By all accounts and measures, the past two seasons have been tremendous turning points for the Marblehead High School football team.
From a team that was perennially in the basement of the Northeast Conference (Small) standings, to a trip to the Division III Superbowl in 2009 and a two-point conversion away from a 4-1 conference record in the 2010 campaign, the Magicians have earned the respect of their fans and opponents.
The efforts of Head Coach Jim Rudloff and his staff have helped to not only turn around a once floundering program, but to develop a level of talent for the game and character as individuals.
Six Marblehead players were named NEC All-Stars; Junior Will Quigley broke the school’s single-season scoring record, and a number of Marblehead’s seniors have already been accepted to upper-tier academic institutions with offers to join the football programs.
Include in that list senior Matt Perlow, who committed to Bowdoin College well before the end of 2010. Perlow was an early applicant to the program, drawn to the offerings of NESCAC schools.
“There were a few schools that were in the running for me but the NESCAC just felt like the best fit,” said Perlow. “Seeing my brother play [at Amherst College] definitely had an impact on me and the kind of environment I wanted to step into, but Bowdoin is a great school with a lot to offer. I couldn’t be more excited.”
One of the biggest attractions to the Polar Bears' squad is the prospect of playing the same positions in Maine as Perlow played for Marblehead in a similar system.
“In talking with the coaches [at Bowdoin] they see me fitting in as a tight end just like I played the last few years, and they run an offense that I have a good understanding of already,” he said, noting that the ease of transition may make a huge difference in adjusting to college life.
The move from Marblehead to Maine will hold many drastic changes for Perlow, including his first match up with fellow Magician Josh Freedland. Freedland, a standout Marblehead defender and long-time teammate of Perlow's, is expected to join the Bates College football team.
"There is a bit of a rivalry between the two schools, but it's going to be different the first time I see him lined up on the other side," said Perlow. "We've been teammates for as long as I can remember so we've already talked about what that will be like. It'll be fun."
Bowdoin Coach Dave Caputi holds high expectations for players welcomed onto his team, but he is confident Perlow will accept the challenges that lie ahead.
“We obviously put a strong emphasis on academics here, which Matt has shown a dedication to,” said Caputi. “But we tell our kids that 'a player who takes advantage of everything our school has to offer, experiencing everything they can in their time here is going to improve himself and improve his teammates.' That’s what we hope for all of our players.”
After a break-out year in 2009, Perlow's numbers dropped this past season. There are a number of factors that likely contributed to the decline, but Perlow understands it is all a part of the learning process.
“As a team we obviously didn’t accomplish everything we had hoped this season, but the last few years have been great and I think with hard work and the right opportunities, I can definitely contribute at the collegiate level,” he said.
As is the nature with most freshmen in any sport, those opportunities may not appear in the short term.
“Generally when a player jumps from high school to college football they have one particular skill or job they can offer right away and the rest is a waiting game,” said Caputi. “Matt has a good understanding of our system and his size and athleticism can certainly help him contribute to our team next year in whatever capacity we ask of him,” he said, noting the typical roles of young players as fill-ins and specialists.
While Perlow leaned on the experiences of his brother Sam, the Amherst athlete’s football career was cut short due to injury, leaving a mark on Matt and his parents.
“We've seen first hand the importance of being at a place where he wants to be, for the right reasons,” said Ken Perlow, father of Matt and Sam. “I think Bowdoin fits that perfectly for Matt. He has diverse interests and will be encouraged to explore them there. So, while the football piece is big…there were many factors that made Matt choose Bowdoin.”
Perlow has yet to decide where his college studies will take him in regards to a career, but one thing is certain: if he maintains the work ethic that earned him a spot with the Polar Bears, he will succeed both on and off the field in Brunswick, Maine.