NEEDHAM — Through the first 8:23 of Friday night's season opener at Needham, it appeared as if either the Rockets were much better than advertised after their dominating loss to Natick, or perhaps, Tewksbury's defense had some big holes that quickly needed to be patched up.
After Needham opened the game up with an impressive 16-play, 70-yard scoring drive capped off by a 1-yard QB sneak, the Redmen's offense took over the game scoring on their only two possessions of the first half, before senior Shane Aylward out the game away with a 90-yard kick-off return to open the third quarter, giving him three straight touchdowns, en route to Tewksbury’s 32-6 season opening non-league victory held at Memorial Field.
Shifting back to the defense, on that first drive, the Redmen gave up four first downs, 70 yards including four of eight yards or more, and didn't seem in sync. But that quickly changed as Needham only managed 64 yards the rest of the half and 121 the rest of the game. Needham's offense didn't score another point, while, Tewksbury's defense came up with a number of big defensive plays in big situations, including four QB sacks.
"It's tough going into a game when you have a lot of guys who haven't played at the varsity level," said Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward. "We are filling in a lot of kids in key positions and we have only two or three guys who really factored in on both sides of the ball throughout last year. We play a lot of guys — even last year we tried to play as many guys as we possibly could and that's how we try to keep it from being not disastrous (the following season), when you have to basically reload.
"The guys who are in there, need to get the opportunities and we try to play a lot of guys particularly on the defensive side. It's tougher to do that on the offensive side and still execute, but we still had a couple of different personnel sets out there and a lot of substitutions. Looking at all of the things that we did to hurt ourselves, penalties, focus things, we'll work on those for sure."
Besides that first drive, the Redmen really did play well. The team didn't have any turnovers, but did chalk up 75 yards worth of penalties. Offensively, junior quarterback Ryne Rametta had a tremendous first start of his career, as he completed 9-of-12 passes for 132 yards and a TD. In a back-up role last year he completed all six of his attempts and Friday, he completed the first three, so he started his career off going 9-for-9.
After a pair of Shane Aylward TD runs gave Tewksbury a 14-6 halftime lead, it was extended after the 90-yard kick-off return. Rametta then tossed a 40-yard TD pass to Nolan Timmons before Kyle Darrigo finished off the scoring on a 21-yard run.
"I'm happy with the way Ryne performed especially in a new situation," said Coach Aylward. "Shane did some good things. And it's not that easy when you have that kind of pressure. I don't know how many kids his size who gets the pressure that he gets sometimes."
The Coach said that the entire team deserves credit after the bumpy start.
"The kids did a good job," he said. "They came together as a team. They went through some battles and that's how you do it showing a lot of grit. Early on that thing could have gone sideways because of all of the young guys we had in there, but they kept their composure and the coaches kept their composure. We're happy with the way a lot of guys played. The guys upfront shored things up and were able to get after it."
METHUEN UP NEXT
On Saturday (1:30 pm), the Redmen will host Methuen in its home-opener for a non-league contest, as the Rangers compete out of the MVC Division 1 Conference. Methuen is coached by Tom Ryan, the former longtime TMHS assistant, and he has done a marvelous job putting the program on the map. Last year's team finished 8-3, which included the tremendous 31-30 season opening win for the Redmen, with Keough booting a 33-yard field goal to win the game.
"We have to expect the same (kind of game),” said Coach Aylward. “We have had our eyes on them a couple of times and they have some talent. They are another big school. They have kids ready to go, even when they lose guys. Tommy is doing a great job over there and we have our work cut out for us.
“We try to explain to these guys to not be scoreboard watching, don't be trying to evaluate guys and (instead) focus on what you do, what your roll is and be prepared for the guy across from you to be bigger, stronger and faster and play to the best of your abilities and that's all you can do.”
Methuen is coming off a 47-14 season opening win over Malden Catholic. The Rangers' offense, which averaged 26 points per game last year, will be led by QB Connor Bryant, running backs Zac Bergeron and Matt Martino, who should be back from an injury and wide outs Kareen Coleman and Nic Mathieu.
Last year Bryant completed 11-of-21 passes for 190 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Anthony Romano made 16 tackles against MC with five for loss of yards.