LAWRENCE — It may not have always been pretty, but Central Catholic toughened up in the clutch last night.
The Raiders saw Tewksbury drive inside their 40-yard line on four of their five possessions in the second half, but all four times Central turned the Redmen away without points on the way to a 16-7 victory.
“We really stepped up when we had to,” said senior linebacker Ryan Doherty. “We didn’t want them to push the way they did, but we stepped up in the ended and got it done. We geared up and put it in their teeth.”
A week after Tewksbury scored 42 points in a loss to Andover, the Raiders stifled the Redmen in the red zone. Santino Brancato ended one possession with a crushing hit in the hole for a loss. Doherty then stepped up, halting one possession with a sack, and adding another sack on the final drive of the game to force the Redmen into a Hail Mary.
“Ryan’s my boy,” said Brancato. “He’s the sack master. We are tough, we’re physical and we’re big. Our defense really stepped up today.”
Brancato and Doherty combined for 26 tackles on the day, slowing a Tewksbury rushing attack that gained 250 yards a week ago.
“Santino made some huge plays,” said Raiders coach Chuck Adamopoulos. “And so did Ryan. Our defense has been our mainstay all season.”
Two-headed monster: Central’s defense may have led the way, but its two halfbacks added key performances. Brancato led the way with 98 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown, while D’Andre Drummond-Mayire chipped in with 8 rushes for 95 yards and a score, while also setting up another touchdown.
Blind side smash: If there needed to be any more proof of the value of a blind side tackle, it was Doherty’s sack of Johnny Aylward late last night.
“We put on a blitz for me to come off the edge,” he said. “I came off the edge, he was turning away and didn’t see me coming, so I ended the play.”
Almost bracket busters: In back-to-back weeks, Tewksbury has given major trouble to the area’s top two teams. The Redmen pushed Central, the No. 2 ranked team in the region, to the limit last night after nearly upsetting No. 1 Andover last Saturday. They also beat the No. 4 team, Haverhill. Not bad for a 2-4 squad.
One tiny guy: Tewksbury does not list heights and weights on their roster, but center Johnny DeVito cannot be more than 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds. He was dwarfed by nearly every player on the field.
Central Catholic 16, Tewksbury 7
Tewksbury (2-4): 7 0 0 0 — 7
Central Catholic (5-1): 7 3 0 6 — 16
CC — D’Andre Drummond-Mayire 8 run (Thomas Jenoski kick)
T — James Sullivan 5 run (James Sullivan kick)
CC — Jenoski 32 FG
CC — Santino Brancato 4 run (kick failed)
RUSHING: CC (31-228) — Santino Brancato 15-98, D’Andre Drummond-Mayire 8-95, Michael Milano 6-19, Anthony Terranova 1-10, Cody Demers 1-6; T (44-174) — Tom Casey 9-61, Eddie Matovu 9-56, Johnny Alyward 11-21, James Sullivan 11-21, Ryan Bednarek 4-15
PASSING: CC — Milano 4-8-0, 61; T — Aylward 7-23-0, 73
RECEIVING: CC — Demers 3-59, Brancato 1-2; T — Kevin Dick 4-33, Sullivan 2-23, Matovu 1-17
David Willis is a sportswriter/videographer for The Eagle-Tribune. You can see his video profiles at eagletribunetribune.com/sports