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Connolly Sharpening Skills for Senior Year

August 1, 2018

Tewksbury High football quarterback Jay Connolly looks to make a pass during a passing league game at Chelmsford High School on Tuesday. SUN/Julia Malakie Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

CHELMSFORD -- The warmth of the last sunset in July had an autumn feel to it on the turf at Chelmsford High’s Simonian/Alumni Stadium.

The calendar has turned to August. The days of preparing for the start of the upcoming high school gridiron season in the weight room are nearly over. The first day of conditioning practice for local Massachusetts teams is scheduled for Aug. 17.

The players at Tuesday’s seven-on-seven competition certainly seemed ready to put on a helmet and pads and play a game that wasn’t of the touch variety.

One of the many local QBs who was filling the air with footballs was Tewksbury High senior Jay Connolly, who has been counting down the days to the start of camp since school got out.

Connolly, a Redmen co-captain, isn’t in a hurry to rush his summer away. But he’s eager to get back to the business of helping Tewksbury win football games.

A two-year starter at quarterback, Connolly has emerged as the consummate winner. He has guided Tewksbury to 20 total wins and two MVC Division 2 titles. Last fall, Connolly helped lead the Redmen to the Division 3 North sectional crown.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Connolly. “My teammates are awesome. The coaching staff is awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better situation or team to play for.

“The start of the season is very close. We’re ready. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get going.”

Connolly’s arm strength, composure and experience were on display while directing the Redmen attack Tuesday. Tewksbury was hard-hit by graduation, especially at the skill positions, and the rapport he’s building with teammates is important to the development of the offense. There’s no way you can overvalue the trust a team has in its quarterback to make plays.

“We’re pretty young, but we’re working hard and we’re learning,” said Connolly. “We’ve been getting better throughout the off-season. I’m confident we’ll be ready to go for our first game.

“We’ve won a lot of games the past couple years. But I’ve never really paid attention to the winning because we haven’t won a Super Bowl. That’s why I haven’t been completely satisfied yet. That’s why we keep working so hard as a team.”

Connolly stands 6-feet and weighs 170-pounds. He has been at his best when it mattered most. Connolly threw a TD pass in the win over Lynn English in the Div. 3 North final. Then passed for 194 yards and three TDs in the loss to North Attleboro in the Div. 3 state semifinal.

“He definitely made some big plays there,” said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward. “He made big plays all year for us.

“He’s very disciplined. He’s been poised beyond his years since he was a young kid. He takes care of the ball. He has a great touchdown-to-turnover ratio. The numbers he posts correlate to wins. As long as he keeps doing that, we’ll be in good shape this season.”

Connolly makes plays with his arm, feet and head. He passed for 1,280 yards and 16 TDs, and rushed for two TDs in 2017. As a sophomore, Connolly threw 11 TDs and rushed for four TDs. He has thrown 27 TDs with only seven interceptions during his varsity career.

“He’s consistent,” said Aylward. “He’s a gamer. He’s made some improvised-type plays, last year and the year before. That comes with reps and getting comfortable and knowing where guys are going to be if things breakdown.

“He’s a team player. He knows he was just a part of what we accomplished (the past two seasons). But a big part of that. He’ll have to be a big part of it again this year.”

Connolly is following in the footsteps of his older brother, Sean, who was a former standout quarterback for the Redmen.

“I definitely learned a lot from him,” said Connolly. “He gave me some pointers that not everyone else gets.”

Connolly, an honor roll student, has certainly put the knowledge his brother passed along to him to good use.

“He’s done great,” said Aylward. “He’s put a lot of off-season work in. He’s had a good winter and spring in the weight room. This summer he’s been out throwing. He looks good in the seven-on-seven stuff. You can see his experience. We’re going to have to lean on that experience for sure this season.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi

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