Fighting Back Tears, Magicians Topple Lynnfield to Run Win Streak to 22
By Dwight Robson, Marblehead Beacon Contributor
Already playing with heavy hearts this season following the death of star teammate and friend, James Galante, last March, the Marblehead players and coaching staff were forced to face tragedy again when one of their teammate’s fathers unexpectedly passed away just hours before kickoff. And his son decided to play.
With the flag at Piper Field flying at half-mast and emotions along the Marblehead sideline running high, the Magicians took the field beside their grieving teammate, who undoubtedly was playing in honor of his beloved dad.
The Marblehead High School football team was at home Friday night looking to capture its 22nd straight victory. Last night’s game was against a tough Lynnfield squad that only a week ago trounced Saugus 37-0 in its season opener.
To keep their streak alive and move to 2-0 to open the 2022 season, the Magicians would have to overcome much more than a tough opponent.
In the end, the Magicians displayed incredible toughness and character, prevailing 26-18 over a physical and talented group of Pioneers.
After the game, Marblehead Head Coach Jim Rudloff struggled to contain his emotions as he praised his team—and the opposing Lynnfield group.
“It was a rough night,” Rudloff said. “Our kids did a great job, rallying around their friend and playing an amazing second half.” Rudloff also highlighted the Pioneers’ sportsmanship and compassion, calling Lynnfield “one of the classiest football programs” he has coached against.
Marblehead received the opening kickoff and faced an immediate deficit when Lynnfield’s Robert Marley intercepted a pass on Marblehead’s first offensive play of the game and ran it back for a touchdown and a 6-0 Lynnfield lead.
After Marblehead’s second series stalled at its own 30-yard line, Magician punter Greg Motorny displayed tremendous poise when a high snap slipped through his hands. The ball rolled inside the Marblehead 10-yard line when Motorny recovered the ball and managed to kick it under heavy pressure across midfield—saving Marblehead nearly 50 yards of field position.
Marblehead began its third possession at its 20-yard line. Junior quarterback Miles Oneill wasted no time getting the offense moving, completing back-to-back passes to Brooks Keefe and Andy Palmer that moved the ball all the way to the Lynnfield 20. After Marblehead nearly lost the ball on a fumble inside the five-yard line, Palmer made a tremendous catch on a low throw from Oneill–tying the game. Then Motorny booted the ball through the uprights, at which point the Magicians led 7-6 with the first quarter about to expire.
Lynnfield responded quickly on its next possession with a four-play drive that ended after a 53-yard run by Marley. Lynnfield’s Jack Calichman made an exceptional block to give Marley the path he needed up the right sideline to get all the way to the end zone. With the score 12-7 in the Pioneers’ favor, the team elected to try a two-point conversion, but the play was blown up by the Marblehead defense with a sack of quarterback Tyler Adamo. Marblehead, however, suffered a significant loss on the play when junior Scott Campbell was injured and had to be assisted to the sideline by two teammates. Campbell did not play again.
After Lynnfield’s defense stopped Marblehead, the Pioneer offense had excellent field possession at the Magicians’ 45 with eight minutes and 17 seconds remaining in the second quarter. On the team’s third play of the series, Lynnfield’s sophomore signal caller hit Samuel Gazit on a seam pass. Gazit showed great strength on the play as he fought off multiple Marblehead tacklers before running into the end zone for Lynnfield’s third touchdown of the half. Marblehead’s Jake Scogland burst through the line and blocked the extra point attempt, keeping the score at 18-7 in Lynnfield’s favor.
Marblehead’s next possession began with great promise after Palmer returned the kickoff all the way to the Lynnfield 47. After fumbling a shotgun snap, Oneill retrieved the ball and completed a deep pass to senior Connor Cronin to Lynnfield’s 12. But multiple penalties sapped Marblehead’s momentum. Facing a fourth and 12, Coach Rudloff kept his offense on the field, but a screen pass to Eddie Johns was stuffed for a loss of four yards.
On Lynnfield’s next possession, the team advanced the ball to mid-field when Adamo elected to gamble by throwing a deep pass into tight coverage. Marblehead’s Palmer intercepted the ball but was unable to advance it after a tackle by Lynnfield’s Calichman.
