The Tewksbury Offensive Line

The Tewksbury Offensive Line has played extremely well all season, including in Saturday’s win. Shown here from an earlier game include from left, Owen Gilligan (87), Kyle Scrooc (54), Michael Woodford (75), Danny Fleming (9) and then running back Tyler Keough (23).     (photo by Jim Vaiknoras).

TEWKSBURY — A bizarre game ended perfectly for the Tewksbury High School football team Saturday at Doucette Stadium. The Redmen held on to defeat a very good Concord-Carlisle team 27-26 and are now in position to win a third straight Division 3 North title with a win over Winchester on this same field this coming Saturday.

What seemed like a cut-and-dried result was anything but at the end of this latest impressive TMHS playoff victory. The Redmen held leads of 20-6 and 27-13 before the visitors stormed back late in the game thanks largely to two untimely Tewksbury penalties.

Concord-Carlisle had problems with simple center exchanges and a fumbled kick. What looked like an entertaining mess of a football game was ripe for analysis after it was over. Concord-Carlisle went for the two-point conversion and the victory late in the fourth quarter and failed. Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward went away from a running game that featured a nifty power toss sweep by standout senior running back Kyle Darrigo (28 carries, 121 yards, two TD’s) in favor of inside guard-to-guard runs in the fourth quarter.

“All that we can control is our effort and toughness,” said Coach Brian Aylward after his team had secured another piece of a potential championship run. “The thing about these guys is that they are still hungry. It was bizarre through the entire second half. They (Concord-Carlisle) did a good job of stopping some stuff.

“I will go back and look at the calls that I made in terms of being aggressive. I just knew that they made some adjustments in terms of the run game. It’s all about positioning and gaps. If we find something, we are going to try and exploit it. With some of the shifts that we were doing, they kind of fixed some of those things (defensively) in the second half. It was tougher for us. They are a well-coached team. The two defensive ends are really good players. So it wasn’t a situation where we said, ‘let’s stay away from this dude and go after the guy on the other side. It didn’t matter which side you went. It was going to be tough for us to handle — at least with one guy. If you want to double-team them on the edge, those outside linebackers that they have are both really good players.”

It all worked out for the home team, because smack in the middle of this eye-candy of a contest was a hard-to-penetrate and not soft-and-chewy center. In fact, if you made an attempt to chomp down on this center of the force that drove this game, you might just walk away with a busted tooth or two.

Welcome to the rock-solid collective that is the Tewksbury High School offensive line. The Redmen began the game by not allowing the talented Concord-Carlisle defensive ends to set the edge. They controlled the football once they got it, and were more than willing to stick to the plan even when it bogged down.

Then in the fourth quarter the plan shifted somewhat, and Tewksbury ran mostly inside and controlled the football for more than seven minutes. The Redmen ran 57 plays to Concord-Carlisle’s 50. They ran the ball 44 times for 147 yards. Those numbers didn’t matter much to the young men playing along the TMHS offensive line. They had a plan that was designed to work no matter what Concord-Carlisle did on this day.

“It’s deceiving. I think that we had some gaps that we hit,” said Aylward in his post-game assessment. “It wasn’t that we were necessarily pushing them around. I think it was more that we were hitting some gaps that were created by the shifts. We still have to jump off the ball and get in guys’ faces.”

Veteran offensive line coach Paul Norton was asked to name his linemen and shifted smoothly into team-speak. You wouldn’t expect this coach to say anything other than this group collectively did the right thing Saturday.

“It was a great team effort really,” said Norton. “I thought both sides of the ball played well. We had a couple of big drives when we needed it. I wish we could have got a couple more first downs at the end, but the kids really sucked it up and played hard.

“We had some power formations in there-some heavy formations and some different things. Those are the kinds of areas that we like to attack. Our game plan was to attack them hard inside and then go outside. We like to mix it up and attack all the gaps.”

Actually, what the coach offered up was the reverse of how the game began. But that’s exactly how Tewksbury has always liked to run its’ offense. Flexibility needs to be part of any game plan. Plenty of bells and whistles, shifts and motions ending in a play that ultimately looks simple, but really isn’t.

If that assessment is confusing, think about how hard it is to defend against it.

Simply put, this stuff is designed to get the defense looking in the other direction before some little guy roars into an opponent’s face and knocks him to the ground.

It’s all about execution. Tewksbury’s offensive line did exactly that Saturday. Linemen Robbie Kimtis, Kyle Scrooc, Antonio Capelo, Mike Woodford, Anthony DeSisto and Dylan Chandler were all solid in providing space and time for not only Darrigo, but Kalu Olu, Tyler Keough, Dan Fleming, Owen Gilligan, Nolan Timmons and up-and coming quarterback Ryne Rametta (9-for-13, 123 yards, 2 TD’s).

It was suggested that Rametta is still a work in progress. Forget about that one. The young man has helped his team win two playoff games and looks very comfortable on the big stage. He really didn’t make a bad throw all day Saturday.

The depth and versatility of this offensive line is a big factor in this team winning eight of nine games this season. Playing through injuries and slumps is easier when someone can step right in and play multiple positions.

“I usually play around seven kids. Our guards sometimes play tackle. The Woodford kid got banged up a little today and we had to move Kimtis out to tackle-and we put another guard in there. We like to have a couple centers. Not just backing up, but another guard that can jump in and play center,” offered Norton.

None of this works if the coach can’t “coach-em up” and make changes on the fly and in the heat of the moment. This offensive line coach even tosses some bouquets to the skill players running behind his guys up front.

“The Darrigo kid ran pretty hard. It was a total team effort. We definitely stayed low and kept those feet moving today.”

Spoken like a true offensive line coach.

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