WESTWOOD – For the third straight year, the Tewksbury Memorial High School Football team was playing in the Division 3 Eastern Mass (or state semi-final) game, knowing that a win would put them into the Super Bowl to be played at Gillette Stadium.
On Saturday afternoon, the Redmen – fresh off three incredible state tournament wins prior, including the last two by one point each – went up against the Big Green Machine of Duxbury.
A much bigger, more athletic Green Dragons team dominated right from the opening kick-off and ended Tewksbury's thrilling state tournament run with a 35-6 victory played at Xaverian Brothers High School.
The win pushed Duxbury into the state final to be played against last year's champion Springfield Central – with 1,100 boys in its school compared to 425 for Tewksbury – who defeated the Redmen 20-7 last December at Gillette.
“That’s the best team we’ve played,” said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward. “They are athletic everywhere. They did a good job. They are a good team. Our guys fought hard. They had some mismatches that we knew (about) going in. But we’ve been overcoming mismatches (throughout the playoffs), so that’s not new to us. But this was a little bit too extreme.
“They were all over the place. They have good speed up front. Their quarterback is a good athlete. We tried our best to take a run at them. They’re a good team and I wish them luck.”
On the day, Duxbury totaled 349 yards, which included 234 in the air by senior quarterback Will Prouty – who will try to walk-on at Boston College next year – as he connected for 14-of-23 attempts with four TD passes to four different receivers, while, he rushed in a TD as part of his 49 yards on the ground.
Tewksbury, on the other hand, ended up with 81 total yards of offense, with 46 coming on the final play of the game – a TD pass from Ryne Rametta to Danny Fleming. The Redmen actually finished with minus 11 yards on the ground, which included five sacks on Rametta and four additional plays, between running and throwing, that ended up being loss of yards.
“Once we got behind a little bit we had to kind of get out of our game plan a little bit,” said Aylward. “Not that (the game plan) was particularly good today.”
Duxbury scored on its first three offensive possessions of the game, while Tewksbury went three-and-out in its first three series, punting the ball each time with the Dragons starting first down inside Tewksbury territory each time.
Prouty connected with Tim Landolfi — heading to Williams College next year — from 24 yards out, then Cam Reagan from 38 yards out and then Brady Madigan from 22 yards out with Brett Souza making all three PAT kicks for the 21-0 lead.
On Tewksbury's fourth offensive series, the Redmen managed two first downs, but a penalty, two incomplete passes and a 12-yard loss on a QB sack, pushed the ball back to the Redmen 30. The punt went to the Duxbury 40 and quickly the Green Dragons moved the ball to the Redmen four.
Facing first-and-goal, Prouty was picked off by William McKay around the two yard and he returned the interception to the Tewksbury 47, but two QB sacks and an incomplete pass negated that drive and the teams went into the halftime break with Duxbury ahead 21-0.
Duxbury opened the third quarter with another score as Prouty ran one in from 14 yards out making it 28-0. Tewksbury countered, moving the ball to the Duxbury 31 but turned the ball over downs, and did the same early in the fourth quarter from their 13.
After Prouty connected with Anderson to force running time, Tewksbury got the ball back and were able to score on the final play of the game with Rametta connecting with a wide open Fleming as time expired, so therefore no conversion was attempted.
"We tell the kids all of the time and we talked about it before the game and that's never to fear failure," said Aylward. "People fail all of the time. The measure of failure is not always in wins and losses. The measure of failure is if they quit, if they get out-toughed or outworked and I'm not so sure that was the case out here today. I think our guys were working all of the way until the end. As long as they do that, I'm on their side. I love our guys.
"It's a tremendous accomplishment to get here and all of the things that they have accomplished this season to begin with and to even get into this game. A lot of teams want to be in this game and (our kids) fought their way to get into it and it was just a little bit too tall of a challenge for us today."
Over the past three years, Tewksbury has won 10 playoff games, including three this season, which is truly remarkable.
"We grinded it out all the way through (the tournament)," said Aylward. "We have a lot of tough, little kids. They will fight for their town, for their school and for their families and that's what we want them to do.
"I wish we could have a couple of things back and we tried to get them on things that we thought that we could. They were very disciplined. They could be aggressive and do some things maybe that some other teams couldn't do against us defensively because they knew that they had the speed advantage all over the place. It made it really difficult (for us) to do a lot of our stuff offensively.
"I'm just proud of our guys. They fought until the every end, fought all the way to the final play of the game and that's all we can ask for."