Redmen Face Masco For Div. 3 Northeast Title Friday Night
Jimmy Hirtle (21) scored three touchdowns as Tewksbury romped over Marblehead, 41-6 last week.
When the Tewksbury High Redmen take the field against Masconomet Regional High Friday night, they may experience a sense of déjà vu.
Unfortunately for the Redmen, the team they will face in the MIAA Division 3 Northeast Sectional championship game will probably remind them of the Haverhill High football team that handed Tewksbury one of its two losses this season, a 10-0 setback in Haverhill on Oct. 18.
Like Haverhill, there is nothing fancy and nothing secretive about the Cape Ann League champion Masco Chieftains. They are big, strong and athletic, and they simply line up and run the ball right down their opponent’s throats, just as the Hillies did to Tewksbury last month.
Masconomet is led by senior tailback Gavin McGonagle, who has rushed for 1072 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season. Last Friday night, McGonagle came up with the best game of his career, rushing for 204 yards and three touchdowns as Masco eliminated Beverly in convincing fashion, 28-6, and earned the right to host Tewksbury Friday night in Topsfield (7:00 p.m. start).
While the speedy McGonagle is Masco’s “Mr. Outside,” the Chieftains also have a powerful inside runner in junior fullback Scott Foden, who rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown versus Beverly.
After a season-opening 27-20 loss to perennial Middlesex League powerhouse Reading High, Masco ran off six straight regular season victories and captured the CAL’s Kinney (large school) Division championship. So far in MIAA post-season play, Masconomet has beaten Revere, 19-7, and Beverly to raise its overall record to 8-1. The Chieftains earned the No. 1 seed when the final MIAA Division 3 Northeast rankings came out three weeks ago.
The bad news for Masco is that ever since that Haverhill game, Tewksbury has been nearly unstoppable. The Redmen have won three straight games in more than convincing fashion, averaging 39 points per game while allowing an average of just 6.3 points against.
The Tewksbury offense has been led all season long by senior running back James Sullivan, who will go down in TMHS football lore as one of the most productive four-year varsity lettermen in program history. So far this season Sullivan has rushed for 600 yards and nine touchdowns, while adding another two touchdown receptions. Defensively, Sullivan has been a disruptive force playing safety in the TMHS secondary.
While Sullivan has been the Tewksbury power back, the team’s outside threat has been senior tailback Jimmy Hirtle, who seems to get better with every game. Hirtle had the best game of his career last Friday night, rushing for 145 yards and three touchdowns as Tewksbury throttled Marblehead, 41-6.
If Masco wants to unseat the defending Division 3 state champion Redmen, the Chieftains will probably have to find a way to do something that only one team (Division 1 powerhouse Everett High) has been able to do against Tewksbury all season – score more than one touchdown in a game. Led by the likes of senior linebackers Andrew Nguyen and Tom Casey and senior nose tackle Ethan Eloi, the Redmen have allowed an average of just 7.8 points per game this season.
Weather conditions are expected to be less than optimal Friday night, with light snow predicted Thursday night and temperatures dropping into the low 30s during Friday’s game.
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