kids in there, it’s not safe. We’re 11-0, we want to protect our perfect season, so we’re going to have to play our starters and our premier guys as much as we have to — we don’t have much of a choice. To me this is the fatal flaw in the playoff system, Thanksgiving being sandwiched in between the state semifinals and state finals. For everybody but 12 schools it’s not a problem, but for those 12 schools it’s definitely a dilemma."

Sean Mulcahy, Doherty

"We have a big Thanksgiving game to get through first. Burncoat has ruined a lot of my Thanksgivings, so I'll make sure we have our kids ready for them come Thursday. We will be playing our starters. I'm not planning to go out and play for hopefully a state title and then walk around the streets of Worcester and have some Burncoat fan come up to me and say, ‘but we beat you.’ Hopefully, that's not happening."

Mike Redding, Mansfield

"We’re going to play to win. Obviously, we’d like to get our guys out early. Two years ago, we won on the last play of the game and, last year, they won. We want to beat Foxborough. We don’t want to be 11-1 as a state champion; we want to be 12-0. We want to beat our rival, but it would be in our best interest to score early and get some guys out and get some guys rested as soon as possible."

(Editor’s note: Correspondents Chris Bradley, Phil Garceau, Paul Lazdowski, John McGuirk and Josh Perry contributed original reporting to this story.)

D3 North: Tewksbury 32, Melrose 14

November, 23, 2013

LOWELL, Mass. -– Some thought it might be a matchup that would surprise the masses; a game where the outcome would be decided in the closing seconds as one team drove for a game-winning score.

Others projected that the multipronged offensive ground attack of Tewksbury and the dual run-pass threat of Melrose senior quarterback Malik Garrett would engage in a high-scoring, back-and-forth battle, especially given both sides’ penchant for points (each entered with averages of more than 31 points per game).

Everyone, however, agreed that the Division 3 North state semifinal winner would earn a ticket to Gillette Stadium and a Super Bowl berth against Plymouth South, which defeated Stoughton, 14-12, on Friday night to capture the Division 3 South title.

So when the final horn sounded at Cawley Stadium around 1:15 pm on Saturday in a game that could have been so many things, the outcome revealed just one: a stepping stone for Tewksbury, which easily dismantled Melrose, 32-14, but was much more one-sided than the final score indicated, to advance to Foxborough for the second time in three years.

“When we were sophomores we got out (butts) kicked by Duxbury,” recalled Tewksbury senior Kevin Dick of his team’s 35-0 drubbing back in 2011. That was “a great Duxbury team. It was two years in the making that we were trying to get back there . . . it’s a great thing. I can’t wait. It’s a great thing for Tewksbury; it’s a great thing for everyone.”

And while many Redmen factored into the victory, especially with five different players recording touchdowns, arguable no one was more significant than Dick.

With Tewksbury, which remained a perfect 11-0, clinging to a 13-7 lead late in the second quarter and Melrose driving, Dick made a play that ultimately changed the game’s complexion.

Behind Garrett, who completed 13-of-30 passes for 171 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and also rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, the Red Raiders drove from their own 20 down inside the Tewksbury 10-yard line.

The Redmen lead appeared in limbo as Garrett fired a pass towards the right sideline of the end zone while scrambling to his right and the receiver simultaneously broke back towards the pass and prepared to make the catch.

However, Dick beat the receiver to the ball, and returned the interception from two yards in the end zone to Tewksbury’s 12-yard line.

“We were doing it all week,” Dick said. “We had the scout running it all week. At the beginning of the week they were catching it, completing it. I was like, ‘What the heck?’ But as we progressively moved through the week, I was catching on.

“I just jumped it, and that’s that.”

The play was just as critical to the Red Raiders.

“Obviously, you can’t have turnovers and expect to win,” said Melrose coach Tim Morris after his team fell to 9-2. “We haven’t really turned the ball over this year that much, (but) I think in the two losses we’ve had this year we’ve turned the ball over.”

Dick’s pick preserved the Redmen lead heading into halftime, and also set the stage for a dominant seven-plus minute span to open the third quarter.

On its first two second-half possessions, Tewksbury scored 13 unanswered points to extend its lead to 26-7 with 3:51 remaining in the quarter.

James Sullivan (20 carries, 117 yards, touchdown) started the outburst with a four-yard scoring burst up the gut. After Mitchell Miskell split the uprights on the PAT and Tewksbury held Melrose to its second consecutive three-and-out, Johnny Aylward connected with Dick on a flanker screen in the left flat. Solid blocking and the speed Dick showed to get to the left sideline turned what looked like a short gain into a 55-yard touchdown catch and run (PAT failed).

Meanwhile, over the same span the Melrose offense managed just six plays for minus-five yards. Red Raiders running plays were repeatedly snuffed out in the backfield by Tewksbury’s defensive line, and Garrett was also sacked during the six-play sequence.

“We talked all week about winning on first down,” said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward of the Redmen defensive line. “If we could win on first down it puts them in position to do stuff that they don’t particularly want to do. Our guys got off the ball pretty good. I give them a ton of credit.”

“We just couldn’t get anything going in that third quarter,” admitted Melrose’s Morris.

The teams traded scores in the fourth quarter.

Tewksbury struck first when Tom Casey (eight carries, 72 yards, touchdown) rushed in from three-yards out (PAT failed) to give the Redmen a 32-7 advantage with 7:12 left. Melrose responded as Garrett found Colby Andrews for a 29-yard touchdown toss. Sean Foley added the PAT to close out the scoring.

