LOWELL — It all started to sink in for Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward following the Redmen’s 32-14 victory over Melrose Saturday in the Division 3 state semifinals.
His players earned another shot at the Super Bowl and a chance at redemption from a disappointing 35-0 loss to Duxbury on the big stage two years ago at Gillette Stadium.
“That was a painful thing for them, painful for our coaching staff,” Aylward said of the 2011 Super Bowl loss. “I’m proud that they get a chance [to go back].”
No. 4-ranked Tewksbury (11-0) will play No. 9 Plymouth South (9-1) Dec. 7 in the Division 3 Super Bowl.
The Redmen reeled off 19 straight points to start the second half, turning a 6-point lead into a blowout at Cawley Stadium.
Junior James Sullivan carried 21 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, and four others found the end zone in Tewksbury’s balanced attack.
It was a 13-7 game at halftime until Melrose (9-2) went three and out on its opening series of the third quarter. Then, after junior Tom Casey broke outside for 35 yards to take the ball inside the red zone, Sullivan darted in from 4 yards through a big hole to push Tewksbury’s lead to 20-7.
Quarterback Malik Garrett and the Red Raider offense went backward on their next drive and were forced to punt. Tewksbury cashed in when senior Kevin Dick took senior Johnny Aylward’s screen pass 55 yards to the house to push the lead to 26-17 with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Casey later added a 3-yard touchdown run to make it a 32-7 lead midway through the fourth.
“We consider all of them [the skill-position players] superstars,” Brian Aylward said. “And they all understand that they’re going to have opportunities to make big plays if they go ahead and block when it’s their turn to block, and when they’ve got to do some of that dirty work.
“They complement each other and they all know what the deal is, and they have some more football to play.”
Garrett finished 14 of 34 for 208 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He added 59 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.
“We wanted to definitely try to take away what they did best,” Brian Aylward said, “and I thought we did that today.”
Tewksbury powered 69 yards on its first drive of the game on nine runs and one pass, capped by Johnny Aylward’s 11-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Later in the first, Johnny Aylward was picked off by Aaron Aveni, who returned it to the Tewksbury 15. Garrett finished the drive with a 1-yard sneak to tie the game at 7.
Tewksbury regained the lead on its next drive when senior Eddie Matovu scored from 3 yards with 5:40 to play in the second.