The Big Blue upset Marblehead last Thanksgiving, and it’s interesting to note that the underdog (according to The Salem News’ staff picks, at least) has won in this rivalry each the last three years.
“Last year was tough. They outplayed us, but we’ve learned from it and we’re working very hard this week,” said Gillis, who as a hockey and lacrosse standout had played his school’s league rivals twice in a season before. Now, he and his teammates are getting used to the idea of doing that in football.
“I’ve never thought about that in football,” he said. “We have to treat this like any other game.”
The game has big playoff implications for Swampscott in a crowded Division 4. A win against Division 3 Northeast Marblehead would be worth 12 points, and even more in the long run when you factor in the number of games Marblehead will likely win this year. That, and the historic rivalry, have the improving Big Blue ready to go.
“It’s strictly business because we respect Marblehead’s good coaching and play ... and that drives us,” said Hale. “We both know what these games mean to us and to the towns.”
Marblehead quarterback Matt Millett is completing passes at an alarmingly efficient rate of 74 percent and his four targets, Brian Daly, Jeremy Gillis, Will Millett and Dylan Cressy, are all outstanding. On top of that, Tyrrell has accounted for 453 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
For the Big Blue, Hale has played well on the defensive line and Jordan James has emerged at linebacker. Mike Faia’s also been playing well at safety, but Swampscott will need strong efforts from the entire defense this week.
“Marblehead’s not afraid to throw it to their third (receiver). Their possession passing game is much improved, so we have be prepared for everything,” said Dembowski. “We need a big game from the defensive line, where it starts, but we really need a big game from everybody.”