It was a season that started off not too well for the Marblehead Football Magicians. A team filled with many first-year starters lost their first four games. But coach Jim Rudloff kept on promising just wait until their Northeastern Conference (NEC) divisional schedule began, and sure enough his words proved prophetic after the Magicians rattled off three straight wins to make the Division 4 playoffs as the 14th seed.
The Marblehead boys (4-4) had to take that long trek to Middleboro to face the host Sachems, a South Shore League team, last Friday night, and that long bus ride had no affect on them. They were able to jump out to a 14-0 lead, before going onto a 21-12 upset triumph over the third-seeded Sachems (6-3) in a Sweet 16 game.
Marblehead is now getting ready to go up against host Grafton (7-2), the sixth seed, on Friday night in an Elite 8 encounter. Grafton defeated South High (6-3, 11 th seed) in its Sweet 16 game, 21-0.
But despite the win, Rudlofff still sees room for improvement as they move on to the next round. “On offense, we’re still making too many mistakes to continue to be successful,” he said. “But we’re continuing to work on minimizing those mistakes.
“We responded well offensively after they scored their first touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter on a punt return,” added Rudloff. “But then, we let down a little bit defensively on the last Middleboro drive. We just lost our composure a bit, but credit Middleboro for a good offensive drive.”
The Magicians enjoyed a 7-0 halftime lead on a Finn Gallup pass to Ryan Commoss. Sure-footed senior Greg Motorny then tacked on the extra point, his first of three in the game.
Junior signal caller Colt Wales then hooked up with senior captain Andy Palmer for a short four-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Following Motorny’s kick, the visitors had a 14-0 lead, and were seemingly in command of the game. But the Sachems got six of them back on a punt return to begin the fourth quarter. But they came up short on the two-point conversion try.
The Marblehead offense didn’t panic in the next series, even on fourth down, when senior Brooks Keefe ran the ball 11 yards to the Middleboro 40 to pick up that crucial first down to keep the drive alive. He then ran another 14 yards to the 26, before Gallup ran for 17 more to the nine, setting up his touchdown run with 3:02 left in the game. A determined offensive effort provided the Magicians with that all-important insurance touchdown, because Middleboro wasn’t backing down. They scored their second touchdown of the game, but with just 55.9 seconds left. But then, Commoss ruined their comeback plans by recovering the onside kick. The offense then simply ran out the clock to secure the team’s fourth straight win at the most critical stage of the season.
Marblehead was able to maintain control of the game throughout, because they were able to win the battle of the trenches, according to Rudloff. He singled out the contributions of Jake Scogland, Scott Campbell, Justin Gonzalez, Christian Pacheco, Gunther Fehrenbach, Wilson Bullard and Javery Monegro along both lines of scrimmage.
Rudloff and his staff were looking at film of recent Grafton games last weekend to hone up on them for Friday night’s game. They took what they learned to put together a game plan for practice this week. He now hopes the work pays off once again with another win to make it to the semifinals, putting them just one step away from the Super Bowl and Gillette Stadium in early December.