WILMINGTON – If you are a fan of offense, that's certainly what you got during last Thursday's 88th match-up (87th year) of Tewksbury and Wilmington High School Football.

The two teams combined for 13 touchdowns, 751 total yards of offense and 91 points during 48 minutes of 'hot potato' held on a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day morning held at Alumni Field.

In the end, Tewksbury's duo of Danny Fleming and Alex Arbogast just couldn't be stopped and they helped lead the Redmen to a 56-35 victory. The win makes it 11 in a row for Tewksbury and 13 of the last 14 games, while 56 points broke a single game point record of 45 done twice in 1990 and 2015, and the combined 91 points is the most in any game, breaking the former mark of 73 back in the 45-28 victory for the Redmen also from 1990.

Fleming finished the game scoring six touchdowns – the most from any player in the history of this rivalry. He rushed the ball 23 times for 232 yards, completed 5-of-7 passes for 90 yards, caught a 45-yard TD pass from teammate Michael Sullivan and also completed a pair of conversion passes. He figured in 40 of the team's 56 points on the day and had 367 all-purpose yards.

Arbogast had a coming out party, as he finished with 153 rushing yards on 11 carries, while scoring two touchdowns.

The two of them combined to rush for 385 yards and score seven rushing touchdowns. Tewksbury finished the game with 515 total yards of offense, with 380 coming on the ground (the other three carries combined for negative five yards).

"We couldn't stop them – just couldn't stop them," said a dismantled Craig Turner, head coach of the Wildcats. "We threw as many guys to the line of scrimmage that we could possibly could and still couldn't stop them. We had some shots, we got some stops, but they just made too many big plays on us in the running game. That third down on the roll-out really hurt. We had a good chance to get a stop there. It's tough, they are a good team.

"They just got a couple more big plays than us and we needed to make a couple more stops. I think it's always tough for us when we get into a spot where we have to throw it every time. Once we go down two scores and there's six or seven minutes left, it's just really tough. We just put as many kids on the line of scrimmage as we could and just couldn't stop them."

As expected, Wilmington struggled on the ground against a strong and veteran defensive line. The 'Cats finished the game with 35 rushing yards on 29 carries – 16 of those yards coming on the final play of the game. Quarterback Pedro Germano did complete 5-of-11 passes for 149 yards, while halfback Marcello Misuraca tossed a 42-yard pass, had two receptions for 74 yards and eight carries for 26 yards as part of his 142 all-purpose yards game, and senior John Germano had a big 78-yard kick-off return TD, but all of that wasn't enough against on this day.

"I was scared going in knowing the match-up where their best talent was is where we have inexperience. We were afraid to put our cornerbacks in real tough situations and you saw that in the first half. They are well-coached enough and they have enough other weapons, that if you try to take away one thing, and not get hurt by something else. They did that with their offense," said Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward. "We took into some adjustments during halftime defensively in particular and I think that helped us.

"Then it's just about grinding it out on offense. We can go off of what we think we're going to get with looks on some formations and everyone does that a little bit differently. We tried to make the best guess with how they would attack things with the personnel that they had and they did some good stuff that gave us trouble, so we had to grind really hard to get the yards that we got. Then we started to get a beat on some personnel stuff and then in the end it was just about our guys wanting it and just saying 'hey look, we have seen so many different looks, so follow your rules, talk to the guys in your neighborhood to make sure you're on all the same page, lock it up and whoever has the ball run hard with it'."

Wilmington started with the ball and went three-and-out which included a 14-yard QB sack by defensive end Blake Ryder. That helped Tewksbury get the ball just over midfield and five plays later with the ball on the W38, Fleming took the snap, rolled right, but turned his body and sent a quick pass to the flat, and senior tight end Isaias Pena caught his first pass of the season and went 39 yards before being tackled at the one yard line. Fleming then finished off the drive, but the PAT kick was blocked.

John Germano then answered as he took the kick-off at his own 22, found an open seam, bursted right through and went untouched for the 78-yard TD. He booted the PAT and the Wildcats took a 7-6 lead.

Tewksbury, which scored on every offensive possession except for one, countered with a 7-play, 70-yard drive. A key play came when Sullivan cut across the middle to catch what ended up to be a 36-yard reception, but a 15-yard penalty pushed the Redmen back to the 'Cats 29. That play ended the first quarter. Two plays later, Fleming scored on a 26-yard run, moving off left tackle and running over Wilmington's Alfonso Gambale in the open field. Fleming then completed a pass to Sullivan to help Tewksbury go up 14-7.

Wilmington then answered quickly once again. After three running plays for a combined 11 yards, Pedro Germano connected over the middle to Gavin Erickson, who went 46 yards for the TD and the PAT kick was good to tie the game up at 14-14 just 15:09 into the game.

Tewksbury gained one first down and eventually had to punt from its own 41. Wilmington took over on its 35, and on the first play, Misuraca made a terrific catch in triple coverage, this one going for 41 yards. Four plays later, Pedro scored on an 8-yard run. The PAT kick missed and Wilmington led 20-14.

That lead didn't stay long – 1:44 to be exact. Four scrimmage plays later, facing first-and-ten from the Redmen 49 and 1:47 left in the half, Arbogast took a hand-off to his right, cut to the left and went for a 51-yard TD. Ryder caught the conversion pass from Fleming and Tewksbury led 22-20 with 1:20 left in the half.

