Marblehead was a clear favorite entering Thursday morning's game against Swampscott, but the underdog came up big at home with a 25-16 victory over the Magicians.
Swampscott quarterback Brian Santry launched his team on an eight-play, 3:20 drive that ended with Santry running for the touchdown with 1:50 remaining to clinch victory for the Big Blue.
“It’s disappointing,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff. “As a team, we did a really bad job this week. I feel bad for our seniors because they deserve better.”
The Big Blue defense gained confidence early after forcing Marblehead to punt on its opening drive. The Magicians were unable to put any points on the board in the first half, thanks to a fourth-down tackle on quarterback Ian Maag by Swampscott lineman Toby Hale, and two interceptions by sophomore Ryan January.
Swampscott’s offense took advantage of the opportunities created by its defense.
After the first interception by January, Santry found senior captain Robert Serino for a 33-yard play-action pass that ended the opening quarter on a high note for the Big Blue. Fifteen plays later, a 15-yard Santry touchdown pass to Josh Rothwell put Swampscott up 7-0 with 5:41 left in the first half.
Twice in that drive Swampscott was able to force Marblehead offsides, with one penalty on fourth down resulting in a new set of downs for the Big Blue.
“There were two offsides penalties that we committed that were actual penalties. There were another thirty-seven penalties called on us that were questionable,’’ said Rudloff, who was exaggerating the number of penalties to make his point. "I think we had thirty-seven penalties called on us by the same official, and I don’t believe they had one. I do have a little problem with that; I think that hurt us quite a bit. I just feel bad for our kids that it was that way, but unfortunately, had those calls been different, we still would have lost the game.”
After January’s second interception, Santry led his team on an incredible 56-second drive that culminated in a trick play for a touchdown. On the Marblehead 20-yard-line, Santry threw a screen pass to Cronin, who began to run forward. Cronin hesitated, turned around to set his feet, and fired the football back to his quarterback. Santry then carried it in to the endzone to make it 13-0 just before the conclusion of the first half.
“I thought we were in the right position to do it,” said Swampscott coach Steve Dembowski of that surprising play. “We got the blitz off the edge that we were hoping to get, and Cronin made the throw that he usually doesn’t make in practice, so we’ll take it.’’
Although Swampscott took a lead into halftime, Marblehead never lost confidence. Following a quick three-and-out to open up the third quarter, Marblehead scored on a Cuzner six-yard run to put the Magicians within 13-7 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.
After a Marblehead turnover-on-downs at the Swampscott four-yard-line, Spencer Craig tackled Santry in the endzone for a safety with 7:30 to go in the fourth quarter. Cuzner then scored on another six-yard touchdown run to bring the Magicians within 19-16 with 5:10 remaining.
Coach Dembowski didn’t lose faith in his senior quarterback. “I have complete confidence in him, and I knew he had to have a big day for us to have a chance,” said Dembowski. “He’s one tough son-of-a-gun, and he took a lot of hits this year. For us to win, he had to play, and he was awesome. I’m so happy for him.”
Coach Rudloff believed his players didn’t play to their potential Thursday morning. “[Swampscott] wanted it more, and played a little bit harder, and the coaches did a better job outcoaching us,” said Rudloff “I don’t know how to dissect it any better than that. In all phases of the game, we were getting beat.”
It was the 108th meeting between these two teams. Swampscott continues to lead the all-time series against Marblehead, 51-49-7. Swampscott and Marblehead tied with Danvers for third place in CAL/NEC Tier 2 Division standings, with all three teams going 2-3 in divisional play.