Redmen Finish Strong, Whip Wilmington 42-27
Nov 27, 2014 01:58PM ● Published by Rick Spencer
James Sullivan (3) piled up 267 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns in his final game for the Redmen.
Gallery: Tewksbury vs Wilmington [10 Images] Click any image to expand.
After all, this under-sized group of overachieving Redmen had backed up their 2013 Division 3 Super Bowl victory by engineering an unlikely run deep into the MIAA playoffs again this fall, only to have Melrose High dash their dreams of returning to Gillette Stadium just five days ago.
But if Wilmington's Wildcats thought they might catch Tewksbury still dealing with the after affects of that heartbreaking state semi-final loss, they couldn't have been more wrong.
The resilient Redmen simply over-powered their traditional Turkey Day rivals on Thursday morning, scoring 21 first quarter points and rolling to a one-sided 42-27 victory that punctuated a remarkable 9-3 season for the Redmen.
Led by senior running back James Sullivan, who scored three touchdowns and tallied 267 total yards from scrimmage, Tewksbury scored its first touchdown just 2:12 into the game and added two more scores before the end of the first quarter, then held off several valiant Wilmington comeback attempts and secured their fifth straight Thanksgiving Day victory over the Wildcats.
It was a performance that forced TMHS head coach Brian Aylward to choke back his emotions as he spoke abut his team after the game.
"These guys, to do the work that they did (this season), and to fight as hard as they did to get to where they were, with unrealistic expectations on a team that had four returning starters...," Aylward said. "For them to do what they did is pretty special. And almost as special is their ability to come out here today, after being so heartbroken in that last effort, to come here and play the way they did is a credit to their character."
Junior quarterback Brett Morris also had a career best day, tossing three touchdown passes, while seniors Ryan Bednarek, Jimmy Hirtle, Andrew Nguyen, Tom Casey, Ethan Eloi and Mitchell Miskell all had memorable final games. But none were as impressive as Sullivan, who at times looked like a man among boys, ripping off huge gains, making improbable catches, and playing defense like, well, like there was no tomorrow.
Sullivan answered all the questions about a Melrose hangover in the first five minutes of the game. He scored on a 22-yard touchdown run with just 2:12 gone in the first quarter, and made a highlight reel catch on a pass from Morris and flew 72 yards down the sideline for another touchdown just three minutes later. He finished the game with 17 carries for 163 rushing yards and three receptions for 104 receiving yards in his final game as a Redman.
For a team captain, two-way starter and four-year contributor to this team, it was a fitting end to one of the most productive careers in Tewksbury High football history. But to Sullivan, it was simply about finishing with a win.
"It was just important to win," Sullivan said. "I could have had zero yards, it wouldn't have mattered. I just wanted to win. Not just for myself, for all the guys that have been around for a while. Yeah, it's a touchdown, that doesn't matter. It's just the final score."
Morris was no slouch in this one, either, completing eight of the nine passes he threw for 183 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to Sullivan's big score, Morris threw TD passes to senior wideout Ryan Bednarek (48-yarder) and senior tight end Paul Wild (seven yards).
"He was right on the money on all of it today," Aylward said of Morris. "I thought he was awesome."
Wilmington, to its credit, crawled back out of the early 21-0 hole and kept things respectable, posting the highest point total any of Tewksbury's 12 opponents have mustered against the Redmen this year. The Wildcats got second quarter touchdowns from running back Matthew Woods and wide receiver Ryan Colangelo (24-yard pass from QB Mike Carracinno) to close to within 21-13 at the half.
But Sullivan took a pitch-out 57 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, then Morris hit Wild with a seven-yard touchdown pass three minutes later to make it 35-13, and the game was pretty well decided at that point. Wilmington refused to wave the white flag, however, scoring late in the third quarter (Matthew Penney one-yard run) and again in the fourth (Carracinno 14-yard pass to Peter Daley) to keep the final score respectable.
Casey scored his seventh touchdown of the season in the fourth to account for Tewksbury's sixth and final score of the day.
"We had it turned on all day but Wilmington just made some plays on us," Aylward said. "We knew we were in for a dog fight...They're a well coached team. Certainly well coached on what we do. We've know that over the years. I give them a ton of credit at 21-0 to stay within their game plan and get the kind of push we thought they'd be able to get at times."
So yet another season comes to a successful close for Aylward and his Redmen.
"That's a credit to a lot of kids," Aylward sad. "A lot of kids get to a point where they say, 'Here I am, I'm a junior in high school and I'm not even a varsity player, why the heck am I gonna go through all this work in the offseason and do all this stuff?' And you know what, a lot of these kids were those kind of kids. And you know what, they did all that work and they beleived in each other and it's just a great group of kids to be around and that's why they have the success that they do."