Connolly & Co. Get a Sneak Peek of Super Bowl Stage
FOXBORO -- Jay Connolly had a big smile on his face while standing not far from midfield on the turf Tom Brady has been producing magic on for much of his Hall of Fame career.
Tewksbury High’s senior quarterback was in the midst of an excused day off from school that would draw the envy of Ferris Bueller.
Connolly, along with fellow Redmen football captains Kyle Zervas, Trace Trant, Jack Kelly and Zach Weitz, spent Tuesday morning at the MIAA state championship football breakfast at Gillette Stadium.
Bueller may have caught a foul ball at Wrigley Field while skipping school, but Connolly topped him by getting to walk around the Patriots’ home field. And later this week Connolly will be throwing passes there in front of a large contingent of Redmen fans in the biggest game of his life.
Tewksbury (11-1) will play Springfield Central (10-1) in the Division 3 state championship game at Gillette Stadium Saturday at 6 p.m.
“It’s amazing just looking around this stadium,” said Connolly, who was named the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 Offensive Player of the Year. “Just to be standing here right now, where the Patriots play, is so incredible.
“This is crazy to think we’re going to play here. It’s a dream a come true. I knew it was a possibility, but you never know it’s going to actually happen.”
This hard-working group of Redmen have made their dream a reality. Tewksbury’s road to Gillette included playoff wins over Billerica, 35-6, Beverly, 21-14, Danvers, 28-21, and Duxbury, 29-21.
Many of the Redmen have been teammates dating back to grade school, which has made this season-long journey to the brink of a state championship that much more rewarding. There’s no better feeling than experiencing the thrill of victory in games where everything is on the line with your best buddies.
“We truly are a band of brothers,” said Kelly, a two-way force at fullback and linebacker. “It’s something special to do this with this group of guys. We’ve been playing together for a long time. We’re a really tight group. To be able to get here as a team is awesome.
“Just looking around (Gillette) I can’t wait to get out here and play. It should be fun. I don’t think the surroundings will get to us. Once the game starts it’s just like any other field. We’ll block out the noise and focus on playing football.”
Tewksbury is one of the premier high school football programs in the Commonwealth. A perennial MVC power, the Redmen’s last state crown came in 2013, when Tewksbury defeated Plymouth South, 42-14, in the Division 3 final.
“They know about our tradition,” said Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward. “I think that’s what makes them play the way they play. I think from the time they are very young football is a big part of our community. I’ve known these guys since they were in the second grade, doing Redmen camp in the summer time.
“So it’s real special for me to see them get here. It’s awesome. They’ve worked so hard for this. They’ve earned their way to be here. I’m so proud of them.”
For Aylward a season-ending trip to Gillette with a championship on the line is a chance for him to go back to the future. Aylward was a standout on the Redmen club coached by his father, Bob, that defeated Bridgewater-Raynham, 24-13, in the 1985 EMass. Division 2 Super Bowl at Sullivan Stadium.
The 2013 squad Brian Aylward coached to the state crown was quarterbacked by his son, Johnny. In keeping with the proud Aylward gridiron tradition, this year’s edition of the Redmen features the game-breaking skills of Aylward’s son, Shane, a junior MVC Division 2 all-conference running back.
“Being involved in this game is such a powerful memory,” said Brian Aylward. “As good as the memory is going to be it’s even greater if they go out and play the way they’ve played all season long.”
As the resident football genius in Foxboro, Bill Belichick, likes to say, ‘No days off’ when it comes to winning championships. But the Redmen took a memorable day off from school Tuesday. And it proved to be the best field trip ever.
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi