Illinois

Tewksbury’s Aylward And McKay Are Best Friends, Opponents On Saturday

BEVERLY, MA – Like brothers. Family. The terms are often used by athletes about their teammates.

But ahead of Saturday’s NCAA Division III first-round playoff soccer game between Springfield College (8-2) and Endicott University (10-0), two opposing players use those terms to describe their bond.

Endicott junior wide receiver Shane Aylward and Springfield sophomore linebacker Will McKay grew up across the street from Barbara D Lane in Tewksbury. They played sports together in their front yards almost every day, they were youth sports teammates and football teammates at Tewksbury Memorial High. Their families are close…like a family.

The upcoming matchup between Aylward and McKay on the griddle is set to make a memorable day for both TMHS graduates even more memorable.

“The game will be something we will remember for the rest of our lives. Not many people have the opportunity to compete against their best friends and family,” Aylward told Patch. “Will was always another brother to me. We have always been there for each other through thick and thin.”

Aylward continued: “It’s absolutely something we’ll be talking about for the rest of our lives and I can’t wait to finally be able to face him in an organized match. But once it’s game time, that all has to be blocked.” My mind will be 100 percent with the team and we want to continue in the playoffs.”

McKay said he and Aylward talk and text regularly, and that didn’t stop this week just because they face each other on Saturday.

The Endicott team also includes three other TMHS graduates: freshman running back Danny Fleming, senior offensive lineman Justyn Lester and freshman defensive lineman Davenche Sydney.

McKay obviously knows these players. But he said his and Aylward’s friendship dwindled when McKay moved into the neighborhood…when he was 3 months old.

“Facing (Aylward) is definitely going to be one of the craziest games I’ve played in,” McKay told Patch. “Growing up across the street, we were on the same team in pick-up football, basketball, wiffle-ball and pretty much everything, so this is going to be a first. I’m definitely looking forward to facing him.”

Both players have made great contributions to their teams.

Aylward is second to the Gulls with 30 receptions and has a team-high 466 reception yards. He also has 3 touchdowns. Earlier this week he was named to the All-Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) for the second straight year. Aylward is also team captain.

“Shane’s leadership skills have greatly influenced the success we’ve had this year, both on the field and within the culture of our program,” Endicott head coach Paul McGonagle told Patch. “He’s so trainable. Aside from his stats, what’s most impressive about Shane is his selfless dedication to blocking and his collaborative effort to make his teammates better every day as a sophomore captain.”

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Aylward said he credits some of his football success to the person who will be playing on the other side of the ball on Saturday.

“I have to give[McKay]credit because if we didn’t play sports in the front yard every day (as kids), I’m not sure I would be the competitor I am today.”

The 5-10, 215-pound McKay has now played in nine games for the Pride and is fifth on the team with 31 tackles.

“Will is a great player for us and, more importantly, a great teammate,” Springfield head coach Mike Cerasuolo told Patch. “Coming from Tewksbury you know what type of player you’re going to get: tough, well-trained and relentless on the field. He’s everything you want in a player. Plays the game with tremendous effort. No matter what’s asked of him, he does it with great passion and to the best of his ability.”

Longtime TMHS football head coach Brian Aylward, Shane’s father, coached both his son and McKay in high school. The elder Aylward described McKay’s family – which includes parents Barry and Joanne – as an extension of his own family.

“[They are]some of the best friends we’ve had over the years,” said Brian Aylward.

Brian Aylward said he and his wife Mary plan to spend time with the McKays before and after Saturday’s game.

Though it will be a special occasion, Brian Aylward said he wishes Endicott and Springfield didn’t meet so early in the playoffs.

“I would have preferred it if they had met in the second round. Then I could cheer for both of them (first lap),” said Brian Aylward. “But I want[Shane Aylward and McKay]to go out there and play well and represent our city and our program at a tremendous level.”

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