By Jeff Hamrick
---- — TEWKSBURY — As tough as standing on the foreign side of the field might have been for Tom Ryan, the first-year Methuen coach found it more difficult reading the scoreboard.
The former Tewsksbury defensive coordinator could only watch while his former squad ran roughshod over his current group as the 14th-ranked Redmen remained unbeaten with a 41-14 victory over the Rangers.
“It was a little strange and different,” Ryan said of standing on the visiting sideline at the school where he spent 12 years as an assistant and which he and his wife Shelli still teach at. “It was definitely different being over here. I tried not to look across (the field) too often to be honest.”
Trying to remain alive for a playoff berth, Methuen (4-2, 2-2) watched the Redmen take advantage of great field position to take a 21-0 lead into intermission. Tewksbury had to go no more than 50 yards on any of its first three scoring possessions, needing only 105 total yards combined for the early lead. Penalties and interceptions were the biggest culprit.
“When you get short fields, that usually happens,” Ryan said.
While Tewksbury was piling up the points, Methuen had trouble mounting an attack of its own. The Rangers had only 35 yards and two first downs on 20 first-half plays while piling up 74 yards of penalties. Three Methuen passers combined for four interceptions on the game. And the rushing game was troubled, gaining one yard or fewer on 11 of 22 attempts.
“We knew their defense was really good,” Ryan said. “There aren’t a lot of holes on that team, so we knew running the ball was going to be tough.
The Rangers did find success in the third quarter with Austin George-Williams completing 11 of 15 passes for 175 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown toss to Evan Lacroix. Will Weinhold put Methuen on the board, capping a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge early in the period.
“We squandered a lot of opportunities in the first half,” Ryan said. “But we came out in the third quarter and played well before trailing off. At halftime, all I said to the kids was ‘let’s go out and win the turf war — I don’t care what the score is,’ and we did.”
Tewksbury finished with 300 yards rushing. The Redmen (5-0 overall, 3-0 MVC Small) maintained its tie atop the conference with Haverhill, which will be the opponent for the first night game in Tewksbury’s history at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I’ll talk to those guys after the game,” said Ryan, whose family was clad in various combinations of Methuen and Tewksbury attire. “Those guys are my friends. In fact, I’ll be hanging out with them at a wedding tonight.”
As for Ryan’s former mentor, Brian Aylward couldn’t help but fell a bit sympathetic.
“Tommy’s a good friend and we’ve been through so many battles together,” he said. “I told him I was going to give him a call at 6:30 this morning to see if he wanted a lift in for the game because we used to do that ... He’s got a tremendous work ethic, and he’s going to get his kids believing. Their team played (hard the whole game) and I’m not sure that that’s always been the case.”
Tewksbury 41, Methuen 14
Methuen (4-2, 2-2): 0 0 14 0 — 14
Tewksbury (5-0, 3-0): 7 14 14 6 — 41
T — Johnny Aylward 1 run (Mitchell Miskell kick) 8:24
T — James Sullivan 4 run (Miskell kick) 2:09
T — John Saunders 4 pass from Aylward (Miskell kick) 0:45
M — Will Weinhold 1 run (Austin George-Williams kick) 8:29
T — Aylward 25 run (Miskell kick) 5:08
M — Evan Lacroix 24 pass from George-Williams (Georg-Williams kick) 1:30
T — Tom Casey 15 run (Miskell kick) 0:44
T — James Hirtle 33 run (run failed) 7:08
RUSHING: M (22-53) — Weinhold 12-30, Mike Baglieri 2-24, Brian Cole 1-2, George-Williams 7-(-1); T (38-300) — Sullivan 10-84, Casey 7-70, Hirtle 2-41, Troy Carey 1-42, Aylward 7-36, Eddie Matovu 6-14, Andrew Nguyen 2-5, Brett Morris 1-4, Kevin Dick 1-2, Brian Nazaire 1-2
PASSING: M (14-32-181, 4 interceptions) — George-Williams 14-30-181 (2 interceptions), Cole 0-1 (1), Weinhold 0-1 (1); T — Aylward 10-15-100 (0)
RECEIVING: M — Weinhold 5-42, Lacroix 3-69, Cole 3-54, John Maginnis 2-22, Spencer Bilich 1-14; T — Saunders 3-32, Sullivan 3-24, Matovu 2-32, Casey 1-8, Dick 1-4