All day long, Tewksbury's offensive and defensive lines dominated.

"I'm proud of all of those guys up front – Aaron Connelly made some big plays and he was great all year long. Cole Kimtis was our silent leader and he just did the right things all of the time. He's a guy who really makes the program good and you got to have a kid who can make plays, who can be a leader on and off the field and all of that and Cole provides all of that for us.

"Then Davenche to get a kid like that to come into an odd situation and then just work his way in. The International Language is working. You need to show up and do the work and if you do that you'll earn the respect in a hurry and that's exactly what he did," said Aylward.

Wilmington went three-and-out, with Pena coming up with a big tackle on Erickson for a three-yard loss on second down and it remained a two-point game at the break.

The second half continued to be an offensive frenzy – with Tewksbury totally dominating. The Redmen opened the third quarter with a 8-play, 51-yard drive, all on the ground, finished with a 21-yard TD run by Fleming coming on second-and-nine. Kodie LeGrand's kick was good and the Redmen led 29-20.

Wilmington again answered the bell. On second down, Pedro Germano found his brother open on a deep route for 33 yards. Three plays later, Pedro found Misuraca over the middle for a 23-yard gain, moving the ball to the one. Misuraca then powered his way into the end zone, going off the left side. He then rushed in the conversion to make it a 29-28 game.

Then suddenly the air left the 'Cats tires. On first play from scrimmage, Fleming went up the middle, shifted to his left and went in for a 63-yard touchdown. The rush failed and Tewksbury led 35-28.

Wilmington was forced to punt, Tewksbury took over on its own 17 with 55 seconds left in the third. Again on the first play from scrimmage, it was Arbogast's turn, as he went to his right untouched for an 83-yard TD and the kick was good to push the lead to double digits at 42-28.

"Arbogast helped led us today and we have been waiting for that all year. He has to realize that if we can get through the muck, he has a chance to get (a touchdown) every time. We have been harping on him on that all season long. We were able to do it today and he broke free on a couple," said Aylward. "We have felt that on the other end of so many Wilmington games. You see a kid and you're like 'I'm not sure how good he is. He might be real good and then there you go, you're looking at the back of his jersey number all day'. We have been in those situations."

Wilmington didn't roll over. Taking the ball at on its own 40, the 'Cats went to the trick bag on first down with a double-pass play as Misuraca found John Germano for a 42-yard completion. Six plays later, Pedro Germano scored on a 1-yard run and his brother's kick was good cutting the deficit back down to seven at 42-35 with 10:01 left in the game.

It looked like Wilmington's defense was going to hold Tewksbury after a big first down tackle made by Luke Murphy, followed by a short two-yard gain. That set up third-and-eight and Fleming came through with a 12-yard completion to Sullivan, before going 53 yards on the next play for his fifth rushing touchdown of the game. LeGrand's kick was good and Tewksbury led 49-35.

Wilmington went three-and-out, which included a big tackle on first down by Nick Wilson. Tewksbury took over on its own 47 and seven plays later, the Redmen were going to punt from the 'Cats 45. Sullivan took the snap and found a wide open Fleming on the right sideline so he tossed him the ball, and Flem went the distance for his sixth and the game's final touchdown of the game.

"These kids are resilient. We have managed to find ways to get ourselves in tough situations all year long, right from the start of camp. I'm proud of all of the perseverance, and especially from our senior kids," said Aylward. "They showed all of that not just during the season, but for the younger kids of things just being different. We talked about that (on Wednesday) that these kids had to go through different things and their stories are unique, but what's the same is this (Thanksgiving Day game). It's still an event that combines the two towns so we told them that this is your opportunity to fight for your town, so go out there and give it everything you've got."

Tewksbury finished the season with an incredible 8-3 record, which included winning the MVC Division 2 Championship title for the fourth straight year and qualifying for the playoffs (different format this year) for the ninth straight year (not counting Fall-2 season).

Wilmington finished with a 6-5 overall record, losing its last two games, after two big wins over Wakefield to get into the playoffs and then Middleboro in the first round, which became the program's second playoff victory in its history.

"The kids played really tough this year. I put it on anyone else who can do (better than) what we do with what we have. We've got some kids who literally are very small, very limited strength, we coach them up and they play very, very hard for us and we are lucky that we have that," said Turner. "They just play so tough for us. We had a great group of seniors.

"We had a winning season which is nice. I think we left a few games out there (that we could have had). We also played a real tough schedule. We went far in the playoffs and lost a tough one. I'm just really proud of these kids to be their coach. To play the schedule we did, go far in the playoffs and have a winning record, and play as hard as we did today against this really good (Tewksbury) team, they just had a little bit more than us today."

POST-SEASON AWARDS

The MVC announced its post-season awards on Tuesday. Danny Fleming was named D2 Player of the Year. Aaron Connelly, Cole Kimtis, Michael Sullivan, Davenche Sydney and Nick Wilson were named All-Conference, and Alex Arbogast, Sean Hirtle, Isaias Pena and Blake Ryder were named to the second team.

Also Methuen’s Tommy Ryan, was named the D1 Coach of the Year. He was a former assistant at TMHS.

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