TEWKSBURY — Over the last five years, the Tewksbury Memorial High School Football team has lost a total of eight games and six of those were by seven points or less. The team has averaged ten wins a season over that span, which includes last year's magical 11-2 season and a trip to the Division 3 Super Bowl, losing 21-7 to Springfield Central played at Gillette Stadium.
A long list of savvy and versatile veteran players are gone from that 2018 Redmen team, but this year's team returns a handful of veteran players and back-up players from last year who are now starters. Those two groups will be tested right away as the Redmen start the season out facing four outstanding programs with Needham, Methuen, BC High and the returning Division 2 Super Bowl Champs from North Andover.
"Depth wise is pretty good," said head coach Brian Aylward, now in his 23rd season with a record of 150-95-1. "We can do more things with bigger numbers in practice and things have been pretty competitive so that's a good sign of your depth. How good that depth is, I don't know. That could be a bad thing as maybe our top guys are not at the level that we want them to be at. That will show itself in the early going. We're not going to hide. We're playing some very good teams right away, so it's bang-bang-bang."
Last year the Redmen were pretty dynamic on both sides of the ball. The offense scored 331 points, totaled almost 2,200 yards on the ground and over 1,800 in the air. Defensively, the team have up less than half of what they scored, 152 points, which included contests against some of the top ranked teams in the state including Duxbury and Springfield Cathedral.
In order for the offense and defense to continue to dominate, Aylward has to fill in some holes left by the veterans who graduated.
"We've been pretty fortunate not to take on any pre-season injuries so far," he said. "The kids worked awfully hard in the weight during the off-season so that part looks good. Just being here, they are pretty knowledgeable of what the expectations are and they have done it, they have answered that.
“Now it's just a matter of having guys who haven't really been classified as starters, but have contributed on special teams and have been around, but they have to grow up fast because we don't have time for any learning curve stuff with the schedule the way that it is."
Starting with the offense, the team will turn to junior Ryne Rametta (5-10, 170) as the team's new quarterback. He is an outstanding three-sport athlete with baseball and basketball as his other sports. Coach Aylward is confident that Rametta is the right person to take over as the next QB.
"We're happy where he is at," said Aylward. "The more reps that he gets with the varsity team against a pass rush, with movement of defensive backs and reads, I think his process is getting faster and faster. Physically he can make all of the plays that we have asked him to make."
Rametta will have a handful of offensive weapons surrounding him, which should make the transition a bit easier. Senior captain Shane Aylward (5-10, 165) was an All-Scholastic last year and one of the premier players in the entire state. He did double duty last year offensively, finishing with 51 receptions for 1,053 yards and scored nine touchdowns, while he also ran the ball 79 times for 538 yards and scored five more times. He will line up as one of the two halfbacks along with Kyle Darrigo (5-6, 155), who last year finished with over 300 rushing yards and scored five times.
Junior Kalu Olu (5-11, 205) will be the fullback, while senior captain Tyler Keough (5-9, 150) and Nolan Timmons (5-11, 165) will be the two wide outs.
Tewksbury lost a handful of veteran linemen but over the last two years, most of the current athletes saw plenty of time in a rotation basis, and it appears that will happen again this season.
It appears as if senior captain Antonio Capelo (5-8, 255) will be the center. Senior captain Robbie Kimtis (5-11, 215) is a returning all-conference player and will line up as a guard, while, senior Kyle Scrooc (5-10, 18) and junior Stephen Arsenault (5-10, 175) are in the mix for the other guard spot.
The tackles will be a combination of senior captain Mike Woodford (6-0, 305), with seniors Dylan Chandler (6-1, 265) and Anthony DeSisto (5-11, 235). Senior Owen Gilligan (6-0, 180) and sophomore Danny Fleming (5-10, 170) appear to the two tight ends.
"We're just trying to get everyone opportunities to show that they can help us," said Aylward. "Mission accomplished — I think we have a lot of guys who have put themselves in the (current) mix and we have some guys who may not this year, but (in the future). It's been good and I think we have a better understanding of what we have and what we are dealing with, where we need to work and what we need to utilize."
Defensively, many of the names will be the same, but almost the entire line will be in a rotation basis. Capelo, Woodford and senior Riley Auth (5-9, 175) will be at defensive tackle, while, Chandler and Kimtis will line up as the guards.
The linebackers will be Arsenault, Fleming, Scrooc and junior Will McKay (5-10, 175) and the ends will include Richard Markwarth (6-3, 180), Gilligan, Paidric Green and Matt Rosemond (5-9, 165).
The defensive backfield will consist of Shane Aylward and Darrigo as the safeties, Mike Kelly, Darrigo, Timmons and possibly Fleming as the cornerbacks.
Keough will be the place-kicker, Ryan Day will be the long snapper, Shane Aylward will have the punts and most likely Green will have the kick-offs.
Tewksbury opens the season on Friday on the road and will face Needham for the first time in program history with the kick-off scheduled for 6:00 pm. After that will be three straight home games against Methuen, BC High and North Andover.