Though Tewksbury set the tone early by orchestrating a 10-play, 69-yard drive, which spanned more than five minutes, to open the game and culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run by Aylward off a fake jet sweep handoff in which he sprinted in between the tackles for the score, Melrose displayed resiliency even after its first drive stalled.

The Red Raiders defense came up with a big interception deep inside Redmen territory on Melrose’s next series.

Aylward launched a pass towards the right sideline but the intended receiver, who dove while attempting to make the catch, tipped the ball in the air and into the arms of Melrose's Aaron Aveni. The Red Raiders cornerback returned the pick 12 yards to the Tewksbury 14-yard line.

After working the ball inside the one-yard line, Garrett snuck it in on the first play of the second quarter. A Foley PAT knotted the score at 7-7.

It was, however, the last time the score was tied.

On its ensuing possession, Tewksbury put together a 55-yard drive that consumed 5:10 and ended with Eddie Matovu (seven carries, 27 yards, touchdown) rumbling in for a three-yard touchdown. A failed two-point conversion brought the score to 13-7 and set the scene for Dick’s interception.

D3 Northwest Final: Tewksbury 34, Marblehead 21

November, 16, 2013
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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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."

D3 Northeast: Tewksbury 28, Gloucester 25

November, 9, 2013
TEWKSBURY, Mass. – When Mike Decaro broke up the middle for a 91-yard Gloucester kickoff return in the third quarter, all Tewksbury (9-0) coach Brian Aylward could do was shake his head and stare from the sideline.

The return gave the Fishermen a 17-14 lead, but Aylward was confident, as he has been all season long, that his team’s hard work in the offseason wouldn’t soon go to waste. The result: a 28-25 victory for the Redmen in one of the most thrilling games of the MIAA football tournament.

“Vince Lombardi always said ‘the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.’ You’ve got to dig deep into the 95 degrees in July and August when you’re making all kinds of sacrifices to be down here lifting weights and running,” Aylward said. “You’re gonna need it at some point in November, and we talked about that through the summer.”

“We dug in deep when we needed to. I’m proud of the kids, we’ve got good leadership. The whole boatload of them did so much work that they were ready to keep fighting.”

The Redmen (9-0) were anchored on the ground by James Sullivan, who turned in a tremendous performance, rushing for 103 yards and all four of Tewksbury’s touchdowns. Shortly after Decaro’s kickoff return energized the Gloucester (6-3) sideline, Sullivan caught a 21 yard catch from quarterback Johnny Aylward to give the Redmen the lead for good.

“They paid a lot of attention to a couple of different sets that we have that confused me a little bit. It wouldn’t be the ones I would have picked if I played against me and our team,” Aylward said. "We settled into a couple things that we thought would work —- get upfield and inside. We usually go inside-outside and do some throws, but they pressed pretty good on the outside -- we were able to get one on the outside to Sully.”

Gloucester held a 10-7 lead going into halftime, thanks to a 26-yard field goal by Eli Horne and some big runs from bruising fullback Jon Good (15 carries, 100 yards).

The Fishermen had the ball to start the second half, but were forced to punt following a three and out. The snap was far over Jordan Pallazola’s head, with a fumble as the result. Following the turnover on downs, Tewksbury found themselves with the ball on the Gloucester six yardline. Sullivan took care of the rest on the next play, running in the six yard score.

“They’re a tough team, they’ve always been known to fight -- they’re all tough. We just had to keep grinding it out, we had some things go wrong but it’s the playoffs; it’s all about adversity and fighting through it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added one more score after his TD catch and Decaro’s kick return, but Gloucester put one last drive together to makes things interesting at the end of the game. The Fishermen went to John Curcuru for his first carry of the game, bringing in a 46-yard touchdown and converting a two point conversion. Ultimately though, their final effort came up just short.

Tewksbury will move on to play Marblehead next week, but don’t expect Aylward to alter the gameplan much. With several athletic weapons on the ground, the Redmen will bring a fast-moving attack in hopes of advancing further.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that put in the work and have been blessed with some ability. We can kind of play to whoever the hot hand is...We’ve been trying to play it that way,” Aylward said. “They were tough up front, they did some things that kind of threw us out of sync with what we normally do.”

Recap: No. 10 Tewksbury 28, Haverhill 14

October, 19, 2013
TEWKSBURY, Mass. –- With the lights shining bright, for the first time in Doucette Stadium, it would be business as usual for the hometown Tewksbury Redmen on Friday night.

Tewksbury (6-0) secured their third consecutive Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 title as they defeated Haverhill 28-14 in the first ever night game played in the history of Doucette Stadium.

The Redmen brought in the portable lights for the “Friday Night Lights” event and the players responded, coming out strong on their opening drive of the game.

The 12-play, 70-yard drive was capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Johnny Aylward to fullback Tom Casey, out of the backfield, to give Tewksbury a 7-0 lead with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Haverhill would respond with 7:57 on the clock in the second quarter, as running back Ian Kessel scored to tie the game at 7-7. The sophomore showed off his speed and explosiveness on the 14-yard touchdown run that concluded an 85-yard Haverhill scoring drive.

Kessel’s touchdown was set up by a beautiful 33-yard completion from quarterback Shane Finn to wide receiver Piero Garcia. Kessel rushed for 43 of his team-high 65 yards on the scoring drive.

