Tewksbury High’s Ryan Bednarek (front and center) celebrates as the Redmen pull away from Plymouth South late in their MIAA Division 3 Super Bowl win
Tewksbury High's Ryan Bednarek (front and center) celebrates as the Redmen pull away from Plymouth South late in their MIAA Division 3 Super Bowl win at Gillette Stadium last December. Bednarek is a captain of this year's team. SUN FILE PHOTO/JULIA MALAKIE

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TEWKSBURY -- Even when Mother Nature cooperates, Day 1 of training camp is still plenty demanding.

High school football teams across the state took to the field Monday for the first official practice of the 2014 season. Players and coaches were treated to a comfy 75 degrees, a bright sun and a light, refreshing breeze. If you're going to be playing football in Massachusetts in August, you could do a lot worse than that. It was downright fall-like.

On the practice field at Doucette Stadium, defending Division 3 Super Bowl champion Tewksbury High got back to work. Conditioning was the prime focal point on this day's session, which Tewksbury wrapped up around 12:30 p.m. The final 30 minutes featured a rigorous mixed bag of up-downs, push-ups, sit-ups and, of course, lots of running.

The Tewksbury High varsity football team gathers at Doucette Stadium with coach Brian Aylward for its first workout of the 2014 season.	SUN/MATT LANGONESun
The Tewksbury High varsity football team gathers at Doucette Stadium with coach Brian Aylward for its first workout of the 2014 season. SUN/MATT LANGONE

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Judging by the amount of players with their hands on their heads, you would've thought it was 90 degrees and humid.

Welcome to a new season.

"The veteran guys come in, they've seen it, they've done it. They know that it's only going to get harder," said Tewksbury head coach Brian Aylward. "It's not going to get any easier from this po int on. From every man down the line, it's not easy to have everyone in the same condition. Usually your veteran guys know what's expected and they help the younger guys. They come in ready, and there were a lot of guys that were outstanding with the conditioning.

"You don't have enough time to do all the things you want. We have a lot of learning on the offensive side.


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We spent a lot of time on that side (Monday) because we're replacing a lot of positions."

Last December, Tewksbury wrapped up a perfect 13-0 season with a 42-14 victory over Plymouth South in the Division 3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium. It was arguably the greatest season ever for a traditionally strong blue-collar program that prides itself on being the smallest school in the mighty Merrimack Valley Conference.

The season opener will be Sept. 6 at home against Chelmsford. Tewksbury will once again look to navigate through the seven-game regular season and then the MIAA playoffs, a system that debuted to fairly positive reviews last year.

"I talked to the team for maybe 10 minutes before we came out here (Monday)," Aylward said. "For these guys that are returning players, it was a tremendous achievement and tremendous experience. That's money in the bank, nobody can ever take those moments away from them. But now, all that is so far out of our minds. It's about a new group coming together and a new group fighting for that same thing. Complacency is one of the worst things you can ever see, we always have to be on our guard. We always have that David versus Goliath thing, that's part of our tradition."

A repeat will be no easy task. Tewksbury graduated 11 starters/lettermen, including standouts like quarterback Johnny Aylward (Brian's son), WR/DB Kevin Dick and RB/LB Eddie Matovu.

This fall's squad will be captained by seniors James Sullivan (RB/SS), Tom Casey (RB/LB), Ethan Eloi (OL/DL) and Ryan Bednarek (DB). The bruising Sullivan was The Sun's co-Player of the Year in 2013 after rushing for 1,282 yards and 21 touchdowns, and registering 90 tackles and six interceptions.

"There is a little disparity with conditioning. Some guys are where they should be, some guys need work," said Sullivan. "That's what these two days are for, to see where everyone is at.

"Last year, obviously, a lot of us were involved. But Tewksbury High's Class of 2015 hasn't accomplished anything on the football field yet. That's kind of what's driving us. It's always next man up."

Tewksbury's starting quarterback job will be a key storyline in camp. Juniors Brett Morris and Steve Hamel will be battling for the position. Morris has a few more snaps under his belt and may have a leg up in the competition thus far.

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