MARBLEHEAD — The theory that lightning never strikes the same place twice can officially be put to rest.
The lightning rod that is Piper Field was hit again last night as the Marblehead football team connected on a 46-yard hook-and-lateral play that produced the game-winning points as time expired against Danvers.
Marblehead quarterback Ian Maag delivered a strike to a slanting Dylan Cressy 11 yards downfield. Cressy then pitched the ball back to Brian Daly, who went the rest of the way as the Magicians produced an amazing 28-25 win.
The Magicians had fallen behind by three points only seconds before when Danvers' sophomore quarterback Nick Andreas threw a beautiful 60-yard touchdown pass to Jake Cawlina, giving the Falcons a 25-22 lead with 38 seconds to play. Marblehead's miraculous comeback kept the hosts firmly entrenched in the hunt for the Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 2 title.
The once beaten Magicians (8-1, 2-1 in league) will play unbeaten Beverly next week at Hurd Stadium in a game with huge title implications.
"We've been practicing that play all season long and that's what the play was designed to do," Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. "The seniors deserved to get the win tonight, but we've had two absolute horror shows of games the last two weeks and I'm very excited, believe it or not, to get out of here and go on the road."
Marblehead was coming off its first loss of the season, a last-minute setback against Salem when the Witches got the decisive points on a two-point conversion. The Magicians had a chance to win in the dying moments, but their field goal attempt sailed wide.
Execution proved to be the key this time around.
"Maag is a great quarterback and our offense runs through him. He put it right to me; all I had to do was toss it to Daly and he did the rest," Cressy said. "Unbelievable."
Daly took the pitch from Cressy while running at top speed. He turned the corner and still had to pick up a block inside the 10-yard line to cross the goal line.
"Amazing," Daly said. "It feels like redemption for the loss we had last week. We didn't deserve any of that, but we pulled together and got a win."
Marblehead managed the clock perfectly in its final drive. Maag, who struggled throwing the ball most of the night, was 5 for 5 for 82 yards on the final drive, and the Marblehead coaches wisely used their timeouts to give themselves a chance to win.
"It felt so much like Salem last week; pulling ahead and then just blowing it like that at the end," Cressy said. "It's nice to get a 'W' this time."
A win seemed unlikely after Danvers (4-5) perfectly executed its two-minute offense.
Andreas connected with Cawlina four times on the Falcons' final drive, primarily on out-routes before the duo went vertical for the touchdown.
Cawlina beat the Marblehead secondary down the left sideline and Andreas dropped the ball into his hands.
"I've never been a part of anything like that," Danvers coach Sean Rogers said. "We thought we had it and it came down to the last play. They executed that last play."
Scoring was scarce in the second half until the final minute, which completely went against the first-half grain.
Alex Valles took the opening kickoff 85 yards for a TD to open the scoring, then Marblehead answered by feeding Zac Cuzner three consecutive plays for 79 yards and a score. Cuzner's 9-yard TD run knotted the score.
Valles added two more touchdown runs (3 and 27 yards) in the first half. Cuzner (39 yards) and Brooks Tyrrell (11) also had touchdown runs for Marblehead, which held a 22-19 lead at intermission.
"I can't be any more proud of the kids for what we did out there," Rogers said. "We fought, we came from behind which I thought showed a lot of character on our part, but Marblehead's a very good football team."
Cuzner ended up with 156 yards rushing on 15 carries to lead Marblehead. Maag threw for 145 yards and rushed for 94 yards.
Valles led Danvers with 66 yards on the ground, with Alex Grant chipping in 60 yards rushing. Andreas was 6 for 11 for 101 yards, all to Cawlina.
"It seems the big play gets us every time," Rudloff said. "If you bought a ticket, never leave one of our games early."