High schools

DIVISION 3 NORTH | TEWKSBURY 21, DANVERS 20

Tewksbury staves off late Danvers rally

TEWKSBURY — After giving up a late fourth-quarter score, momentum seemed to slip through the grasp of the Tewksbury football team.

But, in the very next moment, the second-seeded Redmen thwarted a 2-point conversion to seize a 21-20 victory over Danvers on Saturday afternoon at Doucette Field.

The No. 6 seed Falcons had nearly completed a 21-point rally when senior quarterback Justin Mullaney found junior Matt McCarthy wide open in the end zone with a 25-yard scoring toss with 1:13 left in the game.

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Needing an extra point to tie it, Danvers coach Ryan Nolan elected to go for 2 points and the win. But the Falcons came up short when Mullaney’s pass to the corner pylon tipped off the fingers of senior Colby Holland.

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That enabled Tewksbury (8-1) to cling to a narrow victory, advance to the Division 3 North section final opposite top-seeded Lynn English, and overcome its nightmarish stumbles in past semifinal appearances.

“The past two years we have lost in the second round by 1 point,” said Tewksbury senior tailback Brandon Winn. “So this game we were looking to just end that streak.”

Tewksbury started off the game with an 11-play drive capped by Winn’s 9-yard touchdown run. The Redmen jumped out to a 21-point lead early in the second quarter as junior quarterback James Connolly and senior Masyn Lorick combined for touchdowns on passes of 16 and 29 yards. Lorick’s first TD catch came on a fourth-down conversion and, after a Danvers punt, the second scoring grab came on Mullaney’s beautifully thrown ball over the middle.

“It is about playing your best football at the right time,” said Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward. “And I thought we did that in the first half.”

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For Danvers (6-3), a gutsy end-of-game call on the 2-point conversion overshadowed an inspiring comeback. Senior wideout Tahg Coakley collected his second touchdown of the afternoon on an 11-yard catch after snagging a deflected ball out of mid-air, pulling the Falcons within 21-14 with 2:31 left.

After Danvers’ defense forced a three-and-out, the Falcons gained possession with plenty of time and culminated the drive with Mullaney’s TD pass to McCarthy. Nolan did not hesitate to go for 2.

“The idea was we had the momentum, we are the underdog, we’re away,” Nolan said. “I think if someone told us before [the game] that you are playing for 2 yards to beat Tewksbury, we’d like those odds at the end of the game.”

Karl Capen can be reached at karl.capen@globe.com.