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"Almost" Not Good Enough For Redmen

Sep 20, 2014 12:39AM ● Published by Rick Spencer

Pitch and Catch -- TMHS quarterback Brett Morris (11) tosses a screen pass to running back James Sullivan (3).

Gallery: TMHS football Sept. 19 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

There are more than a few high school football coaches in Massachusetts who would take great solace in a one-point loss to perennial MIAA Division 1 powerhouse Everett High School, especially if the game was played on Everett’s home turf.

Don’t count Tewksbury High head football coach Brian Aylward among them.

In spite of the fact that Aylward’s defending Division 3 Super Bowl champion squad came within a whisker of pulling off a monumental upset at Everett’s Veteran’s Memorial Stadium Friday night, Aylward was unequivocal in his refusal to declare his team’s 21-20 defeat a “moral victory.”

“No, we just lost, I don’t feel good,” Aylward said. “We lost to another high school team and they’re good, and they’ve been good over the years. But the only way you would feel good about it is if you executed to the best of your ability level but just didn’t get it. So I think (we made) enough mistakes that it’s frustrating, because our kids did a lot of things to give themselves the opportunity to win this game.”

Tewksbury looked every bit the equal of this Everett team, which has won three Division 1 state titles in the last four years. Senior superstar running back James Sullivan led TMHS’s spirited effort by rushing 14 times for 30 yards and catching nine passes for 111 yards. Sullivan scored two of Tewksbury’s three touchdowns on spectacular catch-and-run plays, and almost broke a kick-off return for a third score.

Junior quarterback Brett Morris battled through injuries to his throwing hand and his ankle, and finished the night completing 12 of 21 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

Tewksbury outgained the Crimson Tide, 261-239 in total offense, and if not for just a handful of plays, the Redmen would have walked out of Everett with a victory.

But a fumbled punt in the first quarter led to Everett’s first touchdown, and an onside kick to open the third quarter gave the Crimson Tide great field position and eventually led to their second score.

“We were winning at the half and then we lost,” lamented Aylward. “I thought our kids played hard. We just had a couple of mistakes that kind of hurt us. Just little, aggravating mis-execution things.”

Tewksbury got on the board first, midway through the opening quarter. Junior running back James Hirtle capped an eight-play, 51-yard drive with a lightning fast 23-yard scamper around right end for his first touchdown of the season. Tewksbury’s two-point conversion attempt failed.

The Redmen then held Everett to a three-and-out on its next possession, but Tewksbury fumbled the Crimson Tide punt and gave the ball back to the home team at the Everett 45. Three plays later Everett’s Nick Orekoya ran 47 yards for a touchdown. The conversion kick gave Everett a 7-6 lead.

TMHS answered right back, however, when Sullivan ran the ensuing kick-off back 52 yards to the Everett 33. Three plays later Morris hit Sullivan with a short screen pass and the TMHS running back raced 30 yards for the go-ahead score. Mitch Miskell’s PAT made it 13-7, Redmen.

Everett regained the lead late in the second quarter when Orekoya scored his second touchdown on the night, capping an 85-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The conversion kick made it 14-13 in favor of the home team.

Tewksbury responded with an eight-play, 61-yard drive that culminated in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Morris to a wide open Sullivan at the goal line. Miskell’s point after kick made it 20-14 Redmen at the half, but that would be the last word from the TMHS offense.

Everett took the lead for good on a 29-yard touchdown pass from 6-4 sophomore quarterback Jordan McAfee to senior wide receiver Lukas Denis with two minutes left in the third quarter. The conversion kick gave Everett a 21-20 lead.

The Redmen had three more possessions in the fourth quarter, but a series of fumbled snaps and incomplete passes left the TMHS coaching staff searching for answers after Everett held on for the 21-20 win.

“It’s kind of frustrating that we couldn’t finish the deal,” Aylward said. “I though the kids made some big time plays. A couple kids made some big time catches and Brett made some big time throws.

“We had some bad snaps, a couple penalties early and some mishandling of the ball,” Aylward added. “Everybody took their turn. Just little things that weren’t glaring. It was more like mistakes that got us off schedule to try to bang out some first downs.”

The result was Tewksbury’s first loss since 2012. The Redmen, now 1-1, return to Merrimack Valley Conference action when they host North Andover next Saturday afternoon. 
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