“They are a strong team up front,” Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward said of Haverhill’s offensive line. “They have three very good backs and have a lot of good, hard-nosed kids.”

Tewksbury would regain the lead on the following possession, as they would execute another 70-yard scoring drive that Casey would complete, as the junior took it in from three yards out to give Tewksbury a 14-7 lead with 3:23 remaining in the half.

Key Moment: With time running out in the first half Tewkbury backed Haverhill up deep in their own territory and forced a punt that gave the Redmen favorable field position at the Haverhill 27 yard line with 2:47 remaining in the half.

James Sullivan (124 rushing yards) would capitalize on the short field, as the junior running back would take it in from two yards out, with 1:17 on the clock, to give Tewksbury a 21-7 lead that they would take to the half.

“That was huge,” Aylward said of the final scoring sequence. “It ended up being real huge with how the second half played out. That was a critical time there. We were pretty conservative right there with the timeouts and we have a tremendous amount of respect for that coaching staff at Haverhill.”

Both teams would exchange fourth quarter touchdowns as Johnny Aylward tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Dick for Tewksbury and Kessel would run in another touchdown (18 yards) for Haverhill, as both teams turned up the defensive intensity and limited each other’s scoring opportunities in the second half.

Winning Balance: With the win the Tewksbury continued to show a balanced team approach of using a strong running attack, timely passing, strong special teams and a staunch defensive effort.

Tewksbury is now averaging 35 points per game and has outscored their combined opponents 206-82 through their first six wins.

“All around I think our guys made plays when we needed to make plays,” Aylward said. “Special teams too; I thought they made some great plays on the kickoffs.”

The defensive effort and the running game (280 yards rushing) were the stories all night as both factors seemed to eventually wear down the big and strong Haverhill front lines.

Haverhill received strong defensive performances on the night from seniors Michael Kwegyir-Attah (2 Sacks) and Matt Burns.

Tewksbury middle linebacker John Saunders was everywhere for the Redmen on the night as he patrolled the field, going sideline-to-sideline, and exploding through the line to tackle Haverhill ball carriers.

Eddie Matovu also had a big game for the Redmen on both sides of the ball as he had 70 yards rushing on the night along with a strong defensive performance in which he held the edge all night from his outside linebacker/rover position.

Tewksbury's Aylward is Patriots Coach of the Week

October, 15, 2013
Tewksbury High School’s Brian Aylward has been named this week’s New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week in recognition of his team’s 41-14 victory over Methuen on Saturday, Oct. 12, in Tewksbury. The Redmen jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half and held on for a commanding victory on Homecoming weekend to improve to a perfect 5-0 on the season. The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation will donate $1,000 to Tewksbury High School’s football program in Aylward’s name in recognition of his Coach of the Week selection.

Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett, the team’s executive director of community affairs, visited Coach Aylward’s team on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Tewksbury High School. The visit and check presentation will be featured on the Patriots weekly television magazine show, “Patriots All Access,” which airs at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 18, on WBZ-TV in Boston and will be available immediately after on

This is the 18th year in which the Patriots join the National Football League in conducting the High School Coach of the Week program, which recognizes outstanding high school coaches and promotes youth football throughout New England. Tippett oversees the program as part of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’s commitment to youth football initiatives.

“Congratulations to Coach Brian Aylward and his team,” Tippett said. “Tewksbury High School made four key interceptions on defense, and the offense was able to take advantage by putting 42 points on the board to put the game out of reach. This was a complete team win for the Redmen.”

At the conclusion of the season, one high school coach will be named the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year and will receive an additional $2,000 contribution toward the school’s football program.

For the third straight year, Tippett will take the award on the road so he can visit the schools that benefit from the program. This year is also the third year the Patriots will accept nominations for High School Coach of the Week. Anyone who knows a high school football coach in New England who has a great week or reaches a personal career milestone is encouraged to submit a nomination to

Recap: No. 14 Tewksbury 41, Methuen 14

October, 13, 2013
TEWKSBURY, Mass. -– The cold rain just couldn’t cool off Tewksbury’s dominant defense on Saturday afternoon.

After pitching a shutout in the first half, the Redmen held steady in the second—knocking off a talented Methuen Rangers squad 41-14 on Homecoming weekend at Tewksbury. James Sullivan was the star of the afternoon for the Redmen, pulling in three interceptions off of Methuen quarterback Austin George-Williams (10-14, 158 yards 1 TD, 4 INT). Ryan Bednarik also had in INT for the Redmen.

“Sully did great, he’s one of those guys that you see growing up as a kid that he has the potential to be very good if he has the right kind of work ethic and the right kind of character -— he’s got all of that,” Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward said. “He’s a great kid to be able to coach, he can do everything that we have to do in a football game: he runs hard, he blocks hard, he’s 100 miles an hour in practice all the time.”

While Aylward praised his star junior, Sullivan downplayed the big day like it was just another day at the office.

“Getting into your reads, getting depth, and just making a play on it. We preach that all time, we preach that all week, and I just trusted my reads and everything worked out,” Sullivan said. “I was getting calls from the sideline that they were probably gonna pass, probably play action, so I kind of knew it from the start and he happened to run where I was -— just made a play on the ball.”

