Expectations surrounding the five-time defending Northeastern Conference champion Marblehead High football squad are lofty once again — and understandably so.

The Magicians went 10-1 a year ago, earning a spot in the Division 4 North title game for the third straight season. They reached the state Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough two seasons ago, and have more playoff wins (10) and games (15) over the last five years than any other North Shore team.

During that same time period Marblehead has been nearly unstoppable at home (the Magicians sport a ridiculous 29-2 mark at Piper Field during that time) and has proven itself as a dynamite defensive group that seems to find a way to grind out games even when the offense isn’t clicking.

So the question is: can this year’s roster continue Marblehead’s recent run of gridiron excellence?

“Unfortunately for us, we’re at a stage in our program where there will always be high expectations,” said head coach Jim Rudloff. “This team will take that as a challenge and try to meet that.

“The kids are working hard but we are taking baby steps. We don’t have time to get better every week; we need to get better every day.”

Senior captain Chris Gally will assume lead signal caller duties for the Magicians. The athletic playmaker is more than capable of the job; he was slated to be the starter at quarterback a season ago before getting hurt and missing extensive time.

“He was out the first five games with an injury. By the time he was ready to come back, (since-graduated Andy) Clough had taken over as starting quarterback and we moved Chris to safety,” said Rudloff.

While Gally and versatile running back Tim Cronin will likely garner much of the headlines, perhaps the Magicians’ biggest key to success is how well they can perform up front.

Guys like captain Aidan Michaud, a 6-foot-4, 305 pound force, as well as Kyle Wheeler, Jack Herman (6-foot-3, 291 pounds), Cal Leveroni and Sam Worster — all senior lineman on both sides of the ball — are poised for big curtain call seasons in the trenches. If the line can do its job for Marblehead, things will be much easier for the rest of the team.

Cronin, Eric Faia, Derek Testa and Tamelle Platt all provide speedy options out of the backfield while Mason Poisson (slot receiver/linebacker) and 6-foot-4 Declan Rudloff (OT/DE) will be leaned on much more this year if the Magicians expect to reach their goals.

MAGICIAN MADNESS

Last year’s record: 10-1 (Northeastern Conference Tier 1 champs; lost to Melrose in Division 4 North final)

Head coach: Jim Rudloff (10th season, 80-22)

Team captains: Aidan Michaud, Sr., OT/NG; Chris Gally, Sr.; QB/FS; Jack McGrath, Sr., WR/CB.

Top returning rusher: Tim Cronin (76 carries, 374 yards, 5 TDs)

Top returning passer: Chris Gally (3-for-6, 18 yards)

Top returning receiver: Tim Cronin (8 catches, 165 yards)

Last league title: 2017 (Northeastern Conference Tier 1)

Did You Know?: The last time Marblehead dropped a home game was during the 2015 season when it was upset by Danvers in the Division 3 North title game.

2018 SCHEDULE

(does not include MIAA playoff games)

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 7 Triton 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Revere 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 Peabody 7 p.m.

Sept. 29 Beverly 1 p.m.

Oct. 5 Malden 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Gloucester 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Danvers 7 p.m.

Nov. 22 at Swampscott 10 a.m.

||||