Why did it feel like it was 1948 while watching Tewksbury vs. Lowell?
This old school showdown of a game had it all: late-game drama, controversy, tons of scoring, too many turnovers, a kickoff return touchdown, a successful onside kick, impromptu two-point conversions, a blocked extra point, and a nail-biting finish that had fans, coaches, and players riding an emotional rollercoaster until the very end.
Doucette Stadium in Tewksbury hosted high school football at its finest on Saturday afternoon. The Redmen and Red Raiders took part in a tense scoring duel that had the Homecoming crowd on their feet.
With 2:42 to play in the fourth quarter, Tewksbury clung to a 41-36 lead over Lowell.
From the Redmen 38-yard line, Lowell faced a fourth down and nine. A defensive stop would have likely clinched an important rebound victory.
Apparently, Lowell's junior quarterback R.J. Noel didn't read the script.
With one last down to save the game for his Red Raiders, he dropped back, scrambled out of the pocket, and fired a pass to receiver John Crowe, who shredded through the Redmen defense for a demoralizing 38-yard touchdown strike.
"If they replayed that play right now, we'd set it up the same way," said Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward whose defense was in a "contain" package.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tewksbury's return man senior Anthony Arcari couldn't field the kick cleanly, fumbling and allowing Lowell to recover on the right sideline.
Tewksbury coaches screamed in protest on the sideline, pleading to the linesman that the Lowell player was out of bounds when recovering the fumble.
"Obviously, I can't say it's a bad call," said Aylward, whose furious reaction on the sideline told the real story.
"It's very frustrating from a coach's standpoint," said Aylward, whose team played well enough to win their Homecoming game, but just couldn't put Lowell away.
"It's a shame on a day when you do so many good things; you still do some things that cause us to shoot ourselves in the foot," said Aylward, whose club falls to a dismal 2-5.
One highlight from the game was Redmen junior running back Chris Bettano, who ran for three touchdowns and 221 yards off 22 carries.
Anthony Acari carried the ball 16 times and also amassed three touchdowns, gaining 84 yards in the process.
Tewksbury totaled 341 total rushing yards, their highest total of 2010.
On the other side of the field it was Lowell's quarterback R.J. Noel, who ran a very effective hurry up offense throughout the afternoon. He threw for three touchdowns completing 10 of 14 attempts for 153 yards despite throwing three interceptions.
Senior wide out Josh McLaughlin caught only three passes, but made them count as he found the end zone on two of them, both in the first half.
In the third quarter, Lowell kickoff returner Anthony Courtois sliced through the Tewksbury kickoff team to silence the otherwise enthusiastic Tewksbury crowd with an 80-yard return for a touchdown.
Tewksbury quarterback Kevin Saunders, filling in for still injured Sean Connolly, managed the game effectively enough to put the Redmen in a strong position to win. The Tewksbury offense stayed mostly on the ground, as he threw for 35 yards.
With the Redmen's season officially on life support, Coach Aylward knows his Redmen will need to improve if they want to be playing after Thanksgiving.
"If we haven't had our character tested already, it's going to be tested now," he said.
Tewksbury will travel to 6-1 Methuen for a Friday night game to see if they can break their current five game losing streak.
Meanwhile, Lowell hosts Billerica Friday night in a Merrimack Valley (Large) division game.