MARBLEHEAD -- With 16 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Marblehead’s A.J. Russo made the catch that every Massachusetts high school football player dreams of.
With his team trailing by two points, Marblehead's sophomore quarterback, Josh Roberstson, dropped back to pass threw a 21-yard strike into the hands of Russo who had beaten three Swampscott defenders.
That late score propelled the host Magicians by the rival Big Blue for the seventh straight Thanksgiving, 22-16 at Piper Field. It was an upset win over the Division 5 Super Bowl bound Big Blue (9-3), made even more improbably by the fact that Swampscott took the lead (16-14) on a field goal just moments earlier.
“It’s the best thing that ever could have happened to me in my senior year,” Russo said post game while still trying to catch his breath.
The Swampscott Big Blue had already clinched a birth to the Division 5 Super Bowl with a win over Holliston last Friday night, while the Magicians (7-4) had their championship hopes ended earlier in the postseason. With one team having far more at stake than the other, the question of whether or not Swampscott would play their starters for the entire four quarters was discussed and forecasted ad nauseam.
Big Blue head coach Bob Serino played his starters for the duration of the entire game and rode his studs the same way he had all season. Serino’s decision made for a more compelling game for those in attendance that stuck it out during a rainy and windy morning at Piper Field for this 113th holiday bout between neighboring seaside towns.
With 3 minutes remaining in the fourth, trailing 14-7, Big Blue quarterback Graham Inzana showed just why he is one of the best passers in the Northeastern Conference as he hit Andrew Augustin for a 17 yard touchdown; however, the extra point was blocked by Marblehead’s Brady Lavender.
Still trailing by a point, Swampscott attempted and recovered an onside kick by Dylan Dubiel jumping on the loose ball.
In a matter of minutes the only thing that could be heard in the Marblehead fan section was the sound of the cold rain hitting the metal bleachers.
Swampscott raced down the field and set up a 24 yard field goal for Thomas Frisoli with under a minute remaining. Frisoli drilled it through the uprights, giving Swampscott its second lead of the game and leaving the Marblehead offense with just 46 seconds to try and score.
The moment wasn’t too big for Robertson, the sophomore quarterback who had to command a hurry-up offense with a wet ball.
“Breaking point of the game was when we threw the short 5 yard out but he saw that Will [Twadell] was double covered and he said ‘I’m gonna throw it anyhow’ and coach Giardi and I said NOOOO and Will made a tremendous play,” said Magicians head coach coach Jim Rudloff interrupting his quarterback’s postgame interview which led to a loud chuckle from the rest of the team.
It was Trawdell’s circus catch which imitated Odell Beckam Jr that put the Magicians in business for the eventual Russo game winner, capping off one of the best Marblehead- Swampscott Thanksgiving Day games in recent memory.
“It’s been special for me because obviously my son is one of the seniors (Declan Rudloff) you know. I got to watch these kids every single game in youth,” said coach Rudluff with tears in his eyes. “I’m gonna miss them but it’s been great.”
Swampscott will play Amherst Sunday, December 8th, at Gillette Stadium for the Division 5 Super Bowl. The Big Blue had an early 7-6 lead when Zack Palmer took a kickoff 75-yards back to the house after Russo's first TD gave Marblehead a short lived edge. That 7-6 score stood up at halftime and Marblehead's senior captain Tim Cronin, who had 146 yards on 28 carries, broke free for a 39-yard score to give his team the edge (14-7) in the third.
Robertson threw for 126 yards and the two scores. For the Big Blue, Inzana threw for 102 yards with Palmer (62) being the main target. Dylan January rumbled for 94 yards on the ground.