Through its first two games of the season, the Tewksbury High football team had managed to score just 14 total points, en route to an 0-2 record.
But on Saturday, the Redmen found the cure for what ailed them in the form of an Andover High squad that, despite a 2-0 record, proved to be not much more than a speed bump for the TMHS ground game. Tewksbury rolled up 406 yards rushing and rolled to a 38-28 upset win at Doucette Field.
Halback Chris Bettano led a relentless attack for Tewksbury, carrying the ball 21 times for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He had seven runs of 15 yards or more and four of better than 25 yards. Quarterback Kevin Saunders ran for 59 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, while Dan Altavesta ran 11 times for 86 yards.
"We got off the ball well and made some good blocks," said Tewksbury Coach Brian Aylward. "We're still relatively inexperienced. We're still improving. A lot of it has to do with confidence and building on success."
"(Tewksbury) played a very good game," said "They had a good game plan to get to the flanks. That was good on their part."
Tewksbury (1-2) trailed, 16-14, at halftime but dominated the better part of the second half. Touchdown runs by Bettano (1 yard and 3 yards) and Saunders (1 yard), each accompanied by a two-point conversion, helped the Redmen build a 38-16 lead. The Redmen ran sweep after sweep with Bettano and Altavesta picking up huge chunks of yardage. The Tewksbury offensive line, along with freshman fullback James Sullivan, dominated the point of attack and opened gaping holes.
"(Sullivan) did a great job but even that wasn't perfect. He made some mistakes," said Aylward. "We need to get back to work and get ready for next week."
Tewksbury's defense did a good job holding Andover star Andy Coke in check. The senior tailback and two touchdowns but he was forced to grind it out on 26 carries and had just 23 yards in the second half. Linebacker Derek Tarpey had a big game defensively for the Redmen, making several big plays, including a key interception. Scott Thurlow and Saunders also big games, proving run support from the secondary and holding down the Andover passing attack for much of the game.
Warriors' quarterback CJ Scarpa finished 14-for-23 for 189 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. With the Warriors trailing, 38-16 in the fourth quarter, Scarpa led a furious comeback, tossing a pair of touchdown passes.
Cam Farmham split the Tewksbury secondary and made a brilliant leaping catch for a touchdown from 30 yards out to pull the Warriors to within 38-22 with 3:10 to play. The score was set up by the first of two fumble recoveries by Jake Flaherty.
With 1:34 left to play, Flaherty recovered another fumble at the Andover 30-yard line. Scarpa marched the Warriors quickly downfield, helped by a 34-yard catch and run by Coke. Two plays later, following a 21-yard reception by Farnham, Will Heikkenin hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass on a quick slant to make it 38-28 with 18 seconds to play.
Andover (2-1) tried to pull to within one score with a two-point conversion, but Farnham was crushed at the goal line by Saunders as he tried to make the catch on a pass from Scarpa.
Andover's comeback had been aided by some untimely personal foul penalties against Tewksbury. Aylward said discipline in stressful situations is something his players need to work on.
"The hard part is that was a couple of our more experienced players," said Aylward. But there are times things are happening that the referees don't see and its the player that retaliates who gets called."
Coke gave Andover a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 27-yard touchdown run. But that proved to be the highlight of the afternoon for Coke.
Tewksbury, which had dropped decisions to Lincoln-Sudbury and Lawrence to start the year, came roaring back.An eight-yard touchdown by Saunders and a spectacular 50-yard scoring run by Bettano staked the Redmen to a 14-7 lead with 4:40 to play in the first half.
Andover answered with a 10-play scoring drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown run by Coke. But the PAT try by Mark Zavri failed, leaving the score 14-13.
A quick three-and-out by Tewksbury gave Andover the ball back a their own 47 with 38 second to play in the half. A pair of completions from Scarpa to Heikinnen moved the ball to the Tewksbury 12-yard-line with six seconds left. From there, Zavri knocked through a 29-yard field goal to give Andover a 16-14 lead at intermission.