The Redmen were led offensively by quarterback Johnny Aylward (9-11, 88 yards 3 TD) and running backs Tom Casey (5 carries, 64 yards, TD) and Sullivan (9 carries, 75 yards, TD). Aylward got things started in the first quarter, running it in from the Methuen two yard-line to put Tewksbury on the board first. Soon after George-Williams’ interception to Sullivan, Sullivan helped anchor a drive downfield, punching in a touchdown to give Tewksbury a commanding 14-0 lead.

Before halftime, Aylward extended the lead when he threw a touchdown pass to John Saunders to give the Redmen a 21-0 lead after two quarters.

Methuen responded early in the third quarter on a touchdown by Brian McAndrew to cap off an 11 play, 75 yard drive. However, Aylward and the offense came back quick, as the quarterback strolled into the endzone minutes later to help build what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. After an Aylward fumble on the next drive, Sullivan intercepted a George-Williams pass. Casey took care of the rest, running it in from 15 yards out.

“I think a lot of it had to do with different kinds of things we were doing, we were trying to run a couple things every week that we hadn’t run before, so when I tell ya I don’t know what we’re going to do next week...I don’t," Aylward said. "I’ll critique myself more than anything else before we move on to next week. I thought we got a big conservative, and [Methuen] had a lot of firepower to get some points on the board quickly. They have good, hard-nosed kids."

Going up against one of his own former assistants, Methuen head coach Tom Ryan, the older Aylward admitted it was a bit of a trip around memory lane. Aylward joked that since he and Ryan used to wake up at 6:30 on the morning of every game day to work out together, he laughed that he almost extended the invitation for old-times’ sake.

“He’s a good friend. We’ve been through so many battles, and we’ve gone through all the prep work together,” Aylward said. “I told him this morning I was gonna give you a call at like 6:30 this morning and say ‘hey, you wanna get a lift in before the game?’ He laughed at that.”

Recap: No. 19 Tewksbury 27, L-S 21

September, 14, 2013
SUDBURY, Mass. -– With the game on the line and a need for a big play, Tewksbury quarterback Johnny Aylward looked for the receiver whom he calls his "best friend".

Aylward threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Kevin Dick (5 catches, 85 yards), giving the Redmen the lead for good with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter. Following a fumble recovery that resulted in a Troy Carey touchdown on the imposing kickoff and a Lincoln-Sudbury touchdown moments before the end of the game, the Redmen (2-0) sealed off a 27-21 victory on the road over L-S (1-1).

“They were backed off a little bit and that their ends came up and played flat," Aylward said. "We knew that they were giving the corners help, so we knew that if we could go off play action then we could get that post. You have to get them to bite on that post and then dump it down to the wheel."

Tewksbury has worked on the play since camp, itching for the opportunity to find a corner who could potentially bite on the fake.

“We felt confident that we could get Kev behind him, and that’s who we busted out today,” said Aylward.

The Redmen got off to a slow start in the first half however. Lincoln-Sudbury quarterback Ben Colello was 11-of-13 for 81 yards through the air in the first half, and had a one-yard rushing touchdown on the first score of the game. After a 10-yard touchdown pass from Aylward to Dick in the second quarter, the Warriors ended the first half on a high note, going up 14-7 on a goal line rush by Adam Gigliotti.

“It’s hard, we always talk about ‘no sacks, no turnovers, no penalties,’ we didn’t give up any sacks tonight, but we had some turnovers and we had some penalties—those are drive killers,” Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward, Johnny’s father, said after the game. “We can’t do those things and expect to beat a team like Lincoln-Sudbury.”

Of his father's halftime speech, Johnny said, “He just said stick together, don’t get down on yourselves, don’t get down on each other, and if we just starting falling apart, start pointing fingers, he said that’s just gonna tear us apart. Keep our energy up and try to battle back.

“We just had to fix some protection. The line ended up playing great in the second half and just kind of threw the ball more and then pound it in the A-gaps.”

The Redmen were able to fight their way back by tying the game in the third quarter on a touchdown by junior fullback Tom Casey (12 carries, 96 yards, TD). Casey was integral on several long drives for Tewksbury in the first half, and helped keep Lincoln-Sudbury’s defense in check in the second.

“We’ll go through this season and nobody will know his name because he blocks for two high profile guys," Brian said of his fullback. "He’s a facemasher, he sticks his face in there, and he’s been that way since he was a younger kid. I love him, I love the way he works, he only has one speed on the field, in school, in practice."

“He’s the kind of guy we like to have on the team... We‘re fortunate to beat a good team and a good program, but we have some things to work on.”


TEW (2-0) 7 0 7 13 --- 27
L-S (1-1) 7 7 0 7 --- 21

First quarter
L - Ben Colello 1 run (Greg Roder kick)
T - Kevin Dick 10 pass from Johnny Aylward (Mitchell Miskell kick)

Second Quarter
L - Adam Gigliotti 4 run (Roder kick)

Third Quarter
T - Tom Casey 1 run (Miskell kick)

Fourth Quarter
T - Dick 52 pass from Aylward (Miskell kick)
T - Troy Carey 30 fumble return (kick failed)
L - Greg Roder 3 run (Roder kick)

Recap: Tewksbury 27, Chelmsford 6

September, 7, 2013
CHELMSFORD, Mass. – It was the “James Sullivan Show” in Chelmsford on Friday night as the senior running back did it all for Tewksbury, rushing for 90 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception, and a big sack, as the Redmen defeated the host Lions, 27-6, in a Merrimack Valley Conference crossover game.

