Redmen Top Lynn English 22-18 To Capture Division 3 North Sectional Championship
Nov 11, 2017 08:56PM ● Published by Rick Spencer
Sophomore Shane Aylward (3) made several key plays in his team's big win over Lynn English
Gallery: Tewksbury @ Lynn English [8 Images] Click any image to expand.
Well, such was the case for the Tewksbury High football team on Saturday afternoon, as the Redmen went into Lynn as significant underdogs against undefeated Lynn English, but came out as the MIAA Division 3 North Sectional champions for the third time in the last five years.
Senior running back Brandon Winn threw a touchdown pass and ran for the game-winning score to cap a masterful, fourth-quarter scoring drive as Tewksbury came from behind and pulled out a dramatic, 22-18 victory at Manning Field.
"I give our kids a lot of credit," said TMHS head coach Brian Aylward after the game. "There’s a lot of character on that bus right now and that’s gonna take them further than winning a championship will. They’ll be proud of that. No one can take that away from them. They just won a championship."
Lynn English had entered the game as heavy favorites as the Bulldogs had breezed to a Northeast Conference championship with a 7-0 record. English had been scoring an average of 30.8 points per game prior to the sectional title game, and had allowed just 10.2 points against, while beating Winchester 34-0 and Billerica 34-15 in its first two playoff games.
But the Tewksbury defense wasn't all that impressed with English's lofty statistics, as the Redmen shut out the Bulldogs for the first two quarters. holding them to just 71 yards from scrimmage and just three first downs in the first half.
"I thought our guys played good team defense all day long," Aylward said. "I thought they were hungry and they had a sense of urgency in getting to the ball and being physical."
Tewksbury got on the board first with just 47 seconds left in the second quarter when junior quarterback Jay Connolly found senior running back Shane Darrigo wide open at the goal line for a 16-yard touchdown strike. After a Lynn English offside penalty gave the Redmen a second crack at the conversion try, Winn bulled his way over for the two-point conversion that made it 8-0. A 26-yard completion on a halfback pass from senior RB/WR Braden Hiltz to twin brother Blake Hiltz was the key play in that drive.
English, which had come into the game with a reputation for being fast and making big plays, did just that midway through the third quarter when senior running back Ski Gaston found a huge hole in the middle of the Tewksbury defense and flew 75 yards for a touchdown. But Braden Hiltz snuffed the two-point conversion try and kept the Redmen in front, 8-6.
The Tewksbury coaching staff reached back into its bag of tricks on the next possession, and Winn capped a 10-play, 64-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Braden Hiltz on a halfback option play. Dependable sophomore place kicker Tyler Keough made it 15-6 with the conversion kick.
Things got sticky after that, as Lynn English took a page out of Tewksbury's book and scored on a 53-yard double-pass play early in the fourth quarter to pull within three at 15-12. Junior quarterback Matt Severance threw backwards to freshman wide receiver Mathies Fowler, who tossed a bomb to senior wide receiver Juan Avelino for the score. But another failed conversion rush kept the Redmen ahead by a field goal.
English took the lead with 3:30 to play when Severance scored from three yards out to cap a six-play, 74-yard drive. But TMHS junior defensive lineman Connor Nugent (who also had a sack in the first half) blocked the PAT try to keep the Redmen within three at 18-15.
What ensued after that may go down in Tewksbury football history as simply "The Drive."
Undaunted by English's late-game comeback, the Redmen drove 58 yards in just 1:45 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. After Connolly escaped a Bulldog blitz and found Darrgio for a 26-yard completion, Tewksbury turned to Winn, it's veteran, two-year starter and asked him to grind it out.
Winn carried four consecutive times to move the ball down to the English 10-yard line, and sophomore running back Shane Aylward showed poise beyond his years on the next play. On third-and-five Aylward tucked the ball under his arm on a half-back option pass play, and bulled his way to a first down on the one-yard-line. On the next play, Winn dove over the pile and broke the plane of the goal line for the game-winning score.
It was Winn's 12th rushing touchdown of the season, and Aylward couldn't say enough about his star running back afterward.
"We’ve put a lot on his shoulders the last couple years and he’s never complained," the coach said. "He’ll be as banged up as anybody we’ve got and he just comes back ready to go to work. He’s a lunch pail kinda guy. He just punches the time clock and gets in there and gets to work and carries the load for us. He welcomes that. He wants to do that. So it was great having a guy like that in that situation to pound the ball in."
As usual, the unassuming Winn was just happy to contribute.
"It feels good," Winn said. "It was a close one, but we were composed and collected so we knew we were gonna go down and score.
"Coming in, the plan was just to get four yards every play and wear ‘em down towards the end of the game," Winn added. "They were letting up some big plays because of the way my teammates wore them down. Our line did a great job opening up holes for everyone."
Winn finished with 86 rushing yards on 23 carries, in addition to his touchdown pass and a two-point conversion run.
It's the kind of performance Aylward has come to expect of Winn.
"Brandon Winn showed his mettle today," Aylward said. "He’s been a warrior for us, grinding out yards and making his own yards after contact. So I give him a lot of credit and I give our offensive line a lot of credit. That team was big, they were physical, and our guys just kept plugging and kept fighting, so I’m proud of them."
The game was far from over at that point, though, as the quick-strike Bulldogs still had 1:42 on the clock when they got the ball back. The drama lasted only two plays though, as Shane Aylward intercepted a long Severance pass at the Tewksbury 30-yard line to snuff out any hopes that English had of turning the tables.
Winn marveled at Shane Aylward's contributions afteward.
"He’s a helluva player, especially for only being a sophomore," Winn said. "He’s coming up, he’s next. He came through with probably the biggest play of the season."
So the Redmen now move on to the Division 3 Final Four. They'll face North Attleboro High School next Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at Weymouth High School. A win in the state semi-finals would propel the Redmen to the Division 3 Super Bowl.
Aylward watched North Attleboro trounce Duxbury, 35-0 in the South Sectional championship game on Friday night, and he was impressed.
"They took it to Duxbury pretty good," Aylward said. "They’re fast, they're big, they’re strong. They’re a really good football team...They're solid everywhere. It’s going to be the biggest challenge we’ve had yet."