AP NEWS

BIG-GAME HUNTERS

November 30, 2018

REMEMBER WHEN: This photo, which was taken by Sun photographer David Brow in September of 2011, shows a group of Tewksbury youngsters gathered to check out the Saturday afternoon football game between Tewksbury High and Andover at Doucette Stadium. From left are Joshua Rosado, Kyle Zervas, Colby Wilson, Zach Weitz and Will McKay. Flash forward seven years. Zervas, Wilson, Weitz and McKay are key members of this year's Redmen football team that will play for the state championship on Saturday. Rosado became a cross-country runner for TMHS. Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FOXBORO -- Brian Aylward has guided Tewksbury High’s football team to 150 career wins and counting.

While every win on his resume is meaningful, should the head coach notch victory No. 151 this weekend it would be extra special.

The next time Aylward signals in a play from the sideline it will be in Foxboro and a state championship will be on the line.

Tewksbury (11-1) will play Springfield Central (10-1) in the MIAA Division 3 final at Gillette Stadium on Saturday at 6 p.m.

“Every game we’ve won since I’ve been here matters,” said Aylward, whose Redmen defeated Wilmington, 43-0, on Thanksgiving. “Every one of them was hard. A lot of work goes into every win.”

Especially when it comes to winning a state title. Aylward guided Tewksbury to the 2013 Division 3 state crown, beating Plymouth South, 42-14.

Tewksbury earned the trip to Foxboro by knocking off Duxbury, 29-21, in a state semifinal. Springfield Central is a deep and talented club that beat defending Division 3 state champ St. John’s of Shrewsbury, 56-20, in its state semifinal game.

Springfield Central is a Western Massachusetts power that has lit up the scoreboard for 55 or more points in six games this season. The Golden Eagles scored 71 points in a win over Agawam.

Tewksbury is a battle-tested squad that has posted wins over talented Division 1 teams Methuen, 31-30, and BC High, 12-0.

“Fortunately, we played the schedule we played,” said Aylward. “We played bigger schools like Lawrence, Methuen and BC High. (Springfield Central is) a much bigger school than us. But it’s still 11 high school kids out there at a time.

“Sometimes bigger schools can put a different 11 out there every play and there are times when we pretty much stick to the same 11. But our guys know what it takes to win. They have to be tough. They’re in shape. They are ready to go.”

Senior quarterback Jay Connolly makes the Redmen offense go. He has passed for 1,642 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for seven touchdowns. Connolly was named the MVC Division 2 Offensive Player of the Year.

With Connolly under center the past three seasons, Tewksbury has won its share of big games. Now the Redmen are a victory away from high school football’s ultimate prize.

“This is the only one that matters,” said Connolly. “All the awards we’re all getting and all the talk about what we’ve accomplished is nice. But we’ve still got one more big game to win. The bond this team has is great. We play for each other. We all have each other’s back. We play as a team.”

More importantly, the Redmen win as a team.

Running back Shane Aylward has had a strong all-around season. Aylward has rushed for 538 yards and five TDs, caught 51 passes for 1,053 yards and nine touchdowns, and thrown a TD pass.

The other big-play threats in Tewksbury’s backfield are Jack Kelly (602 yards rushing, 5 TDs), Kyle Zervas (342 yards rushing, 5 TDs) and Kyle Darrigo (317 yards rushing, 5 TDs).

Josh Sughrue (15 receptions, 3 TDs) and Connor Brincklow (1 TD) have come up with key receptions.

Fixtures in the offensive line are Trace Trant, Justyn Lester, Rob Kimtis, and Zach Weitz.

Leading the way on defense are Connor Nugent, Kelly, Colby Wilson, Aylward and Derek Graffeo.

“They’re in the state championship game so they are a good football team,” said Springfield Central assistant coach William Watson. “They are physical. They play hard. And they have a winning tradition.

“I’m sure they expect to come here and win. We expect to win, too. So it should be a good game.”

Since losing to Lincoln-Sudbury, 35-7, in its opener, the Golden Eagles’ closest margin of victory has been 22 points. Defensively, Springfield Central has posted five shutouts.

In the state semifinal win over St. John’s, Isaac Boston threw two TD passes and ran for two scores, while Kwame Kyles rushed for 143 yards and two TDs to pace the Golden Eagles’ high-powered attack.

“We’ve gone through some good battles on the field to get here, but Saturday is going to be a game of its own,” said Watson. “There’s nothing in the past we can draw on that’s going to help us. We’re going to have to come out and play football against a good team.”

Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi

AP RADIO
Update hourly