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No matter what some people try to tell you, size does matter.
Especially in high school football.
Never was that more evident than on Saturday afternoon, when the defending Division 3 Super Bowl champion Tewksbury High Redmen were simply over-powered and out-sized by a bigger, stronger Haverhill High team, and the result was a 10-0 TMHS loss at Haverhill's Trinity Stadium.
The Hillies made no effort to disguise their game plan in this showdown of the Merrimack
Valley Conference's top two Division 2 teams. They played smash-mouth football, plain and
simple, running the ball on over 90 percent of their offensive plays and powering it up
the middle almost every time they ran it. Down and distance made no difference to
Haverhill as the Hillies successfully completed four different fourth down conversions --
all on running plays.
"They're a good team, we knew that coming in," TMHS head coach Brian Aylward said.
"They're a big school, like most of the schools we play. They have a lot of bodies, they
have some big kids. They played to what their strength was. I thought they had an
advantage up front, certainly. We don't have anybody in our building as big as some of
Tewksbury's normally potent offense, meanwhile, sputtered and stalled all day, thanks
mostly to a host of turnovers and ill-timed penalties and an ineffective running game.
Senior running back Jimmy Hirtle led Tewksbury with 46 yards on eight carries, as
the Redmen mustered a season-low 73 rushing yards Saturday. Junior quarterback Brett
Morris posted some decent numbers, completing seven-of-18 passes for 106 yards, but the
Tewksbury signal caller was intercepted three times. TMHS was also flagged for four costly
penalties for 40 yards, and it all added up to Tewksbury's first MVC loss of the season.
The win also clinches the MVC Division 2 championship for Haverhill, which improves to 5-1
overall, and 4-0 against MVC Division 2 teams.
Haverhill, which earned each of its first four victories on the strength of its running
game, controlled the line of scrimmage from the start of the contest. Senior fullback
Samie Al-Ziab, a 220-pound bruiser, carried the ball 19 times for 104 yards and scored the
game's only touchdown. Sophomore tailback Pedro Santiago added 66 yards on 15 carries and senior running back Ian Kessel carried seven times for 25 yards.
The Hillies ran 47 offensive plays on the afternoon, and 43 of them were running plays.
Haverhill barely even considered throwing the ball, as sophomore quarterback Broghean
McGovern dropped back just four times, completing just one pass for 26 yards.
"That scheme suits them, " Aylward said. "They played to what their strength was. It was
more physics than anything else. They executed the way you need to execute."
After a scoreless first quarter, Haverhill took a 3-0 lead when senior place kicker Patrick
Yale connected on a 29-yard field goal with 2:15 to play in the first half.
Tewksbury had its best chance to score when Redmen kick returner Troy Carey
returned the ensuing kick-off 67 yards before being driven out of bounds inside the
Haverhill 10-yard line. But an illegal block penalty brought the ball back to the
Havehilll 26, and four plays later Morris' pass into the end zone was tipped and
intercepted by Haverhill's Casey O'Sullivan.
Tewksbury appeared to be gettting its offense in gear when the Redmen moved from their own 20 to the Haverhill 39 with the opening drive of the third quarter, but the Hillies' Danny
Surrette came up with the first of his two interceptions to end that drive.
Two plays later Al-Ziab broke through the Tewksbury defensive line and rumbled 57 yards to
the Tewksbury six. Two plays after that Al-Ziab powered in from four yards out to make it
10-0 in favor of Haverhill.
Tewksbury drove as deep as the Haverhill 16 on its next possession, but Surrette again
picked off Morris at the Haverhill 15 on the final play of the third quarter.
Haverhill's clock-eating running game took over from there, and the Redmen never ventured
into Haverhill territory for the rest of the game.
"Our kids fought hard, but it wasn't enough against this team," Aylward said. "This team
could go on a run now in the MVC small. They're a good school. Big with good numbers."
The loss does nothing to alter Tewksbury's chances to play in the post-season under the
new MIAA rules, however, so Aylward was philosophical about the defeat.
"I thought the kids gave their best, and in the end that's all you can ask," Aylward said.
"I'm happy with the way we've played up to this point. We'll continue to fight on and we'll
continue to fight on next year in the (MVC) large. That's what we do. We're used to it."
The Redmen host Dracut next Saturday in their final regular season MVC game prior to the
start of the MIAA play-offs.
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