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Middies Can't Keep Pace With High-Powered Redmen

Sep 30, 2017 12:57PM ● By Bill Gilman
In 20 years of coaching high school football, Tewksbury High head coach Brian Aylward has seen his share of bounce-back wins.
But few have ever been as emphatic as Friday night's 43-13 trouncing of Dracut High School on the road at moon-lit Beaudry Field.
Dracut quarterback Cameron McCullough threw a pair of touchdown passes to Nike Carter and Joey Petka to lead the Middies (2-2).
Senior running back Brandon Winn rushed for 121-yards and three touchdowns as Aylward's Redmen scored early and often in improving their record to 3-1 overall, and 2-1 in the Merrimack Valley Conference.
And coming on the heels of last week's disappointing 35-16 loss to North Andover, this one had to feel real good for the Redmen.
"Last week felt really, really bad," Aylward said afterward. "But we just went back and looked at the things we did good and the things we could do better. We talked about a sense of urgency and we talked about the other team making a play and not sulking about it. You gotta get right back in it and be hungry for the next play.
It’s not always about winning and losing," Aylward added. "It's not always how you do, it's more about how you do it. And that goes for when you do well and when you don’t do well. We reminded these guys that they're here to represent Tewksbury football, and how we do it is very important. And I thought that how they did it tonight was the right way."
Indeed, there was little wrong with how the Redmen played on Friday. They dominated Dracut on offense and defense, particularly when it came to running the ball. Winn's most productive day of the season spear-headed a TMHS rushing attack that pounded out a season-high 286 yards on the ground and produced a season-high four rushing touchdowns. Tewksbury's outburst came on the heels of the team's worst rushing effort in several years last week, as North Andover had held the Redmen to just 88 total rushing yards, and Winn to just 19.
"We had a good week in practice and 
we kind of had that killer instinct today," Winn reported afterward. "We had the mindset where if we can stop the other team and make 'em go three-and-out, we’re gonna go down and put it in the end zone and make 'em kneel down and give it to us.
"It felt good to bounce back like that," Winn added.
Tewksbury took a 7-0 lead with 3:39 to go in the first quarter when Winn capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run. Winn carried seven times for 40 yards on that drive alone, and it was clear early on that Tewksbury's once-formidable rushing attack was back on track.
"My linemen did a helluva job," Winn said. "I trust them. I just get the ball and follow them wherever they take me."
The Redmen increased their lead to 15-0 early in the second quarter when junior quarterback Jay Connolly hit sophomore wide receiver Shane Aylward with a season-long 64-yard scoring pass. It was Aylward's second career touchdown reception, and he topped that off by tossing a two-point conversion pass to Derek Graffeo on a fake extra-point play (Aylward was the kick-holder) moments later.
TMHS made it 23-0 less than five minutes later when Winn scored his second touchdown of the evening on a four-yard sweep. Senior running back Nolan Kavanaugh set up that TD with a 67-yard run that brought the ball to the Dracut 17. Senior running back Shane Darrigo carried for the two-point conversion. Kavanaugh finished with five carries for 80 yards on the night.
Dracut got on the board with 1:13 left in the second quarter when junior quarterback Cameron McCullough connected with senior running back Nik Carter on an 18-yard touchdown pass. Junior place kicker Kyle Durkin's extra point kick made it 23-7 at the break.
If the Middies hoped to capitalize on that score and carry some momentum into the second half, the TMHS defense had other ideas. The Redmen held Dracut to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, then Tewksbury's Zach Frontain recovered a fumbled punt on the Dracut nine-yard line after TMHS was forced to punt.
Two plays later Connolly tossed his second touchdown pass of the night, this one to senior wide receiver Masyn Lorick from eight yards out, and Tyler Keough's conversion kick made it 30-7 in favor of the visitors. Connolly finished the night with just three completions on nine attempts for 88 yards, but two of the completions were for touchdowns.
The Tewksbury defense then took over, as first senior linebacker Blake Hiltz, then junior lineback Trace Trant intercepted McCullough passes, dashing any hopes Dracut had of making a comeback.
After the Trant pick, Winn made it 36-7 with his third touchdown of the night, this one on a 16-yard reverse.
The fourth quarter was just a formality as the two teams traded relatively meaningless touchdowns. Tewksbury's came on an impressive 69-yard scamper around right end by junior running back Kyle Zervas, who got to the corner and was simply too fast for the Middie defensive backs.
McCullough hit junior wide receiver Joey Petka with a nine-yard TD pass with 1:15 left to account for the 43-13 final score.
Afterward, all was right in Redmen World.
"I just thought overall the kids showed a better sense of urgency tonight," Aylward said. "They played as a group. Everybody was focusing on what their role is in that particular play and how they were gonna help the guys around them. I thought it was good team defense. I thought they hustled and I thought they worked hard, and we had a good result. So hopefully they latch onto that."
For Winn, it was about making amends.
"This program isn’t just about us," Winn explained. "It’s about all the guys who’ve been here before us,  and we just did it for them. We put it on our backs and we said we're not gonna take that loss and let it kill our season, because we know we’re better than that. We had a good practice week, we grabbed the momentum from the opening kick off and we just ran with it."
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