Magicians rally again, set up showdown with unbeaten Peabody

Joe McConnell | + posts

For the second straight week, the Marblehead Football Magicians (3-0) won another close battle to extend their winning streak to 23 straight games. They were able to escape past host North Andover, 12-7, on Nov. 23 after beating Lynnfield in another non-league game the previous week, 26-18.

In both games, they had to stage comebacks to preserve the state’s current longest run of consecutive high school football victories.

After Marblehead fell behind host North Andover 7-0, Connor Cronin got the Magicians’ offense headed in the right direction, returning the ensuing kickoff past midfield. COURTESY PHOTO BY EYAL OREN/WEDNESDAYSINMHD.COM

The Scarlet Knights scored the first touchdown of the game late in the first half, when Cam Partridge caught up with a 29-yard pass from quarterback Drew Fitzgerald. The extra point was then good to give the home team a 7-0 lead.

But it was Connor Cronin who sparked the offense on the ensuing kickoff. He ran it past midfield, setting up another late scoring drive. Marblehead quarterback Miles O’Neill went on to complete five of seven passes, before Ryan Commoss accounted for the touchdown on a 10-yard run. However, the extra point was blocked, so the Magicians went into the break still trailing, but just by one.

The Magicians, driving for the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, had their backs against the proverbial wall. They needed 14 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. They turned to Cronin to help bail them out to maintain the momentum. He was able to find an opening in the end zone to catch what turned to be O’Neill’s 39-yard, game-winning pass.

Marblehead quarterback Miles O’Neill threw what turned out to be the game-winning pass in the third quarter, a 39-yarder to Connor Cronin. COURTESY PHOTO BY EYAL OREN/WEDNESDAYSINMHD.COM

Marblehead then turned its attention to the defense, specifically junior captain Christian Pacheco. With 4:33 to go in the game, the Scarlet Knights had the ball and were looking to regain the lead. Taking it to the air right away, they quickly found out about Pacheco’s skills after he swatted away a first-down pass. He then made the game-saving tackle on fourth down.

Pacheco’s efforts did not go unnoticed by Coach Jim Rudloff and his staff. Rudloff nominated the offensive tackle and linebacker as a player of the week, along with outside linebacker and tight end Chris DeWitt.

Junior captain Christian Pacheco celebrates one of his key defensive plays that helped preserve the Marblehead victory. COURTESY PHOTO BY EYAL OREN/WEDNESDAYSINMHD.COM

“Both players are improving every week, and it showed up in the game on Friday night against North Andover,” said Rudloff. “They played well on both sides of the ball.”

The veteran Marblehead coach has high praise for the defense, but the offense remains a work in progress.

“Our defense is holding up pretty well, but we need to mature on offense and clean up our mistakes there,” he said.

But it helps the offense that it has Cronin, a NCAA Division I prospect, on its side. He set up one score, while once again being in the right place at the right time to produce the winning touchdown. He has a knack for the dramatic.

“Connor is a special talent,” said Rudloff. “His ability to see the entire field on both sides of the ball and his vision is special.”

The Marblehead sideline celebrates one of the team’s touchdowns against North Andover Sept. 23. COURTESY PHOTO BY EYAL OREN/WEDNESDAYSINMHD.COM

It will be a clash of 3-0 teams at Piper Field on Friday night, Sept. 30, when the Peabody Tanners come to town for a 7 p.m. game.

“Peabody is an excellent team that’s really firing on all cylinders right now,” said Rudloff. “They have excellent offensive weapons and a quarterback who have been starting together for two, three and four years.”

As far as his team’s streak is concerned – 23 in a row and counting – Rudloff will let that be others’ concern.

“This streak is for everybody else to worry about; we’re just trying to beat Peabody right now,” he said.

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