Wilson Saves the Day As Redmen Reserve a Spot at Gillette
LOWELL -- Although the phrase gets beat to the ground by every coach and team, especially in football, you really need a large group of different players to shine when the big moments arrive.
On Saturday afternoon, the Tewksbury Memorial High School football team saw its incredible postseason last another week thanks to a long list of stars after a tremendous 29-21 victory over the previously undefeated Duxbury Green Dragons in their MIAA Division 3 semifinal played at Cawley Stadium.
Senior Colby Wilson picked off his second pass at the goal line with 96 seconds to play, sealing the deal for the Redmen to make the program’s eighth appearance in the Super Bowl.
“I’ve been playing sports with these guys my whole life and it’s a special thing to be going to the Super Bowl with them,” said Wilson. “Going into the season, we knew that we were going to be good, but the things we have done together, we have done our whole lives and it has worked out and is paying off right now.”
The Redmen will play Springfield Central on either Nov. 30 or Dec. 1 at Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium.
Tewksbury last appeared in the Super Bowl in 2013, finishing as champions with a program best 13-0 record. Two years before that, the Redmen were whitewashed by Duxbury, 35-0, in the Division 2A game under the old playoff format. Now seven years later, those bad memories are hopefully erased.
“This will be the third that I have gone to as a coach, and the first one is certainly a memory I have (thinking) that I let the kids down,” said an emotional TMHS coach Brian Aylward. “I don’t know, but I go back to that game a lot. That had a huge impact on me as a coach -- the loss that we took to Duxbury back in 2011. I think about it more than anybody knows. To play them and have them be the team that we beat to get there is just really special.
“I’m just proud that our kids came out here today and fought for their school, fought for their town and fought for their families. I’m telling you, these kids want to make their town proud, want to make their school proud, they want to make their family proud and they certainly have made me proud. I’m just so happy for them.”
From the opening kickoff to the final play of the game, the Redmen received tremendous performances down the line. Tewksbury jumped out to a 15-0 lead on touchdown runs by Jack Kelly and QB Jay Connolly (8-for-14, 133 yards), while, junior Shane Aylward (128 combined yards) ran in a conversion on a fake PAT attempt on the first score.
Duxbury added a touchdown before the half ended, but out of the gate in the third quarter, Tewksbury responded as senior Kyle Zervas (6-70) scored on a 41-yard run, ducking defenders, staying inbounds down the left sideline before diving onto the pylon to help the Redmen go up 22-8.
Later in the third, on the first play from scrimmage off an interception, Duxbury scored as Jack Jacobson caught a 32-yard pass from QB John Roberts, who was outstanding in this game completing 14-of-28 passes for 160 yards with 3 TDs, while also rushing for 115 yards. He rushed in the conversion making it a one possession game at 22-14, which stood through three quarters.
Tewksbury responded with a 10-play, 79-yard drive, which included two gorgeous receptions. The first came on a 44-yard completion to Shane Aylward, and the second came on a third-and-nine play with Connolly throwing to the left end zone and senior Josh Sughrue making a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch for the 23-yard score. The PAT kick by Tyler Keough was good and Tewksbury led 29-14 with about seven minutes left in the game.
Duxbury continued to fight back, and answered with a 13-play, 63-yard scoring drive with Roberts finding Leo Alligaier open from 14 yards out. The kick was good making it an eight-point game with 4:23 to go.
After Tewksbury went three-and-out, Duxbury started its last drive from its own 27 and quickly moved the ball up the field to the Redmen 11 with 2:11 left. After a one-yard gain, Roberts threw a pass to the end zone and Wilson stepped up to make the interception, a la Malcolm Butler.
“I saw my guy break and I saw the ball coming, and I just came up and made a play for my teammates,” said Wilson. “It’s a blessing. You dream about making plays like that. It’s just so special to be going to Gillette.”