The Tewksbury High football defense will face it's stiffest challenge of the season when
the Redmen journey to the North Shore to face undefeated Marblehead High School in the
MIAA Div. 3 sectional semi-finals Friday night.
At 8-0 so far this season, Marblehead boasts one of the most prolific offenses in the
state. Led by senior quarterback Spencer Craig, the Magicians are averaging 41 points per
game, and have beat all but one of their opponents by more than 20 points this season.
The lone team to lose to Marblehead by less than 20 was Somerville, which jumped out to an
early 20-0 lead on the Magicians in the first round of the play-offs last Friday night,
only to watch Marblehead roar back and take a 42-26 victory.
Craig, who will play his college football at the U.S. Naval Academy next year, is a
talented two-way player who can hurt opposing defenses both on the ground and through the
air. Craig has completed 81-of-137 passes for 1536 yards and 13 touchdowns so far this
year, while also rushing for 502 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Craig's favorite target is big tight end Will Millett, who has 932 receiving yards and 10
Stopping Marblehead's passing game is only half the battle, as senior running back Brooks
Tyrrell has rushed for an amazing 1429 yards and 22 touchdowns. Tyrrell averages over
eight yards per carry.
Fortunately for Tewksbury, defense has been one of the hallmarks of the 2014 Redmen, who have allowed an average of just 8.0 points per game so far this season.
Containing Marblehead will be no easy task, according to TMHS head coach Brian Aylward.
"We're gonna start off by trying to make 'em punt once in a while," Aylward deadpanned.
"That would be something different for them.
"We just have to try to contain them and play one down at a time," he added on a more
serious note. "We want to try to put them in second and long and limit their options for
Aylward hopes Tewksbury can establish a strong ground game against Marblehead, in an
effort to control the clock and avoid getting into a shoot-out with Craig and company.
"We're gonna have to play well in all three phases of the game." Aylward said. "We need to
control the ball on offense. That's the best way to keep a good offense off the field."
So far this season, the Redmen have had great success in establishing the run. Senior
running back James Sullivan leads Tewksbury in rushing with almost 500 yards on the ground and eight rushing touchdowns. Senior back Jimmy Hirtle has gained 467 yards and scored seven touchdowns while senior back Tom Casey has added 412 yards and five touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Brett Morris has also been a constant threat, with nearly 800 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns.
"We can't just rely on the running game against (Marblehead)," Aylward said. "We're going
to have to keep them off balance and make some throws. We'll try to mix it up inside and
outside and make some throws downfield. We'll try to change up formations and keep them in their base defense much as we can."
The game will be a rematch of last year's MIAA Division 3 Northeast championship game, won by Tewksbury, 34-21, on Nov. 16, 2013. The Redmen went on to capture the Division 3 state championship three weeks later.
Both schools will have plenty of players on the field who played in last year's game, and
Aylward hopes his veteran players will rise to the occasion and control the Marblehead
offense. Troy Cary, Ryan Bednarek, Sullivan and Ryan Cary have been very stingy in the
Tewksbury secondary, while linebackers Tom Casey and Andrew Nguyen have made dozens of big plays. Senior defensive lineman Ethan Eloi has helped Tewksbury win most of the battles in the trenches.
"We've got a lot of veteran guys in the defensive backfield who have done a great job for
us this year," Aylward said. "Casey has done a great job at middle linebacker and Sully
and (Bednarek) have been great at safety.
"We have a lot of faith in the kids we've got out there." Aylward added. "They're smart
kids and the biggest thing is they work hard and they're relentless. They keep running to
the ball. For them, it's never too late to get into the play. Their pursuit has been very
good and their sense of urgency has been very good."
Overall, the game has the makings of being a very memorable high school football game.
"We're excited about the opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the state,"
Aylward said "They were one of the best teams if not the best team we faced last year. We
also know we're only team they've lost to in a long time. We're going to have to limit
turnovers and mistakes. We're going to have to be at our best."
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