Football playoff preview: Whitman-Hanson at Marblehead

After finishing with a 6-1 record, the Magicians are yet again back in the playoffs.

It seems like making the tournament is a given every year with this program and the team is setting out to do one of the hardest things in sports: Win back to back championships.

It may not be the same team that we saw go all the way last year, but as we have seen time and time again in the postseason, all you need to do is get in. After that, anything can happen. Marblehead squares off with 9th seeded Whitman-Hanson at Piper Field this Friday night where they will try to turn up the heat on the Panthers and make it to the round of 8. 

Coming into the game, both teams are trending in opposite directions. Marblehead is coming off of a relatively easy win against Danvers, meanwhile Whitman-Hanson is fresh off of a 20 point loss to an undefeated Duxbury program.

The Magicians seemed to have gotten a bit lucky with its first round matchup as Whitman-Hanson is a 4-4 team that may be ranked a little too high. There are four teams in the bracket that had winning regular season records, but got a lower seeding than the Panthers. Clearly, the MIAA thinks that Whitman-Hanson’s strength of schedule was tough enough to lift them over these teams, but the Panthers really have not had any impressive wins this season, and I believe that they will get exposed Friday night at Marblehead High School. 

All four of Whitman-Hanson’s wins this season have come against teams with a .500 record or worse, those being Pembroke, Foxborough, Silver Lake, and Plymouth North. Unsurprisingly, all of the Panthers’ losses have come against, you guessed it, teams with a winning record, those being Rockland, Hingham, Marshfield, and Duxbury.

Statistically speaking, that trend is likely to continue against a 6-1 Marblehead team. Two of those losses were one possession games, but even still, Whitman-Hanson barely beat Pembroke and Foxborough to start the season and didn’t show any signs of improvement as the season went on. 

The stat sheet was once again filled up for O’Neill and the rest of Marblehead’s offense against Danvers. O’Neill threw for 224 passing yards and three touchdowns, but also added 51 yards on the ground, showing his versatility. Connor Cronin was back to looking like the lethal weapon we are so accustomed to seeing as he had 140 combined yards from scrimmage. Ryan Commoss also snagged a pair of touchdowns on 48 yards receiving. 

Although Coach Jim Rudloff said after the game that he still sees things that the offense can work on, the team is rounding into form at the right time. With the number of dual threat players on offense, it’s almost impossible to think that the Panthers will be able to shut them down. Compile that with a rock solid defense, and you have yourself a recipe for a lopsided win. 

There will be a few jitters at the beginning of the game, and it might start more slowly than ideal, but the Magicians will shake it off quickly.

The Panther’s just don’t seem to have any pop in their game and although they are seeded right in the middle of the pack, they should have no business winning this game. The matchup may look close on paper to some, but Marblehead will win easily at home and get within two games of reaching the Super Bowl.

Final score prediction: Marblehead 32, Whitman-Hanson 18