TEWKSBURY — Shane Aylward’s opening act was simple, and his encore was prolific.
The Tewksbury senior captain used great blocking to return the opening kickoff of Saturday’s Merrimack Valley Conference showdown against North Andover straight up the middle for a 90-yard touchdown.
He scored a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and in the third quarter, produced an incredible 78-yard touchdown run to help the host Redmen pull away for a 34-20 victory at Doucette Field.
“Right when I caught [the kickoff], I saw I had an opportunity to take it,” said Aylward. “Our guys had phenomenal blocks. Those guys put their bodies on the line for me and did a fantastic job creating a gap.”
He suffered a shoulder injury and fumbled late in the third quarter, ending his afternoon, but Aylward finished with 138 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns in another impressive showing. With him on the sideline in the fourth quarter, the Redmen came together for a clinching nine-play, 57-yard scoring drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Ryne Rametta to Nolan Timmons.
“Shane had a couple of really good plays, but so many guys stepped up,” said his father, Tewksbury coach Brian Aylward.
“Those guys on the line really grinded it out. A couple weeks ago I thought the sky was falling, but our coaches did a great job with them.”
North Andover (1-3) countered Aylward’s kickoff return with a 12-play, 64-yard scoring drive, as Will Schimmoeller found Sebastian Vente for a 17-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.
Then the teams traded scoring drives once again, with Tewksbury (3-1) taking a 20-12 advantage into halftime.
Scarlet Knights running back Freddy Gabin (16 carries, 101 yards, TD) opened the second half with an electric run to set up a 2-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion from Schimmoeller, tying the game, 20-20.
That’s when Aylward provided the play of the game, bursting through a hole on the left side of the line, blazing down the sideline, then cutting back and forth multiple times with help from blockers to put Tewksbury in front for good.
“In my peripheral vision I saw a couple guys running behind me, so I tried to cut it back inside,” he said. “Incredible job by my guys running 70 yards down the field to help block.”
“Obviously there’s a little bit of motivation coming out against the defending D2 state champs. We had the momentum after [an 18-12 win over] BC High, and we just wanted to go out and execute.”
Nate Weitzer can be reached at email@example.com.