Matovu, Sullivan Carry Redmen Past Hillies, 30-22
Tewksbury High picks up first wins of the season on the road against MVC rival.
High school students don't do any noticeable growing over just six days. But growing up? That's another story.
James Sullivan scored from five yards out with 1:39 left to play and the Redmen defense shut down the high-flying Hillies' attack, en route to a 30-22 win in the MVC opener for both teams.
The game was eerily reminiscent of the Redmen's game at Haverhill, won by the Hillies in the final minute. The game Friday was tied, 14-14 at halftime and 22-22 after three quarters before Tewksbury was able put things away.
"I'm hoping it was just a matter of gaining experience," said Tewksbury Coach Brian Aylward. "(Our players) knew how hurtful this game was last year and how important this game was."
Eddie Matovu, quickly becoming the go-to back for the Redmen, ran for 127 yards and two touchdowns (45, 27) on 14 carries. He scored a third touchdown on a 59-yard pass from quarterback Johnny Aylward (6 of 11, 95 yards).
Brian Aylward said Matovu is continually improving his game.
"He did a couple of things of things this week that he couldn't do last week and a couple of things last week that he couldn't do the week before," said Aylward.
But the key to this win for the Redmen was the play of their defense. In particular, the secondary, led by senior Zac Dirocco, junior Kevin Dick and sophomore Ryan Bednarek. Tight pass coverage and sure tackling held in check a Haverhill spread-formation offense that rolled up 42 points against Malden last week.
Haverhill quarterback Tommy Morgan, touted as a potential conference MVP candidate, finished 20 of 31 through the air for 172 yards. But Morgan did much of his damage in the first quarter, leading the Hillies on a pair of touchdown drives. After that, the Redmen defense stiffened.
"I think our secondary gained a lot of confidence. We tell them you have to believe you can do it. Then go out and do it," said Aylward. "It was a huge game for them. We'd heard a lot about (Morgan) and they are such a tough team to defend. We're going to see a lot of spread teams with a lot of great athletes this season."
After a two-yard touchdown run by Haverhill's Chance Brady (20 carries, 125 yards, 2 TD) got the scoring going in the first quarter, Tewksbury answered with Matovu's 27-yard scoring run and the 59-yard scoring pass from Aylward.
Haverhill answered late in the quarter on a two-yard TD pass from Morgan to Jordan Jeveir to tie the game.
Tewksbury regained the lead in the third quarter when Matovu took an inside handoff, busted it to the outside and outraced the Haverhill defense down the sidelines for a 45-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion pas from Aylward to Kevin Dick gave the Redmen a 22-14 lead.
But the Hillies would answer right back, with Brady capping a 69-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard jaunt into the end zone.
It was the Tewksbury defense that set the stage for the game-winning touchdown. When Morgan fumbled with just over four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, senior defensive end Tim Martel was there to pounce on the loose ball, giving the Redmen possession at the Haverhill 24-yard line.
Five plays later, Sullivan burst, untouched, through a gaping hole on the right side for the score from five yards out. The Redmen the exact same play with the exact same result for the two-point conversion and a 30-22 lead with 1:39 to play.
Haverhill's last chance was snuffed out when Dick picked off Morgan deep in Tewksbury territory as time expired.
Tewksbury will be back in action on Saturday (Sept. 22) at home against MVC rival Billerica High.