With the high school football season being moved to February of next year, we are going to run an archive story matching up with that current week’s game. The story below is the week two win over Wakefield coming from 2007.
WAKEFIELD — The Tewksbury High School football team had just held off Wakefield for a 20-14 non-league victory Friday night, but the Redmen coach and the star of the game were far from satisfied. That’s good news for both the team and its’ fans. At 2-0 on the young season, the locals are looking for more — much more — as they head into this Saturday’s home showdown with first MVC opponent Lowell.
"I feel great to be where we’re at and I’m happy for the kids," offered up head coach Brian Aylward after another solid victory. "But, I think that we have work to do, clearly."
Even a raucous cheering section as he headed to the team bus didn’t deter the TMHS coach from looking ahead to the tough task at hand.
"We’ve got to do better,” said Aylward. “The schedule, the way it is with these MVC teams, it’s a dogfight week in and week out. This league is unforgiving, and we’ve got to stay focused all the time. I tell the kids all the time that the minute that you start looking backwards that you’re not going to be ready for the next game."
The team took time to briefly savor its second non-league victory before taking on the MVC iron. Senior Derek Lowe, who kicks, catches, runs and plays defense, all while making the big play when it counts the most, took two kickoffs back for touchdowns (85 and 80 yards) and helped his team hold off Wakefield with a big catch and some runs from the fullback slot late in the fourth quarter when the momentum had shifted ever so slightly.
All this was no big deal to Lowe as he looks to help his mates take on Lowell and its’ contingent of former TMHS coaches.
"I think I’ve played better overall games," observed the senior standout afterwards. "Last year, I had a couple of good games against Haverhill and Dracut, but this is right up there. This was the first time that I returned kicks tonight."
Not bad for a first timer.
Lowe helped Tewksbury set the first half tone as he wiped out a 7-6 Wakefield lead when he turned the kickoff 85 yards down the left sideline for six points. Lowe bobbled the kick, recovered and was escorted practically untouched for the score with 10:37 left in the first half.
"I went to catch it, bobbled it and turned around, and there was great blocking in front of me that made it easy."
Tewksbury had jumped out to a 6-0 first quarter lead when quarterback Chris Texeira slipped a nice screen pass to senior Pat Devlin, who motored 34 yards for the touchdown. Lowe, then made a rare misstep for him when he missed the point after touchdown. Wakefield came right back early in the second quarter when quarterback Brian Millea found Shane Taylor with a 30 TD toss in the right corner of the endzone. Will Gangi’s kick made it, 7-6 Wakefield before Lowe’s pure athleticism took over the game for Tewksbury.
The senior ran back the ensuing kick 85 yards for his first TD, and capped it all off when he hauled in a two-point conversion pass from Texeira to help the Redmen to a 14-7 halftime advantage. The play of the TMHS special teams also was a highlight, as Joel Altavesta blocked a C.J. Jordan punt with Mike Willey recovering at the Wakefield 18 yard line as the Redmen went in to the locker-room with some nice halftime momentum despite a Mike Fiore interception of a Texeira pass at the Wakefield five-yard-line to end the first half.
"For whatever reason, we felt that we didn’t work as much on special teams as we wanted to last week," said coach Aylward after his team sent a first-half special team message to the home squad. "We worked a little more on special teams in practice this week and straightened out some personnel issues. There was that great individual effort by Lowe, but we got some great blocks on that return."
Lowe and the Tewksbury special teams went right at Wakefield to open the second half, as took back the kickoff 80 yards. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Redmen led, 20-7 with 10:45 left to play in the third quarter. The home team used a fake punt run of 13 yards by Sal Bottaro to help shift some momentum with 42 seconds left to play the third quarter. Mike Hanafin then came up with big interception of a Millea pass as the Redmen got the ball back at their own 32.
Wakefield set off on its’ best sustained drive of the game in the fourth quarter, with an 87 yard march that culminated with a 30-yard Millea touchdown pass to Taylor. Gangi’s second PAT cut the lead to the eventual final of 20-14 with 6:12 left to play. Now, it was time for the Redmen to come up with the big plays sparked by the some varsity veterans.
After a delay of game penalty gave the visitors a do-or-die first down situation, seniors Devlin and Lowe both came up big with a pair of receptions from Texeira totaling 13 yards for a pair of first downs. Lowe even stuck in a couple of power runs from the fullback position, the last coming at the home team’s six-yard-line with 24 seconds left, to help Tewksbury kill the clock.
"Chris Texeira made two key throws on that last drive that helped kill their momentum," praised Aylward. "Lowe, Willey, Devlin and Texeira were all huge for us at critical times in the game. We got some key plays from key guys at many different times in this game."
If the Redmen are looking to rattle the big boys in the MVC however, they know that they will have to step their play up a notch beginning Saturday afternoon (1:30 p.m.) at Doucette Field.
"We’ve got to go back, look at our execution on certain things," admitted Aylward. "A couple of times we got a little handcuffed out there and made some mental errors."
With all this talk lately of just which football coach is spying on whom, there will be no need for that come Saturday, with former TMHS assistant coach Al Pare manning the Lowell sideline with several former Redmen assistants. Everyone on both sidelines have football memories and notebooks loaded for bear.
"I’ll have some sleepless nights before we get to this game Saturday," admitted Aylward. "It’s going to be a little bit different going up against coach Pare. We have a lot of respect for him. Coach DelGrosso (current Lowell assistant Joe) was my coach here at Tewksbury, and I started coaching under him here. I have great respect for Joe and coach Fitzmaurice (Bob) right on down the line. That kid Welch at quarterback can sling the ball all over the map, and they have some receivers with speed. We’ve got to keep trying to get better."
Getting better — much better — could lead to a win Saturday and an indication of just how Tewksbury will play as the team heads into the meat of its conference schedule. Aylward has likened the MVC slate to a ‘meat grinder,’ Are these Redmen prime rib, or simply chuck steak? This team and its coach can’t wait to work hard and find out as they lay it all out on the butcher block come Saturday.