Boston High School: Joe Wilkes

Medway comes back to advance in TVL playoffs

November, 6, 2010

WESTWOOD, Mass. -- The Medway Mustangs showed their resiliency in the inaugural game of the Tri-Valley League playoffs on Saturday at Westwood High School.

The No. 3-seeded Mustangs took down the No. 2 seed Norton Lancers 28-18, even though Norton owned a 12-0 lead until under a minute to play in the first half.

With 48 seconds to play in the first half, Medway’s Matt Ford hauled in a 22-yard fade from quarterback Joe Henry to give the Mustangs their first score. The Mustangs defense stepped up and the team rallied from behind after a halftime speech from Medway coach Dave McSweeney, as the team advanced to the next round in the TVL playoffs.

“I wasn’t really thrilled at halftime -- that score before the end of the half was huge for us.” McSweeney said bluntly. “[Norton] played really well, and they did some things we weren’t really prepared for and that happens but-- it’s a test to [our] character.”

Norton owned the first quarter as they pounded the run defense of Medway with a heavy dose of tailback Zach Schwieger and quarterback Joe Wilkes. Norton’s first drive of the game went 78 yards for a Wilkes to Phil Rizzo touchdown connection and took six and a half minutes off the clock.

However, the Medway defense rebounded in the second half, and the Mustangs’ run game ate up the clock.

“When we needed to make plays, we made plays tonight,” McSweeney said. “Which I think that is what you hope you can do on defense.

“I don’t care about stats -- I don’t care about any of that stuff -- but when somebody needed to make a play, we made a play.”

Medway running back Mike Ozzella was the workhorse of the offense in the second half, as he tallied over 100-yards in the last two quarters. In total, Ozzella racked up 165 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

“Just keeping with it,” Ozzella said about the key to his success. “Not getting too frustrated. It was tough in the first half but we made some adjustments offensively as well.”

The senior’s offensive line came alive in the second half. Led by Pat Regan and co-captain Kyle McSweeney, the group gained momentum as the game went on.

“The last 22 minutes, it’s just wear them down” said Ozella about the team’s mentality. “They’re getting tired and we’re getting tired too, but we just have to be the more physical team, blow them off the ball and sooner or later you’re going to break one.”

Henry completed 8 of 12 passes for 89 yards and one touchdown for Medway.

“I got a line that I wouldn’t trade with any team in this league,” Henry said. “They’re really the backbone of the offense. If they’re doing well then our running backs are going to do well and that just sets up the pass.”

On the other side of the ball, Wilkes was six of seven in the first half but ended the game 8 of 17 for 105 yards with one touchdown. The Medway defense made adjustments and kept Norton from the endzone until two minutes, 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Norton 6 6 0 6 -- 18
Medway 0 7 7 14 -- 28

First Quarter

N - Rizzo 20 catch from Wilkes (Wilkes run failed)

Second Quarter
N - Brendan Curtin 40 catch from Schwieger (pass failed)
M - Ford 22 catch from Henry (Joe Davenport kick)

Third Quarter
M - Greg Amato 11 run (Davenport kick)

Fourth Quarter
M - Ozzella 3 run (Davenport kick)
N - Schwieger 5 run (kick failed)
M - Ozzella 50 run (Davenport kick)

Norton downs Westwood, takes control of TVL

October, 9, 2010
NORTON, Mass. -- Prior to its game against Westwood, Norton felt disrespected. The undefeated Wolverines were coming to their turf, and though the Lancers were undefeated themselves, they didn’t hear anyone picking them to win.

Friday night they got a chance to prove their doubters wrong, and they delivered.

In a battle of the unbeaten Tri-Valley League teams, Norton used a big second half to roll over Westwood, 28-6.

“We didn’t get shown much respect in our league and everyone thought Westwood was going to beat us,” Lancers junior running back Zach Schweiger said. “Everyone thought their big running back was going to do a whole bunch against us but we shut him down and executed on offense.”