Chelmsford (0-1) would strike first early in the game as quarterback Jack Campsmith would lead the Lions down the field and find Nick Philippon on a screen pass for a 26-yard opening touchdown. A penalty on the ensuing point after try would lead to a blocked second try, giving the Lions a 6-0 lead with 5:26 remaining in the opening quarter.

Tewksbury (1-0) would answer back as Sullivan would cap off seven-play, 74-yard drive by taking it in from six yards out for the first of his two rushing touchdowns on the night. The conversion kick was muffed to knot the score at 6-6 with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter.

Tewksbury would add another score before the end of the first half as Sullivan would score his second on a 10-yard scamper to give the Redmen a 12-6 lead at the break.

Tewksbury would score first in the second half on Sullivan’s second touchdown of the game from three yards out and never look back as they controlled the line of scrimmage, dominated the early down plays and used a combination of speed and aggressiveness to seal the win.

“I think the defense was the story tonight with the running game,” Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward said after the game.

When asked about his team’s success on early downs Aylward stressed the importance of owning the first downs.

“I think that is huge,” Aylward said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Bruce) Rich and certainly since I have been coaching against him I have learned as much about coaching as any of the coaches I have coached against. If you give them those short second-and-five downs, they will own you.”

Sullivan also stressed the importance of team defense in controlling the tempo of the game.

“Our defense was real young last year and we learned a lot over the course of the season,” Sullivan said. “We are a lot more mature and experienced this year and everyone really just executed their assignments, made the plays and we did it together.”

Balance and Toughness: Tewksbury controlled the time of possession behind the running attack of Sullivan, Eddie Matovu (81 yards) and Tom Casey as they ran between the tackles to keep the chains moving and each other fresh all night.

“If we are going to be good we are going to have to get it from all of them,” Aylward said of his stable of backs. “The teams we play are too good and the coaching staffs that we play against are too good to be beaten by a one trick pony.”

Sullivan did the bulk of the work early in the game, followed by Matovu for the majority of the middle quarters, with Casey closing it out on the ground at the end.

“We wanted to pound the C-gap and we just felt it out as they shifted all over throughout the game,” Sullivan said. “We have pretty good weapons everywhere so we feel that we have confidence to use everyone.”

The Tewksbury line, led by two-way lineman Ethan Eloi also stood out on the evening.

Big Conversions: Johnny Aylward’s stats may not tell the entire story but the senior signal caller came up with two of the biggest plays of the game as he used his legs and elusiveness to scramble outside of the pocket and complete two drive-saving passes.

The first came on a fourth-and-eight play early in the second quarter with the game tied at 6-6. Aylward rolled right and found Kevin Dick on a 9-yard sideline-route, toe dragger, for a first down that eventually led to 10-yard Matovu touchdown run.

Aylward would do it again early in the third quarter as Tewksbury led 12-6 with a third-and-long backed up in their own territory. Aylward took the snap, rolled across his body left and found a streaking John Saunders for a 15-yard gain for a critical first down.

Not Enough D’Auria: All-MVC D1 running back Jeff D’Auria of Chelmsford saw limited touches on the evening, despite gaining 61 yards on limited carries. Chelmsford had a difficult time getting into rhythm offensively and thus D’Auria’s touches suffered.

“Some of it was situational,” Rich explained. “I think we also came out right away and threw the ball well and probably loosened up a little too much out there.”

Expect to see a steady dose of D’Auria and the Chelmsford run game when Chelmsford hosts Westford Academy and Billerica the next two Fridays.

“Our M.O. is to run the football and to play action pass off of that,” Rich added. “I do not think we were able to execute the play action as we did not run the ball often enough. We have to get better everywhere and we will.”

Lekan Banged Up: Chelmsford played for most of the night without the services of senior Co-Captain Devin Lekan. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound defensive end/ tight end is one of the top returning two-way players in the MVC and left big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball in his absence.

“He has been banged up for a couple of weeks now,” Rich said. “He did it in an early scrimmage and he has just not been right. He is a great football player and we really need him to be healthy and that certainly hurt us as well.”

ESPN Boston Week 1 football picks

September, 5, 2013
ESPN Boston High Schools editors Scott Barboza and Brendan Hall give their Week 1 MIAA football picks:

No. 19 BC HIGH at NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Friday, 7 p.m.

Scott Barboza: I really like this Eagles linebacking corps, led by Steve DiCienzo. BC High, 27-17.

Brendan Hall: What better way to kick off BC High’s redemption tour than with a team that ran circles around them last year. Methinks Eagles coach Joe Gaff has a few tricks up his sleeve for this one. BC High, 21-7.

No. 4 MANSFIELD at DUNBAR (Md.), Friday, 7 p.m.

Barboza: I think the Hornets keep it close for a half, then the Poets’ depth bears its head. Dunbar, 35-27.

Hall: There isn’t a quarterback in New England as gifted as Dunbar’s William Crest, a West Virginia commit and one of the Old Line State’s top prospects. Hornets are already snakebitten, but injuries aside this is not a matchup you want to make a track meet out of. And unfortunately for the Hornets, I feel their game plan plays right into the Poets’ hands. Dunbar, 35-14.

No. 12 BARNSTABLE at DENNIS-YARMOUTH, Friday, 6 p.m.

