Unheralded Tewksbury drives to upset of Reading
READING - Leading, 14-6, with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter of last night’s Division 2 playoff game against Reading, the Tewksbury offense looked to eat up some of the remaining time on the clock.
The Redmen did that, and then some.
Starting at its 10-yard line, Tewksbury embarked on an 18-play, 85-yard drive that bled 8:14 off the clock.
The Redmen (7-5) didn’t score, because of a fumble at the Reading 5-yard line, but when the Rockets got the ball back, there was just 2:51 left in the game.
Pressed into throwing, Reading quarterback Drew Belcher was intercepted by senior captain Derek Tarpey on the first play after the fumble.
The interception led to Daniel Altavesta’s game-sealing 3-yard touchdown run, giving the Redmen a 21-6 victory and a Super Bowl date with Duxbury Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
“I have to give credit to Kevin Saunders for batting the ball that I intercepted,’’ said Tarpey. “It means everything to play my last game at Gillette Stadium. People doubted us this year from the start and we proved them wrong.’’
On the game’s defining 18-play drive, the Redmen converted on third down three times and rushed for 58 yards.
“I am so proud of the offensive line,’’ said coach Brian Aylward. “They are a tough, special group. [The drive] says a lot about their conditioning as they aren’t the biggest group.’’
Aylward has a chance to join his father on the list of Super Bowl champion coaches. Bob Aylward won two Super Bowls coaching the Redmen and passed the job to Brian in 1997.
The Tewksbury defense played an incredible game, holding the Rockets’ vaunted attack to 45 rushing yards.
“The coaches put together a great game plan,’’ said Tarpey. “We worked our butts off and they couldn’t get anything against us.’’
After a scoreless first quarter, Reading (8-4) fired the first salvo. Off a play-action fake, Belcher found wide receiver Ryan Maney streaking down the middle of the field for a 70-yard touchdown. The score capped a 97-yard drive that took 2:31 off the clock.
The Redmen responded, however. With 38 seconds left in the half, Tewksbury knotted the game at 6-6. Quarterback Kevin Saunders (65 yards passing, 42 yards rushing) tossed an 11-yard scoring strike to Chris Bettano.
After forcing a three-and-out on Reading’s first drive of the second half, Tewksbury took the lead.
Bettano (79 yards rushing ) scored his second touchdown, this time on a 9-yard run off right tackle. Saunders added the 2-point conversion on a nice run, starting to his right, then reversing field and plunging into the end zone.
The drive was kept alive by a 16-yard pass from Saunders to Frank McLaughlin on fourth-and-13 at the Reading 31.
After relishing the underdog role all season, Tewksbury again will be the underdog when it plays in the Super Bowl.
“Duxbury is a great team,’’ said Tarpey. “But we are going to come out flying and we will be ready.’’