NEWBURYPORT— Though certain points of yesterday’s game weren’t looking particularly good for the Marblehead football team, the end result was more than satisfying — in the form of a double overtime victory.
Down by two scores midway through the third quarter, the Magicians rallied to tie the game in regulation, then won it in the second extra session with a touchdown pass from Ian Maag to Dylan Cressy on the game’s final play for a 23-20 triumph over Newburyport at World War II Memorial Stadium.
A senior quarterback, Maag (17 completions for 237 yards) targeted Cressy in the end zone from eight yards out, moving from the pocket and creating space for himself before finding Cressy for the winning touchdown.
“I’ve never been involved in an overtime game,” said fourth-year Marblehead head coach Jim Rudloff, whose team remained unbeaten at 5-0. “It was exciting and worth the money.
“I wish it hadn’t been an overtime game; I really wish it hadn’t been this close. I have to say that Newburyport had the best defensive line that we’ve played against. I don’t know if we successfully executed more than two plays. They were monsters.”
In the overtime format, each team had four plays to score from the 10-yard line. Marblehead went first and managed a Newell field goal to go up 17-14. Newburyport followed suit with a field goal of its own and again the scoreboard showed a tie at 17-all.
The Clippers elected to go first in double overtime and were forced to settle for another field goal on a fourth down situation. Taking over with a chance to win it, Maag ran for 2 yards for Marblehead before firing his TD pass to Cressy on second down to end it.
The contest, believed to be Marblehead’s second-ever OT contest (and first overtime win), started off with the host Clippers (2-3) dominating the plays. Penalties plagued the Magicians in the opening quarters and Newburyport took advantage.
“Honestly, in the first half we were flat,” explained Rudloff. “Emotionally the kids didn’t have much. We had individual players that made individual mistakes, which can always hurt you. I think a lot of that was we hadn’t gotten off the bus yet. And it’s not like we got off the bus in the second half, either, because I think the kids came out spirited — but we were still getting our butts kicked.”
Down by 14, the Magicians finally scored with 4:15 left in the third quarter. Senior captain Zac Cuzner picked off Drew Bourdeau’s pass and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown. After Joe Newell’s extra point kick, the Magicians had cut their deficit in half — and kept rolling from there.
“Zac was huge for us,” said Rudloff. “He didn’t take any reps for us this week. He was at practice every day, but had ice on his knee all day long after he tweaked it last week. We didn’t have him come out for practice until later in the week. He was very rusty, but he did some great things as the game went on.
“He’s the kid everyone on this team looks to to make a big play. Zac’s been starting for the past three years, one of the only guys on the team that’s done that. The kids know he’s been in all of these different situations. Zac did everything we needed him to do ... everything we expected him to do.”
On the next set of plays Cuzner was again involved in huge stop, which forced Newburyport to punt. The Magicians then went 38 yards in six plays before Maag threw his first and only interception of the game. The Clippers took over on their own 30-yard line and nearly scored again, but this time Marblehead’s Matt Millert intercepted a Bourdeau pass in the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
“Defensively we were lights out,” Rudloff said. “I don’t think we could’ve played a better defensive game.”
On Marblehead’s ensuing drive, Cuzner ran the ball in from a yard out and Newell’s kick tied the game.
Jeremy Gillis was the leading receiver for the Magicians with 124 yards on six catches, and Brian Daly chipped in with 55 yards with four catches.
“You take all positives for the fact that we got a ‘W’ out of it,” said Rudloff.