Barboza: I still maintain the Dolphins will be a playoff team in Div. 4 South, but damn this Red Raiders’ secondary is going to be tough for anybody to beat this year. Barnstable, 33-27.

Hall: The three games prior to last year’s blowout were decided by a total of five points. I think we’re in for another thriller here, but the Barnstable secondary does just enough in the end to preserve the win. Barnstable, 25-21.

ANDOVER at NORTH ANDOVER, Friday, 7 p.m.

Barboza: Sounds as though the Golden Warriors were another squad hit hard by the injury bug in the preseason. I’m going with the “upset” here. North Andover, 17-10.

Hall: I predict a big night on the ground for whoever gets the start at tailback, and an even bigger night on defense for Will Eikenberry. Andover, 24-10.

No. 14 WALPOLE at FOXBOROUGH, Friday, 7 p.m.

Barboza: Man, this one shapes up as an appointment viewing date for years to come. It’s a shame we never got a chance to see these games earlier. Walpole, 20-13.

Hall: Clean, old-fashioned border rivalry. This one has lots of potential. Lots. Walpole, 10-7.

ABINGTON at No. 13 DUXBURY, Friday, 7 p.m.

Barboza: Having picked against the Dragons in last year’s playoffs, I fear I’m going to have to lay low in Duxbury for a while. Abington, 12-7.

Hall: Losing Matt Kilmain hurts Abington in this one, but their defense is going to keep them in the game. But it’s just a simple matter of being overpowered at the line of scrimmage. Duxbury, 20-10

No. 9 LOWELL at WESTFORD ACADEMY, Friday 7 p.m.

Barboza: Watch for wide receiver/ defensive back Keagan Latta to have a breakout year this year. Lowell, 28-20.

Hall: Expect gaudy numbers for Brian Dolan in his first start under center for the Red Raiders. Lowell, 38-31.


Barboza: Watch out for the Redmen as a sleep for the Division 3 state title. Mark it down. Tewksbury, 17-10.

Hall: It’s not every year the Redmen are favored in this matchup. But that’s the kind of power Brian Aylward has built at Tewksbury. Expect a big game from Eddie Matovu. Tewksbury, 28-17.

HAVERHILL at BEVERLY, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Barboza: Panthers’ cupboard isn’t completely bare after their historic 2012 season, but the winning streak ends against the Hillies. Haverhill, 21-13.

Hall: All preseason, all we kept hearing with regards to Haverhill is “How do you replace Chance Brady”? Two words: Ian Kessel. The young sophomore is going to one to watch in the coming years. Haverhill, 21-13.

No. 10 BRIDGEWATER–RAYNHAM at No. 1 ST. JOHN’S PREP, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

Barboza: I think there are some defensive questions the Eagles will have to answer against a top-flight ground game such as B-R’s on Saturday, but I give the edge to the Prep’s passing game. Prep, 14-7.

Hall: Trojans play ball control and put together a monster drive early to stay ahead in what should be some trench warfare. You can’t cage Johnathan Thomas, the state’s most explosive player, but somehow they’ll limit his trips to the end zone. B-R, 14-7.

No. 6 SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL at No. 2 EVERETT, Friday, 7 p.m.

Barboza: The Golden Eagles will show they belong at the state’s big boys table, but I’m giving the edge to the home side – with the advantage of not having to shack off Friday night bus legs.Everett, 24-21.

Hall: The Golden Eagles are going to have to control the line of scrimmage in this one if they are going to keep pace. But something tells me Cody Williams has some more magic up his sleeve after last season’s historic run. Springfield Central, 24-23.


Recap: Duxbury 35, Tewksbury 0

December, 3, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was no drama in Saturday's Eastern Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl.

Duxbury entered the contest as a heavy favorite against Tewksbury, and seized control early. The Dragons built a 28-point first-half lead and posted a comfortable 35-0 victory.

Duxbury received three touchdown passes from quarterback Matt O'Keefe and two touchdown runs from Jon Hurvitz. O'Keefe, a senior, completed 8 of 18 passes for 135 yards in the victory, and finished the season with 35 touchdown passes.

“I couldn't be more happy right now,” O'Keefe said. “It's just nice to have receivers out there who are incredibly athletic, and our line played awesome. We were firing on all cylinders, so it was just a lot of fun.”

Duxbury completed the season with a 13-0 record and extended the program's winning streak to 26 games.

“We always want to start fast,” Duxbury head coach Dave Maimaron said. “We were able to do that today. The defense was able to cause a couple turnovers as well. It was a huge start to the game.”

Duxbury turned each of Tewksbury's three first-half turnovers into touchdowns. After an interception on Tewksbury's opening possession handed Duxbury the ball on Tewksbury's 29-yard line, Hurvitz opened the scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run six plays later.

The Dragons doubled their lead when O'Keefe hooked up with Reilly Naton for a 36-yard touchdown pass, and then fumbles set up Duxbury's two other first-half touchdowns.

Tewksbury quarterback Kevin Saunders fumbled while being sacked and Duxbury recovered on the Tewksbury 24. Hurvitz cashed in on that opportunity when he scored on a 2-yard run.

Duxbury's final TD in the half came on a 7-yard pass from O'Keefe to Don Webber with 39 seconds to play. That scoring drive took three plays and 21 seconds after the Redmen fumbled on their own 9. It was Webber's 11th touchdown catch of the season.

