MARBLEHEAD — A hard-nosed effort from the Gloucester High football team gave Marblehead some trouble for much of the first half on a misty night at Piper Field.
So with the ground game faltering and the visitors digging in, the Magicians went to the air.
Senior quarterback Ian Maag had a hand in all six touchdowns, throwing five and running for another, as Marblehead pulled away to top Gloucester 39-12.
Marblehead (7-0) extended its best perfect start in school history as Maag threw for 234 yards and five scores. Arguably his most important score came on the ground, as he scampered in from six yards out to give Marblehead a two-touchdown lead for the first time all night.
“That was a huge momentum swing going into the locker room,” said Maag, who completed 10 passes to five receivers and took over the North Shore passing TD lead with 11 on the season.
The Magicians scored on their first play from scrimmage, a 31-yard swing pass from Maag to fellow captain Zac Cuzner, set up by a lengthy return by sophomore Brooks Tyrrell. Marblehead used TDs in the first minute and last minute of the first half to deflate Gloucester (1-6).
The Fishermen were playing without captains Santo Parisi and Zach Smith, but got a 15-yard touchdown from sophomore John Curcuru to make it 7-6 early on. Marblehead regained the lead after Maag hooked up with Nick Perry for a 60-yard fade, then hit Jeremy Gillis for the first of two TDs.
Gloucester didn’t go away, making it 13-12 on a 30-yard run by Jordan Pallazola.
“Gloucester came out and gave us a big bloody nose in the first half,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff. “I give Gloucester a ton of credit for doing that with the injuries they had. Up to that point, it was anybody’s game.”
Jeremy Gillis’ interception of Gloucester QB Ian Kennedy set up a drive that Maag capped by hitting Cuzner for another score from nine yards out with 2:21 left until halftime. Marblehead’s defense got the ball back with 1:12 left in the half, and Maag took his team 61 yards in 42 seconds for the backbreaking score before halftime.
“We went in and felt like it was one of our worst halves because of our mental and physical mistakes. To still be on top of a quality team like Gloucester gave us some confidence,” said Rudloff. “We talked about making sure we played controlled, smart football in the second half — we said play tough, smart and fast, but don’t play safe.”
The Magicians didn’t.
Linebacker Ty Bates, Liam Gillis and Kyle McCormack completely shut down the Gloucester running game, and Maag took advantage of two short fields caused by Gloucester turning it over on downs. Scoring strikes to Brian Daly (40 yards) and Jeremy Gillis (25 yards) put the game out of reach.
“They have very good middle linebackers, No. 52 (Liam Gillis) and No. 55 (Bates) are studs and if you don’t block them, they’ll make every tackle ... and they did,” said Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli. “They did a lot of slanting on the defensive line to occupy blockers. and their linebackers made the tackles.”
Despite the wet conditions, Marblehead made plays in the passing game. Maag had perfect exchanges with his center and displayed a wide range of throws. His 60-yard toss to Perry floated over the top, he placed the first TD to Jeremy Gillis in a perfect spot, and hit Daly with a dart before the junior made a defender miss and turned it into a 33-yard gain.
“They weren’t ideal conditions but we make sure that we can catch balls when they’re wet in practice,” said Maag. “We have some explosive players, a bunch of good athletes, and they’re making plays and the line is giving us time. It’s coming into play for us right now.”
Marblehead, which faces Salem next week, beat Gloucester in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1990-91.
“The kids made good decisions in the second half, especially on defense,” said Rudloff. “You can’t teach a kid, I don’t care what town he’s from, to play like a Gloucester kid plays. It is a DNA thing. Their kids were physical and tough and its a confidence boost to beat them.”
Dylan Cressy had three catches and a tackle-for-loss and McCormack and Bates shared a sack. Magicians kicker Joe Newall connected on three PATs.