READING – They were in the same spot a year ago.
Last season, the Rockets had a home playoff game against a Tewksbury team that, on paper, Reading had every advantage over. The Rockets, however, couldn’t find an offensive rhythm and fell to Tewksbury, ending their quest for a Super Bowl title.
Tuesday night, fifth-ranked Reading had a chance to erase the memories as they again faced off against the Redmen at home with a trip to the Division 2 title game on the line.
The Rockets (12-0) gained a measure of revenge and then some, demolishing Tewksbury, 42-6, and earning a date in the Division 2 Super Bowl with Mansfield Saturday at Bentley University.
“I remember the feeling after losing last year and how bad that was,” said senior wide receiver Ryan Maney. “[The loss] was motivation to wake up every morning at 7 a.m. in the summer and get into the weight room. We didn’t want to feel that way again.”
The Rockets defense, as it has all year, set the tone for the game. Reading dominated the first quarter, allowing the Redmen 2 yards of offense, and didn’t allow Tewksbury a first down until midway through the second quarter.
“Our defense has been tremendous all year,” said Reading coach John Fiore. “Last year’s loss was huge motivation and we were focused, dialed in and excited.”
Tewksbury (7-5) received the ball first and promptly went three-and-out. From that point, it was the Drew Belcher show for the Reading offense. The junior signal-caller accounted for all but 8 yards of a six-play, 61-yard drive he capped with an 11-yard touchdown rush. Maney added the 2-point rush to make the score 8-0.
“Drew was awesome tonight,” said Fiore. “He was everything we expect him to be and he was everything that he expects himself to be.”
Belcher finished with 99 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 10 carries, and completed 8-of-11 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
After Belcher’s touchdown rush, the Reading defense again forced the Redmen to go three-and-out. On the ensuing drive, Belcher got some help from Maney to increase the Rockets’ lead. Belcher completed two passes to Maney for 27 yards, then handed him the ball on an end around that Maney took untouched 61 yards for a touchdown and a 15-0 lead.
“I haven’t run that play right all year,” said Maney (92 yards receiving). “This time all I had to do was run straight.’’
Belcher scored on runs of 1 and 2 yards in the second quarter to push the lead to 29-0 at the half. On the Rockets first drive of the second half, Belcher threw a screen pass to Liam Kenneally he took 78 yards for a touchdown on third and 19. Just more than a minute later, Belcher scored his final touchdown on a 2-yard dive to push the lead to 42-0.
Tewksbury’s lone score came as time expired, a 5-yard strike from Johnny Aylward to Kevin Dick.