“If there was one team in the Super Bowls that nobody wanted to play it was Duxbury,” Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward said. “They showed why. They're very good. They're tough.”

Duxbury's final touchdown came on a 27-yard pass from O'Keefe to James Burke with 2:58 remaining.

Tewksbury completed its season with a 7-6 record. The Redmen have played in five other Super Bowls: 1981, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 1996.

“We knew we were gonna be up against it,” Aylward said. “These guys have a lot to be proud of. Tonight wasn't our night.”

Doing it with defense: Duxbury's offense, which entered the game averaging 34.7 points per game, may have received most of the media attention this season, but the Dragons have played some stingy defense as well.

Duxbury allowed an average of 6.7 points per game through its first 11 contests, and posted its sixth shutout of the season Saturday. Ten of Duxbury's 13 opponents failed to score more than seven points, and the Dragons allowed 27 points in their last eight games.

“I can't talk enough about our defense,” O'Keefe said. “They are the best defense in the state. We only had to score one touchdown against King Philip [in the semifinals) and we won the game {7-0]. The defense is athletic, they fly to the ball and do their job.”

Duxbury held Tewksbury to 12 yards of offense – 2 yards rushing and 10 yards passing --in the first half. The Redmen failed to convert on each of their four third-down opportunities and committed three turnovers (two fumbles).

The Redmen finished the game with 106 yards of offense and were 1 of 9 on third-down conversions.

Tewksbury running back Chris Bettano began the game with 1,313 yards rushing, but was held to 82 on 19 carries.

“Our defense has been unbelievable all year long,” Maimaron said.

Lucky 13: It was the second Super Bowl victory in as many years for Duxbury, which beat Concord-Carlisle 35-13 in last year's Division 2A Super Bowl.

Duxbury also won the Division 2A Super Bowl in 2005 (28-13 over Bishop Stang) and in 2008 (46-26 over Gloucester). The Dragons also finished 13-0 during their three other Super Bowl seasons.

Duxbury's 26-game winning streak is the longest in the state.

“We're gonna miss this entire senior class,” Maimaron said. “They've won a lot of games and they haven't lost in a long time.”

Tewksbury (7-5 ) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Duxbury (13-0) 7 21 0 7 – 35

1st Quarter
Dux – Jon Hurvitz 1 run (Tucker Hannon kick), 4:18.

2nd Quarter
Dux – Reilly Naton 36 pass from Matt O'Keefe (Hannon kick), 7:07.
Dux – Hurvitz 2 run (Hannon kick), 2:53.
Dux – Don Webber 7 pass from O'Keefe (Hannon kick), :39.

4th Quarter
Dux – James Burke 27 pass from O'Keefe (Hannon kick), 2:58.

Recap: Tewksbury 21, Reading 6

November, 30, 2011
READING, Mass. -- Tewksbury is not a flashy team by any means, lacking a big-play threat through the air that strikes fear in the hearts of opponents. That’s okay, because it did not need one Tuesday in its 21-6 victory over Reading.

Tewksbury moves on to the Division 2 Super Bowl Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Duxbury at Gillette Stadium.

Its ability to sustain drives set itself apart from Reading (8-4) for most of the game. Reading struck first when Drew Belcher hit Ryan Maney for a 70-yard touchdown when Maney burned the Tewksbury defensive backs on a post route in the middle of the field. Reading ran five consecutive running plays, which helped sucked the defense in to defending the run, allowing Maney to run free when called upon.

Tewksbury (7-5) answered back with a three-minute drive that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Saunders to Chris Bettano (21 carries, 72 yards). After each team had an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt, they went into the half tied at 6.

After Reading punted on its opening drive to start the third quarter, Tewksbury had a four-minute drive that was capped off by a 9-yard Bettano touchdown run. Saunders made what was the most jaw-dropping play of the day on the two-point conversion.

He took the snap and ran to the right, looking for a hole to open up, but quickly saw that none were available. In an attempt to change direction, he avoided one shoe-string tackle and headed back to the left side of the field. Along the way, he got help from two key blocks on defenders that appeared to be chasing him down from behind. Finally, when he was running out of real estate, he cut up towards the endzone and plowed his way through a group to get in for what probably was the hardest two-point conversion he’s had all season.

Reading failed to turn its next drive into points and was forced to punt back to Tewksbury. All the Redmen did was execute an 8:14 drive spanning two quarters, taking most of the fourth quarter away from Reading.

Unfortunately for Tewksbury, it did not score on that drive. Bettano fumbled into the Reading endzone as he was trying to score and put the game away, but it was recovered by the Rockets.

“In every single big game we’ve had this year, we’ve been able to (sustain long drives),” Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward said. “These kids are savvy enough to know and understand situations and how important that is. We talk all the time about having an elevated sense of urgency when we need a big play. At the beginning of the year their idea of a big play was a third-and-forever, now they understand how important a second-and-eight is. That’s an important play at that point in the game.”

On the fist play after the touchback, Saunders, playing linebacker, tipped Belcher’s pass into the air and his teammate, Derrick Tarpey, came down with the interception.

He returned it to the Reading 10-yard line and a few plays later, Daniel Altavesta (8 carries, 30 yards) punched in a touchdown to put the game away for good.

--- On Tewksbury’s 8:14 drive, it was 3-for-3 on 3rd down conversions. Aylward credited his offensive line’s conditioning for allowing the offense to keep the drive moving when the team needed it the most.

