Friday nights have not been all that much fun for Methuen High head coach Tom Ryan so far
this fall and things probably won't get any easier for the former Tewksbury High assistant
coach when his old boss Bryan Aylward and the TMHS Redmen storm the field at Nicholson
Stadium tomorrow night.
The defending MIAA Division 3 Super Bowl champion Redmen appear to have their sights set
on a return to post-season action again this fall, having posted convincing wins over
North Andover (27-7) and Lawrence (35-7) over the past two weeks.
Ryan, who served as Aylward's defensive coordinator for seven seasons before landing the
head coaching job in Methuen in February of 2013, led the Rangers to a 6-5 record in his
first season in Methuen last fall. But one of the biggest blemishes on that record was a
41-14 loss to TMHS in Tewksbury last October.
And things aren't going nearly as well for Ryan this fall, as his team has won just one of
its first five games. Methuen edged Dracut, 14-13, two weeks ago, but got thumped, 31-0,
by Haverhill last Saturday to fall to 1-4 overall, 1-3 in Merrimack Valley Conference
The Redmen, meanwhile, are 3-1 overall, and 3-0 in MVC games. TMHS has outscored its three MVC opponents by a combined score of 79-14 so far this season.
Tewksbury's only loss was a 21-20 heartbreaker against Division 1 powerhouse Everett, and
that result certainly didn't hurt the Redmen in the eyes of the pollsters. Tewksbury is
currently ranked 8th in the state in the latest ESPN-Boston poll, and the MIAA post-season
point standings see TMHS sitting atop the charts in the Division 3 Northeast Sectional
rankings with 15.0 points. Marblehead (5-0) is second at 13.4, followed by Masconomet (3-
1) at 12.75 and Wilmington (3-1) at 11.0.
The Redmen are led by two-way standout James Sullivan, who has rushed for three
touchdowns, caught two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a touchdown so
far this year. It's not as if Ryan, who coached Sullivan during his freshman and sophomore
seasons, needs any advance warning about Sullivan. Especially after Sullivan intercepted
three passes and rushed for a touchdown against Methuen in that 41-14 blowout last year.
Sullivan leads the team in both rushing yards and receiving yards this season, but he is
far from being Tewksbury's only offensive weapon. Senior running backs Jimmy Hurtle and
Tom Casey have both rushed for over 200 yards and three touchdowns so far, while junior
quarterback Brett Morris has thrown for over 400 yards and five touchdowns, without yet
throwing an interception.
Defensively, the Redmen have been extremely stingy, allowing an average of just under five
points per game in their three MVC games so far.
Game time is 7:00 p.m. under the lights in Methuen.
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