By Dan Harrison
---- — MARBLEHEAD- The Wilmington football team had to be feeling pretty good at halftime knowing it would get the ball to start the third quarter after cutting the Marblehead lead in half with a big play in the final minute of the first half.
It turned out the Magicians had the Wildcats just where they wanted them.
Marblehead forced a big three-and-out before scoring three unanswered touchdowns en route to the 34-7 win in the first round of the Division 3 Northeast playoffs.
According to Magician head coach Jim Rudloff, it was all about getting that initial three-and-out.
“It was critical that we got that three-and-out,” said Rudloff, whose team will face Masconomet in next week’s sectional semi-finals.
“(In the first half) we did a poor job of letting them (Wilmington) convert on third down and that was really tiring us out. We knew, kicking off to them (in the third quarter) if we could get a stop we felt confident we’d be in good shape.”
The Magicians (7-1) scored on their opening drive of the game when Matt Millett hit Brian Daly in stride on a 31-yard fade pass. The hosts then jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter after a one-yard Brooks Tyrrell rush, but the Wildcats hit a big play in the final minute of the quarter to cut the lead to 14-7.
Ryan Colangelo somehow got behind the Magician defense and James Oregan hit him in stride for a 43-yard touchdown pass. Outside of that play, however, Marblehead allowed just one other play that went for 25-yards or more.
“We treated this week like it was the Gloucester game,” explained Rudloff. “Their (Wilmington’s) strength is they go right at people. They play in a big league and their third string linemen looked like our first string linemen. I thought the seniors showed great leadership. You saw them take over in the third quarter.”
After forcing the Wildcats to punt on their first, second-half drive, Marblehead turned to Tyrell (19 carries for 123 yards), who rushed the ball eight times on the very next drive capping it with a six-yard touchdown run. Tyrrell did a good job of finding the seams, squirting through them and then always falling forward. He averaged just under seven yards per carry on that drive alone.
After a Wilmington fumble was recovered by Liam Gillis, Millett took the next play 25-yards for a touchdown run of his own to make it 27-7 Marblehead early in the third quarter.
“They were more physical overall,” observed Wilmington head coach Mike Barry. “We like to run the ball and when we can’t it’s tough. The score is indicative of the second half.”
One of the big reasons the Wildcats couldn’t run the ball in the first half was senior linebacker Ben Anderson, who recorded a pair of tackles for a loss along with a sack in the first two quarters alone. The senior was rewarded in the fourth quarter with a six-yard TD-run after Tyrrell went to the sideline following a 62-yard reception.
The other big factor for the Magicians was the home-field advantage. Piper Field can be a tough place for visitor to play especially when the Marblehead fans pack the place like they did last night.
“I don’t think Marblehead is a great place to play for visiting teams. It’s like Miller Field in Winthrop,” said Rudloff. “It’s (Piper Field) tucked away back in the corner, it’s dark and we had a great turnout. The town’s really responded to the football team.”