Bettano's Big Day Was One Of The All-time Best
Senior running back led Tewksbury to a shocking 38-28 upset of Andover.
Three days after the fact, there's still a buzz going around the Doucette Field locker room about the Tewksbury High football team's unthinkable 38-28 upset win over previosuly unbeaten Andover High School this past Saturday.
School records are hard to come by, but TMHS coach Brian Aylward is ranking senior running back Chris Bettano's 249-yard, three touchdown rushing effort as one of the best single-game performances he's ever seen in his 15 years as Tewksbury's head coach.
"I can't remember the last time a guy had that many yards in one game," Aylward said. "We're not very good at keeping individual records, but that's certainly the most yards in my memory from one guy."
Bettano's monster effort keyed perhaps one of the most successful days of rushing the football in Tewksbury High history, as the Redmen rolled up 406 yards on the ground. In addition to Bettano's amazing 21-carry 249-yard effort, junior tailback Dan Altavesta scampered for 86 yards on 11 carries, and senior quarterback Kevin Saunders carrried 15 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Tewksbury's five rushing touchdowns also rivals the best in recent memory.
"Yeah, we're still talking about it," admitted Bettano on Tuesday evening. "It's a good vibe. I mean, we still have to think about next week, but it's a good feeling."
No one is claiming that the Redmen overpowered Andover. Rather, they pulled off a huge win by getting to the edge quicker than the Warriors did, and giving their shifty ball carriers a chance to operate in open space.
"We've been working on giving him (Bettano) the right kinds of opportunities," Aylward said. "The guys up front played great and they were able to give him the space to go ahead and make it happen."
Prominent among they guys up front are senior guards Derek Tarpey and Ryan Eatherton, who Aylward labels as two of the most athletic offensive linemen in the Merrimack Valley Conference.
"Those two guys were awesome," Aylward said. "They were getting out blocking in open space and they did a great job."
Senior center Brendan O'Keefe, senior offensive tackles Frankie McInnis and Evan Conway also had huge games.
"Frankie McInnis had the best game of his career and Evan Conway is just getting better and better every week," Aylward said.
"Everyone on our line did great blocking, all the way down the field," Bettano agreed.
It shouldn't come as a great surprise that Bettano had such an amazing game, however. As a junior, he rolled up 222 yards and three scores in a big win over Lowell.
"He's very instinctive, and he's got an incredible motor," Aylward said of Bettano. "He got his ankle stomped in the Lawrence game and he got kicked in the throat in the bottom of the pile against Lawrence and we thought he had broken his jaw. Then he comes back a week later and does this. That just shows how tough he is."
Bettano doesn't exactly do it with brute force, either. He stands no taller than 5-8, and weighs in well under 160 pounds.
"We've always said that, pound-for-pound we've got some of the toughest kids around, but how can you question that after what (Bettano) did," Aylward said. "He twists, he turns, he keeps his legs moving. He takes hits and spins off them. He's a relentless kind of runner."
What made Bettano's performance and the team's big win all the more memorable was that it came against Andover and the Warriors highly-touted senior running back, Andy Coke. Widely regarded as the MVC's top RB this fall, Coke had single-handedly destroyed the Redmen in a 39-32 Andover victory the last time these two teams met, last September. Coke rushed for 222 yards, scored five touchdowns on the ground, and tossed a touchdown pass in that game.
On Saturday, the TMHS defense held Coke to a fairly pedestrian 103 yards rushing, and two touchdowns.
Aylward is crediting Saunders with cooling Coke's heels in the second quarter when the two met at the Andover goal line as Saunders rushed for Tewksbury's first score of the day. Coke also plays defensive back for Andover.
"Coke tried to stand (Saunders) up at the goal line and Saunders just ran over him," Aylward said. "He (Coke) was slow to get up and I think it took a lot out of him."
Meanwhile, Bettano stole the spotlight in what now stands as an amazing turnaround for the TMHS offense, which was held to just two first downs in an opening day loss to Lincoln-Sudbury, and had scored just 15 points in its first two games combined. By contrast, Andover came into the game ranked as the 8th best team in the entire state, and the Redmen slapped 38 points on them.
"You've heard plenty of stories about teams letting down after getting off to the kind of start we did," Aylward said. "But that wasn't the case with these kids. They rallied. They worked even harder. We had a brutal week of practice last week but they showed up ready to go. This is a group of real tough kids and the fact that they were able to go out and play the way they did says a lot about their character."
Practice this week has taken on a whole new atmoshpere, according to Bettano.
"We're just flying around," he said. "We're excited. It was a big win. It was good to see."