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D8 SUPER BOWL: CARVER VS. WEST BOYLSTON

Senior quarterback Tyler Lennox has been the catalyst in Carver’s amazing turnaround

With 42 total touchdowns, Tyler Lennox (4) has been elusive in the open field for Carver.RICH SMITH RSS PHOTOGRAPHY

Teams can only complete improbable turnarounds if they are led by talented, and remarkable, leaders.

After posting a 3-8 record last season, second-seeded Carver (11-1) has relied on senior captain and quarterback Tyler Lennox to help bring lift the Crusaders to new heights.

With 2,711 passing yards and 42 total touchdowns (37 passing, 5 rushing) this season, the 6-foot, 180-pound Lennox has been the lynchpin for Carver, which rolls into Wednesday’s Division 8 Super Bowl against top-seeded West Boylston (12-0) after averaging 41.75 points per game.

“You can’t really picture a better senior year,” said Lennox, the South Shore Tobin Player of the Year.

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Although he broke Carver’s single-season record with 2,219 passing yards as a junior, Lennox approached the offseason with an increased commitment to the weight room. He also spent countless hours working with former Bridgewater State quarterback Mike McCarthy at his M2 QB Academy.

“Due to that, his arm slot and the way he throws the ball and reads progressions changed dramatically,” said Carver coach Ben Shuffain. “He invested in the weight room, so he’s a lot stronger mentally and physically, and that’s helped him with the grind of a 13-game season.”

Lennox said working with McCarthy “worked wonders” for him. The fruits of his offseason labor — which often included throwing 100 passes during weekends — first appeared during the spring and summer, when he and his Carver teammates held their own in 7-on-7 drills against a host of perennial powers, including Xaverian, Catholic Memorial and Andover.

“The 7-on-7s showed us that we could compete with anybody,” said wideout Robbie Peterson, also a senior captain. “It gave us the confidence that we can go out and make those catches and run those routes with anybody, regardless of the division or the school.”

Peterson (51 receptions, 925 yards, 18 TD) has become Lennox’s favorite target alongside fellow senior Derek Lopes (28-765-8 TD). But the passing attack extends beyond the two seniors, with seven Crusaders catching scores this fall.

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“He has confidence in the receivers to make a play, whether it’s Derek going downfield or Robbie on a 15-yard comeback on the sideline,” Shuffain said. “Most high school quarterbacks can’t make that throw, so for him to have the confidence in himself to make the throws and his receivers to come down with it is huge.”

Lennox has also made better decisions. He’s thrown just four interceptions compared to 10 last fall — an improvement he attributes to the extra hours he spends watching film before games.

As impressive as his gaudy passing numbers are, Lennox has been even more resilient in the few instances when adversity has struck.

His best performance of the year came in a 42-39 overtime win over Cohasset on Oct. 6, when Carver overcome a 36-21 deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes plus a successful 2-point pass.

Lennox finished the night with 376 passing yards and five total touchdowns — three through the air and two on the ground. After leading the Crusaders to their first win over Cohasset in 17 years, Shuffain emphatically declared, “If there’s a better quarterback in the South Shore, I don’t want him.”

Now Shuffain is hopeful college programs will take notice of Lennox after the Crusaders claimed their first Tobin title since 2000, when the program made its last Super Bowl appearance and suffered a 35-14 loss to Fairhaven.

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“We’ve talked to some local schools, but it’s time for the bigger schools to take notice,” said Shuffain. “I worked at Stonehill a couple years ago as a linebacker coach, and he’s as good or better than some of those kids on that roster. Nothing against them, it’s just that he’s an unbelievable talent.”