That “big running back” for Westwood (4-1) is, of course, 5-foot-10 215 pound senior Sean Amaru who ran for 335 yards and 6 touchdowns against Millis last week. Against Norton (5-0), Amaru ran for 25 yards on 11 carries in the first half before suffering a high left ankle sprain that caused him to miss the entire second half.

Amaru did push across the game’s first score when he plowed his way into paydirt from two yards out with 6:34 remaining in the second quarter, but it was the only scoring Westwood would get for the remainder of the contest.

With Amaru out, the Wolverines amassed just 60 yards of total offense in the second half.

“We’d like to think we’re more than one dimensional,” said Westwood coach Paul Hallion. “A one-dimensional team is never going to win a championship. Maybe it’s a little bit of a wake up call.”

The Amaru touchdown seemed to wake up Norton, which possessed the ball for less than three minutes before taking control after the Westwood score. They answered with a 71-yard drive that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run by Schweiger. An extra point by Scott Coleman gave the Lancers the 7-6 lead going into the half.

In the first half, the Lancers turned the ball over twice and suffered four penalties — one of which negated a 66-yard touchdown run by Schweiger (15 carries, 100 yards).

With the momentum of a late second quarter score, Norton’s second half was a different story — much cleaner.

“At the [halftime] break we talked about a few things, but kids just kind of got their heads out of their butts,” Schweiger said with a laugh. “There weren’t any more real costly penalties after that so it was all good.”

Norton struck on the second half’s opening kick. After pinning Westwood inside their own 10, Carlos Silva stripped Wolverines running back David DeCenzo (11 carries, 50 yards). Joe Wilkes recovered at Westwood’s 8-yard line, and two plays later, Coleman scampered into the end zone off a pitch to cushion the Lancers’ lead.

“That was huge,” Norton head coach Ted Currle said. “We worked stripping [the football] all week long. Gang tackling and let’s strip it from [Sean] Amaru. It wasn’t Amaru but, hey, we got a turnover and it was a huge one.”

Coleman (58 total yards) helped put the game away, thwarting Westwood’s best second-half drive with an interception in the end zone to start the fourth quarter. Five plays later, he caught a slant from quarterback Brendan Curtin (5-6, 84 yards) and turned on the burners, out-running the Wolverines for a 53-yard touchdown, his second of the game.

Following a Wilkes interception, Schweiger started Norton’s next drive with a 41-yard rush. He book-ended the possession with his second score, a run from six yards out with 2:52 remaining.

Though the Lancers may feel vindicated after the win, they know there’s a good chance they’ll see Westwood again.

“Whoever makes it out of this league to the playoffs, they’re going be beat up no matter what,” Currle said. “If we see them again I know what type of game it’s going to be -- very difficult.”

Other observations:
  • Norton’s work in the trenches was impressive. The Lancers kept Amaru in check for the first half and paved the way for Schweiger and Coleman in the second half. The scary thing for the Tri-Valley League? A pair of immovable objects — 6-4, 265-pound junior Luke Potvin and 5-11, 235-pound sophomore Stephen Hudson — will be back next year.“I know how hard they worked and I they know what we’re doing,” said Currle. “I thought they dominated from the second quarter on. That’s how you win football games, it was great."
  • Westwood was snake bitten with injuries as senior linebacker Brendan Skehill missed most of this game as well.“If we had Skehill the whole game, that’s a 14-6, 14-14 game,” said Hallion. “We had to make so many changes because we had so many key injuries to starters. It’s the TVL. You have a lot of two-way players so when one goes down it’s like having two people go down.”
  • Curtain suffered an ankle sprain returning a punt at the end of the first half. He missed one play but returned to the game. He took the remainder of Norton’s snaps with a noticeable limp. Senior lineman Shawn Ferrini suffered a more “severe” sprained ankle, according to Currle. He missed most of the second half.

Westwood – 0 6 0 0 - 6
Norton – 0 7 7 14 – 28

Second quarter
W – Amaro 2 rush (kick failed)
N – Schweiger 8 rush (Coleman kick)

Third quarter
N – Coleman 5 rush (Coleman kick)

Fourth quarter
N – Coleman 53 pass from Curtin (Coleman kick)
N – Schweiger 6 rush (Coleman kick)