Redmen Will Have Their Hands Full In Saturday's Football Season Opener
Talented Lincoln-Sudbury team visits Doucette Field as Tewksbury High kicks off the 2011 season.
Tewksbury High football coach Brian Aylward realizes his team caught Lincoln-Sudbury's potent offense at the right moment last year.
The Redmen kept the Warriors and starting quarterback Matt Cahill fairly well in check in a 28-17 opening night victory in Sudbury last September. But Cahill and the Warriors hit their stride soon after, going undefeated in Dual County League play and taking the DCL Large School Division championship in 2010.
Cahill returns for a third season as the Warriors' starter, and he is surrounded by a trio of talented running backs in Brian Carroll (12 touchdowns as a sophomore last year), Dan Celluci and Chris Giorgio.
"They're not quite as big as they were last year but they're more athletic up front," said Aylward of Lincoln-Sudbury. "They've got three or four backs that all run hard, a good corps of receivers and a quarterback that had a tremendous season after we saw him last year."
Ironically, much of the same could be said about the Redmen, who will rely heavily on senior running back Chris Bettano and senior quarterback Kevin Saunders this fall. Bettano started in the backfield as a junior for much of last season, and Saunders started several games in both his sophomore and junior years, filling in for injured QB Sean Connolly.
"Saunders has worked very hard to get ready for this season," Aylward said. "He does the little things better and better every day. He's as tough a kid as we've got and he's as big a hitter as we've got. Having a kid that rugged as your quarterback is a luxury."
Bettano, likewise, is ready to step into the spotlight this fall, according to Aylward.
"He's going to be the guy that takes the lion's share of the touches based on everything he's done in the off season and the pre-season," Aylward said.
Bettano and Saunders both looked very strong in Tewksbury's impressive scrimmage showing against two-time defending Division 1-A Super Bowl champion Gloucester High last Saturday. Bettano ripped off huge chunks of yardage on the ground and Saunders completed several long passes as the Redmen moved the ball almost at will when their first team offense was on the field.
"The kids executed well and played hard (against Gloucester) and we made some quick improvements from the first scrimmage (against Greater Lawrence)," Aylward said. "The kids have been very focused and willing to make whatever adjustments we need to make, and that's a good sign."
Senior running back Dan Altavesta also scored on a long touchdown run against Gloucester, and Aylward expects to use Altavesta out of the slot position, running wide and catching passes out of the backfield.
"He (Altavesta) has a lot more confidence and a lot more strength than last year," Aylward said. "I think he's one of the most improved kids from last year. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people."
Senior wide receiver Frankie McLaughlin was on the receiving end of several of Saunders' passes, as the Redmen seemed to click on all cylinders in their final pre-season tune-up. Aylward hopes for more of the same on Saturday.
"We're gonna try to do it all, we're gonna try to take what they give us," Aylward said. "I know they're going to try to keep Bettano and Altavesta and (senior fullback) Nick Winn bottled up, so we're going to have to protect our quarterback and give him a chance to make some throws."
Much of that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of senior offensive guards Derek Tarpey and Ryan Eatherton, who have both looked strong in the pre-season.
"Those two guys are the keys to our offense," Aylward said. "We're going to have to get them out and use their athleticism and quickness and toughness to be able to be effective on offense.
"A lot of what we do is based on having two solid, strong kids that can run (at the guard positions)," Aylward added. "Those two fit that mold. They're growing into one of the best tandems of guards we've had since I've been here."
This will be the fourth straight opening day meeting between the two schools. Lincoln-Sudbury won the first game in 2009, but Tewksbury has beaten the Warriors in each of the last two years.
Saturday's kick-off has been pushed back to 2:30 p.m. to accommodate Lincoln-Sudbury's college board testing schedule.
Aylward is looking forward to seeing if his team can build on the intensity it showed against Gloucester into the regular season.
"It's going to be a whole different level when it comes time to play a real game," Aylward said. "But we're excited about it. We've put a lot of work into having a chance to go out there and put it all together, so this is our time."