Redmen Crush Marblehead, 41-6
Tom Casey (9) throws a block to spring Jimmy Hirtle (21) on one of his three touchdown runs against Marblehad.
On paper, this was supposed to be a close game. A dogfight pitting Marblehead’s high-powered offense against Tewksbury’s stingy defense.
In reality, it was anything but that.
The Tewksbury High Redmen simply dominated Marblehead High in every facet of the game of football Friday night, and opened a whole lot of eyes by posting a dominating, 41-6 victory in the MIAA Division 3 Northeast semi-finals.
Senior running back Jimmy Hirtle carried the ball 23 times for 144 yards and scored a career-high three touchdowns, while fellow RB James Sullivan carried 21 times for 127 yards and a touchdown as Tewksbury controlled the ball on the ground for the entire evening and handed previously unbeaten Marblehead (8-0 coming into the game) its first loss of the season in more than convincing fashion. Senior running back Tom Casey carried six times for 42 yards and a touchdown while junior RB Troy Carey added 41 yards and a touchdown, as the Redmen rolled up 351 rushing yards on a Marblehead team that at times appeared powerless to stop them. TMHS held a monstrous 15-minute edge in time of possession, holding the ball for over 29 minutes while Marblehead had it for less than 15.
In spite of how impressive Tewksbury’s offensive numbers were, the Redmen probably played even better on the defensive side of the ball. Senior linebacker Andrew Nguyen and the TMHS defense held the previously unstoppable Marblehead offensive machine, which had averaged 41 points per game prior to last night, to just 194 yards of total offense and by far its lowest point total of the season. The Magicians mustered just three first downs in the first half, while Tewksbury sprinted out to a 27-6 halftime lead and never looked back.
“That (Tewksbury) team is even better than last year’s (state championship) team,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff afterward. “Man-for-man, pound-for-pound, they beat the hell out of us physically. I think this is the most physically beat up we’ve ever been this season. They just took it to us.”
“We put a challenge on our guys,” said TMHS coach Brian Aylward. “Around this time every team is looking for their “A” players to play an “A” game in big games, and they brought it, all of them.”
Game-time weather conditions saw temperatures dipping below 40 degrees and wind gusts above 30 miles per hour. It was not a night that favored throwing the ball, and Aylward master-minded the perfect game plan for the weather conditions, grinding out long drives with an impressive array of running plays and keeping Marblehead’s prolific offense on the sidelines for most of the game.
Establishing the running game was the key to the victory, according to Aylward.
“It’s always important,” Aylward said. “Especially with (weather) conditions being the way they were. We didn’t want to have to be in a position where we had to make some throws. And we were concerned with being able to move the ball inside and outside and just keeping them off balance and not letting them stunt a whole lot.”
Aylward’s plan kicked into gear late in the first quarter as Tewksbury put together a 13-play, 67-yard drive that culminated in Hirtle’s first touchdown of the night. He scampered around right end for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the second quarter, sparking Tewksbury to a 27-point outburst in that period. Casey made it 14-0 with a 22-yard touchdown run four minutes later, then senior defensive back Ryan Bednarek came up with another key interception to set up Hirtle’s second touchdown, this one a 22-yard sprint around left end.
Tewksbury worked the clock perfectly in the final four minutes of the first half and churned out a 10-play, 50-yard drive. Sullivan scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season with just one second to go before halftime, and the Redmen left the stunned Marblehead crowd in silence as they trotted into the locker room with a 27-6 halftime lead.
Marblehead threatened to get its offense untracked on a few occasions in the second half, but the Tewksbury defense refused to let the Magicians gather any momentum. Tewksbury’s undersized inside linebacker tandem of Casey and Nguyen came up big on this night, as both made several critical defensive stops. Nguyen, in particular, was in on over a dozen tackles, many of them for negative yards. He also produced two sacks and a forced fumble.
“If he (Nguyen) weighs 150 pounds I don’t know whose scale he’s using,” Aylward said. “But he’s tough as nails and he gives it everything he’s got and he’s very bright. We count on him to do a lot of things.”
Defensive back Adam Gajjaoui, defensive end Scott Pastorello (fumble recovery), defensive end Alex Schelfaudt, defensive tackle Ethan Eloi, defensive back Troy Carey (two sacks), along with defensive backs Bednarek (interception), Hirtle and Sullivan gave the Marblehead offense fits all night.
“They’re scrappy little buggers,” said Aylward of his defense. “I’m so proud of the fight they had in them tonight.”
Tewksbury added two more touchdowns in the second half. Hirtle scored his third of the day and 10th of the season on a two-yard run in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Troy Carey capped the scoring with his second TD of the season on a 17-yard run with six minutes left to play.
Senior place kicker Mitchell Miskell hit six-of-seven extra point attempts, in spite of high winds.
With the win, the Redmen have earned the right to play for a second-consecutive MIAA Division 3 Northeast championship. They will face No. 1 seed Masconomet Regional, 28-6 winners over Beverly Friday night, in another road contest next Friday night in Topsfield.
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