SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

September 27, 2013

Moving the Chains: Marblehead, Swampscott meet early this year

North Shore football fans won’t have to adjust their dials if they find themselves craving cranberry sauce on Saturday night.

After watching a Marblehead/Swampscott football game, the stomach grumbling for gravy and other Thanksgiving accouterments is perfectly understandable.

But for the first time since 1909, the Big Blue and Magicians will be playing on a day other than Thanksgiving. This year they will meet at noon tomorrow, at Blocksidge Field in Swampscott.

There are several reasons for the change. Because the state’s new playoff system awards automatic bids to league winners, the Northeastern Conference opted to have two rivals play twice: Swampscott/Marblehead and Winthrop/Revere. This fits in with the league’s unique power-based North/South structure, and those are also the only rivalries in different divisions (meaning they can’t play three times because they can’t meet in the playoffs).

“It’s weird,” said Liam Gillis, one of Marblehead’s captains. “I don’t know how to describe it other than that it feels weird.”

“Marblehead week is always exciting no matter what the date is. This week of practice has (had) a November flair,” said Swampscott captain Toby Hale.

Getting ready for a traditional holiday rival before the leaves turn presents challenges. Then there are the challenges Marblehead (3-0) presents simply because they’ve steamrolled their opponents thus far.

“It’s been different without the pre-holiday festivities, but our guys have played with a lot of emotion and energy in every game,” said Swampscott head coach Steve Dembowski, whose team picked up its first win last weekend and is 1-2.

“We’re going to have to play very well to stop an offense averaging six scores a game. All four of their receivers are good and Brooks Tyrrell, their running back, is outstanding. They present challenges in all phases of the game.”

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