With less than a minute remaining in the half and pinned deep in their own territory at the 16-yard line, Marblehead remained aggressive. After advancing the ball to the Pioneer 40 with time for one more play before halftime, the Magicians lived up to their name when Oneill incredibly avoided a sack attempt by Lynnfield’s Gazit and fired a 45-yard dart to Cronin for a Marblehead touchdown. Unfortunately Marblehead suffered its second significant injury of the half when Palmer hurt his knee on the play. Oneill's two-point pass attempt to Cronin fell incomplete and the half ended with Lynnfield up 18-13.
Marblehead came into the game banged up and missing a handful of players, including top contributors Zander Danforth and Sam Annese, before seeing Campbell and Palmer go down with injuries.
“We’re beat up,” said Coach Rudloff. Asked about the strength of the team’s depth, Rudloff noted that the success of the Marblehead football program, and the popularity of the NFL’s Patriots and football generally, has helped generate tremendous interest in playing for his squad. “We have the numbers; now we need to continue to coach the kids up.”
Other than two Marblehead kickoffs, including one to start the second half, the third quarter was played entirely on Lynnfield’s side of the field. On the Pioneers’ first possession, a backward Adamo pass resulted in a fumble and a recovery by Marblehead. The Magicians were in prime position with first and goal, but they weren’t able to capitalize on Lynnfield’s mistake, as an Eddie Johns touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty and a fourth-down pass by Oneill fell incomplete.
Having taken possession of the ball in the shadow of their own goalpost, Lynnfield immediately made another mistake when the Pioneers’ punter fumbled a snap that was recovered for a touchdown by Marblehead’s Shane Keough. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, Marblehead regained the lead 19-18 with just under 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Lynnfield’s ensuing drive quickly stalled, forcing a punt attempt on fourth and 16. Marblehead again blocked the kick, taking possession back on the Pioneer 25. On fourth down with only two yards needed for a first down, the Magicians' Cronin alertly scooped up a fumbled shotgun snap but threw incomplete.
After a fast three-and-out by Lynnfield, Marblehead took possession early in the fourth quarter at the Pioneer 45. After a running play lost eight yards and an incomplete pass, Marblehead faced a third and 18 when Oneill and Cronin connected again on a deep pass that set the Magicians up first and goal. On third and goal from the 11, Oneill displayed veteran savvy as he looked to throw the ball to his right before firing the ball to his left for a touchdown pass to Aven Denbow. A successful kick made the score 26-18 in favor of the home team.
After another Lynnfield three-and-out, Marblehead had the ball again at its own 20 with seven minutes remaining. Seeking to put the game out of reach, Oneill threw deep to Christopher Dewitt, but the ball was picked off by Cucciniello and returned all the way to the Magicians’ 23. The Pioneers couldn’t advance the ball, however, and Marblehead regained possession with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game.
This time, Marblehead seemed determined to take some time off the clock and force Lynnfield to use timeouts, as Oneill handed the ball to running back Johns on three successive plays. After a catch by Cronin, the officials stopped the clock for a measurement to determine whether Marblehead had gained the yards necessary for a first down. The Magicians were just short and faced a critical third-and-one. Prior to the next snap, however, Lynnfield jumped offside, which resulted in a Marblehead first down with 3:41 on the clock.
Three running plays by Marblehead, each of which was followed by a Lynnfield timeout, resulted in a fourth-down punt that came to a rest at the Pioneers’ nine-yard line. A couple of completions and a 15-yard penalty on the Magicians gave Lynnfield a ray of hope, but the Pioneers could advance no further before turning the ball over on downs.
After three kneel-downs by Oneill, Marblehead had earned its 22nd consecutive victory on a night when everyone at Piper Field—players, coaches, students, parents, and fans—was reminded again of the fragility of life.
In a true display of sportsmanship, after the final whistle, the two teams came together–Lynnfield players and coaches hugging and consoling their Marblehead counterparts. Coach Rudloff then gathered his team and, in a speech punctuated by emotion, spoke to them while tears flowed from players' eyes.