If there's one thing has learned in his 15 years of coaching Merrimack Valley Conference football, it's that you can't give the other team extra chances by turning the ball over, and still expect to win.
"It's frustrating," said Aylward after watching his team commit four costly turnovers in dropping a heartbreaking 22-15 decision to Lawrence High School at Veteran's Memorial Stadium Friday night. "We can't give any team a short field four times and expect that we're going to be able to hold them out all four times. We can't make mistakes like that. If teams are going to get anything from us, we have to make them earn it."
Ironically, the Redmen did make Lawrence work tremendously hard to earn their yards for most of the game Friday night. Tewksbury held two of the MVC's most explosive players -- Lancer quarterback Nathan Baez and running back Kelvin Severino -- in check on all but a handful of plays. Tewksbury limited Severino, who rushed for 164 yards and scored four touchdowns in Lawrence's 32-12 opening day win over Reading, to just 11 yards rushing and two receptions for two more yards.
Baez's numbers weren't exactly eye-catching, either. The speedy Lawrence QB carried 13 times for 48 yards and completed 12-of-18 passes for 92 yards. Overall, the Lancers mustered just 148 yards of total offense.
dished out several punishing hits that resulted in negative yards for the Lancers, while defensive backs Brad Gahagan and Dan Altavesta, linebacker Nick Wynn and defensive linemen Evan Conway (fumble recovery) and Ryan Eatherton contributed important defensive stops.
"From a defensive standpoint, I think we did make them earn it," Aylward said. "But on offense, we gave them some things they didn't have to earn, and that's the frustrating part. We have to get better at that."
had a much more productive game than he did in last week's opening day loss to Lincoln-Sudbury, rushing 14 times for 90 yards and a touchdown while completing 6-of-12 passes for 62 yards. But Saunders threw two interceptions, and fumbled the ball away twice, each time setting up Lawrence with excellent field position.
A shanked punt that went out of bounds on the Tewksbury 24 for a net of three yards set up the Lancers' first score, as Baez hit 6-foot-2 wide receiver Joel Rodriguez with a 19-yard touchdown pass on the third play of the second quarter to put Lawrence ahead 6-0.
The Lancers increased their lead to 14-0 just two minutes later after Severino picked off a Saunders pass at the Tewksbury 30 and returned it to the Tewksbury 16. Four plays later Lawrence converted on a fourth-and-2 from the Tewksbury 18 when Baez connected with Brian Montero-Ford for his second TD pass of the game.
But Tewksbury got the Redmen right back into the fight on the ensuing kick-off, returning it 51 yards to the Lawrence 44. Saunders then engineered a 10-play scoring drive which he capped off by powering his way in to the end zone from two yards out on a quarterback sneak. Bettano's two-point conversion made it 14-8, and the game was on.
The two teams held each other scoreless in the third period but with just over a minute left, Saunders fumbled the exchange from center at his own 21, and Lawrence recovered. Five plays later, Baez plunged over the goal line on a quarterback sneak, then passed to Mario Encarnacion for the two-point conversion to make it 22-8.
The Redmen battled right back, however, marching 72 yards on 13 plays to climb back to within seven points of Lawrence. Saunders carried five times for 46 yards on that drive, and Altavesta capped the drive by scoring his first varsity touchdown on a one-yard run. Matthew Blaisdell's conversion kick made it 22-15 with 3:58 to play in the game.
Tarpey and Winn made big defensive plays to help Tewksbury get the ball back in good field position with 1:33 to play. The Redmen drove down to the Lawrence 25 before throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down with six seconds left.
In the end, it was an exciting finish and an impressive outing against a team that easily handled defending Division 1 Super Bowl champion Reading, 32-13 last week. The Redmen finished with team totals of 173 yards rushing and 86 yards passing, and produced two long scoring drives.
But Aylward wasn't taking any consolation on this night.
"We didn't come here to gain confidence. We didn't come here to lose. We came here to win," he said. "It's frustrating. We just have to have some good things happen and make these guys believe in themselves."
and 0-1 in the MVC, hosts Andover High next Saturday afternoon.