“Their conditioning has to be good because they aren’t the biggest guys,” he said. “These guys have worked awfully hard to stay in shape and be in a position where they can play for 40 minutes and I’m just so proud of them. I think they’re all tough guys and they’re going to go down as a special group here, regardless of what happens.”

--- Coming from the Merrimack Valley Conference, Tewksbury is very familiar with the intricacies of the spread offense and how to defend it. It used that knowledge to its full advantage Tuesday, keeping the Reading rushing attack to only 49 yards on the ground and Belcher to 10-of-22 for 132 yards, one touchdown, and an interception. “We’ve seen similar-type offenses over the course of the year so we were somewhere comfortable playing against the spread,” said Aylward. “Our league offers us a lot, and one of those things is you get an awful lot of different looks. (Reading) does a lot of different things on offense and I think our guys went out there and executed the gameplan. We had one breakdown and that hurt us, so we knew a breakdown against a team the quality of Reading would exploit that and they did. Every time we made a mistake they hurt us for a first down or a big touchdown.”

TEW --- 0 - 6 - 8 - 7 --- 21
REA --- 0 - 6 - 0 - 0 --- 6

2nd quarter
R - Ryan Maney 70-yard pass from Drew Belcher (2-point conversion failed)
T - Chris Bettano 11-yard pass from Kevin Saunders (2-point conversion failed)

3rd quarter
T - Bettano 9-yard run (Saunders 2-point conversion run good)

4th quarter
T - Daniel Altavesta 4-yard run (Matt Blaisdell kick good)

Recap: Billerica 20, Tewksbury 14

October, 7, 2011
BILLERICA, Mass. -- At some point, opposing teams and players are going to have to figure out how to keep Billerica junior Matt Clifford from hurting them.

Add Tewksbury to the list of teams he’s torched.

For the second week in a row, the wide receiver/defensive back had a huge night on offense, defense and special teams, scoring all three touchdowns in Billerica’s 20-14 win over Tewksbury in a Merrimack Valley Conference crossover game.

Clifford caught two touchdown passes, returned a kickoff for a score and also made an interception, putting up nearly 300 all-purpose yards. His 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter -- his second kick return for a touchdown in as many weeks -- swung the momentum back in the hosts’ favor and completed the scoring as the Indians improved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the MVC.

Tewksbury fell to 2-3 and 2-2.

“Like I said last week, we were great out here,” Clifford said. “Great coaching. We were a little up and down (in the) first half. Second half we came around.”

Tewksbury, coming off consecutive wins over MVC Large opponents Andover and Central Catholic, showed grit and ingenuity after losing starting quarterback Kevin Saunders to injury. Running back Chris Bettano (15 carries, 122 yards) had a successful night on the ground, and the Redmen expertly executed two trick plays in the first half, but in the end Clifford and Billerica had a few more weapons.

Some other quick thoughts on this entertaining contest...

No secondary concerns: Billerica has been solid in the defensive backfield the past two weeks. In addition to Clifford, the Indians also got some huge plays from Nick LaSpada (209 yards passing, 2 TDs), Cam Slatton and Jason Ferri. First, Slatton batted away a sure touchdown pass near the left pylon on fourth down to deny Tewksbury from the Billerica 9-yard line at the end of the first half. Then, in the fourth quarter, Ferri dropped Bettano for a 6-yard loss to force a punt. LaSpada then helped seal the win with an interception on Tewksbury’s last possession. It was the second straight week LaSpada and Clifford each had an interception.

On the 'Mike': Friday night showcased two of the top middle linebackers in the MVC in Billerica’s Brian Thompson and Tewksbury’s Derek Tarpey. Each plays with a high football IQ and hits with authority. Tarpey made a big interception of LaSpada in the third quarter to set up a James Sullivan 22-yard touchdown run and Thompson simply made running between the tackles a difficult task for the Redmen for most of the night.

Thompson is listed at 5-foot-11, 210 pounds; and although Tarpey’s measurements are not listed, he looks around the same. Each plays with that mixture of intelligence and tenacity you look for in a middle linebacker and strike a little bit of fear in opposing ball-carriers.

Redmen keep you guessing: Good luck trying to game plan for Tewksbury’s offense. The Redmen showed a variety of looks and found ways to move the ball in almost every one. The Redmen lined up in everything from the single-wing to the I to the spread and you could almost never figure out exactly what was coming based on formation. Tewksbury scored on a 19-yard reverse pass from Frankie McLaughlin to Kevin Saunders and hit a 63-yard lateral pass from Dean Alves to James Sullivan, both in the first half.

When Saunders went down to injury, the Redmen used two backup quarterbacks -- sophomore Johnny Aylward and junior Zak DiRocco -- in the second half. Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward always seems to have a trick up his sleeve, and it’s very difficult to game plan for everything he throws at you.


TEW (2-3) 0 6 8 0 --- 14
BIL (4-1) 0 7 13 0 --- 20

Second Quarter
T - Kevin Saunders 19 pass from Frankie McLaughlin (kick failed)
B - Matt Clifford 78 pass from Nick LaSpada (Steven Trask kick)

Third Quarter
B - Clifford 43 pass from LaSpada (Trask kick)
T - James Sullivan 22 run (Chris Bettano pass from Zak DiRocco)
B - Clifford 91 kickoff return (kick failed)