There was no shortage of disappointment and frustration after Marblehead lost to Milton in the MIAA Football Div. 3 quarterfinals Nov. 11, a game the Magicians felt they let slip away. Fortunately for them, they had almost two weeks to get over it and, with archrival Swampscott up next, there was no chance they would be caught feeling sorry for themselves.
“We moved on pretty quick and put it past us,” said senior co-captain Sam Annese. “It was obviously a tough loss, but everyone shifted our focus to Swampscott. We knew we needed to get our business done. No one wanted to go home to our families after losing to Swampscott.”
As it turned out, that was never a concern as Marblehead jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and sailed to a 48-7 Thanksgiving Day win over the gutsy, yet overmatched Big Blue at Sgt. Christopher N. Piper Field.
“We needed to be the hammer, not the nail. We took care of business,” Annese said.
The Magicians, who finished the season at 8-2, put together two 10-play drives and a quick strike to take control in the first half. Junior quarterback Miles O’Neill (11-for-14, 199 yards, 3 TD) completed three passes on the game’s first drive and finished it off with a 4-yard scoring run.
In the second quarter, O’Neill hit Connor Cronin with a 42-yard pass and found Chris Dewitt from five yards out. Greg Motorny made the first of his six PATs to make it 13-0. After a Swampscott punt, O’Neill found a wide-open Shane Keough down the seam for a 42-yard TD pass and 20-0 lead.
“It is what it is. They had a great season,” said Swampscott Coach Bob Serino, whose team finished 3-8 after winning two straight state championships. “We knew we were up against it. We made some mistakes. We kept it close for a while, but you can’t make mistakes against a team like that.”
Dewitt, who was in the right place at the right time all day, returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and recovered a high snap in the end zone for another score in the fourth, his third TD of the day.
Zander Danforth (26-yard pass from O’Neill) and Cronin (1-yard run) completed
the Magicians’ scoring. The Big Blue got on the board late in the third when freshman quarterback Jack Spear (5-for-8, 86 yards), filling in for injured senior co-captain Zack Ryan (8-for-17, 80 yards), engineered an 80-yard drive on which he completed three passes, including a 55-yard throw to Elijah Burns (5 receptions, 120 yards) and a 7-yard TD pass to Burns.
For Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff, having Swampscott as the next opponent after the playoff disappointment was just what the doctor ordered.
“We know the kids are going to get fired up for Swampscott,” said Rudloff, whose teams have won 10 in a row vs. the Big Blue. “We hung our heads for a day, then the kids started talking about Swampscott. We had a great week of practice. The kids really understood what they needed to do.”
Cronin, who was playing with a torn meniscus, had 67 yards rushing, 77 yards receiving and 25 yards on kick returns. He said having the game at home made a difference.
“After we lost in the playoffs, the mindset was right on Swampscott,” he said. “We had them at home. Everyone was going to come out and play their best. It feels amazing to go out with my brothers for the last time with a great team win.”
While the score reflects the disparity in talent in this particular season, Rudloff tipped his cap to Swampscott for its effort.
“All respect to Swampscott,” he said. “Bobby and his staff do a great job. They’re a little down this year, but you’re going to be down after the four years in a row they had. They did the best they could. The kids fought hard.”