Marblehead High football coach Jim Rudloff said after the game against North Andover, his team’s fourth straight non-league loss to begin the 2023 season, that the Northeastern Conference divisional season is right around the corner with all the preseason goals still intact.
Rudloff was not talking about last Friday night’s game at Peabody. He was actually referring to the games against Masco and Beverly over the next two weeks.
“Moving forward, we are fortunate enough that our (divisional schedule) doesn’t start for another week against Masco,” said Rudloff after the North Andover game. “And with that said our goals remain the same, and that’s to have a winning record, win the (division), make the playoffs and win a state championship. As of right now, all of those goals are still ahead of us. We just need to get healthy, continue working hard and improve our mental and physical approach (in) our practices.”
But first, they still had to play the host Tanners (4-0), and although the game was competitive the visitors still ended up on the short end of the scoreboard, 41-21.
Two Peabody touchdowns in the final minute of the first half blew open a close game. The game was tied at seven after one quarter, when the opportunistic Tanners took advantage of some good fortune to take a 38-14 lead into the break.
Peabody’s Alex Silva scampered 81 yards to the house to give his teammates the first of two late first half scores, much to the surprise of the Marblehead defense. Then, the special teams failed to recover the kickoff, and one play later Silva had another touchdown. It was definitely a dagger in Marblehead’s heart, coupled with an earlier field goal by Dom Scalese that ignited the surge.
But the Magicians were still fighting in the second half, looking to break their three-game losing streak.
Peabody led in total yards, 300-248, but the visitors, playing catch-up, were credited with 142 all-purpose yards in the last two quarters, compared to just 48 for Peabody, which definitely pleased Rudloff.
Junior quarterback Colt Wales and sophomore signal caller Finn Gallup were very impressive splitting up the job to give opposing future defenses one more thing to worry about in their pregame preparations.
The defense also figured into the scoring column when captain Jake Scogland intercepted a pass in the second quarter, and then rambled 40 yards to the endzone to trim the deficit at that time to seven, 21-14.
Junior Justin Gonzalez then recovered a fumble, giving his team the ball in great field position at the Peabody 27. But the offense failed to get a first down on four tries.
It was then all Tanners for the rest of the half, started by that field goal by Scalese, his first of two in the game. His second one was a rocket launcher from 48 yards out to account for his team’s only points in the second half. Following Scalese’s second quarter field goal, the host team scored those two aforementioned touchdowns in the last minute to balloon their lead from a seven-point advantage to 24 points at halftime, 38-14.
But then, Rudloff liked the heart that his team displayed in the second half, outscoring Peabody, 7-3. It’s an encouraging sign for what lies ahead on the schedule with road games at Masco Friday, Oct. 6, 6:30 p.m., and then Beverly on Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. This is the part of the schedule, where they can get back into playoff contention, keeping all of those preseason goals very much in play.
The Magicians were able to challenge the Tanners throughout without the services of captain Andy Palmer and Brady Selvais, who were out with injuries, another reason why Rudloff was impressed by the effort.
But Palmer and Selvais weren’t the only ones not suiting up for the Tanners. “We had 12 varsity players out at different times (last week) in practice due to a stomach bug and injuries,” said Rudloff. “We had to bring freshman Chris Tardie up to the varsity just to have a practice earlier in the week. But he was injured three plays in, and had to leave that practice, so our third string quarterback Drew Goldman had to start at tailback. This unfortunately has been a microcosm of our season so far.”
Despite the absences, the veteran Marblehead coach had nothing, but praise for his team’s efforts. “This game against Peabody was our best game of the year for 95% of the snaps,” Rudloff added. “It was the other 5%, however, that we did some really exceptional things to beat ourselves.”
Wales called his own number to complete a first quarter drive with a six-yard run to the endzone.
Scogland’s aforementioned interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter shifted
momentum temporarily back to the visitors. Sam Thompson was credited with the lone second half touchdown for both sides, when he hauled in a 40-yard scoring strike from Wales. Sure-footed Greg Motorny did his part again with three successful extra point tries after each touchdown.
Wales led the team in rushing with 62 yards on eight carries. Drew Goldman and Brooks Keefe each picked up 15 yards more on the ground.
Wales completed six passes for 87 yards. Gallup had 10 pass completions for 67 yards. Keefe caught seven of those passes for 63 yards. Ryan Commoss had six for 54. Crew Monaco, Rylan Golden and Thompson caught one pass apiece.
“Scott Campbell, Jake Scogland and Rylan Golden all played solid games,” said Rudloff, “and Drew Goldman stepped up and filled in for our injured players and looked good.”