SENIOR CAPTAIN Robert Marley helped stake his team to a lead on two separate occasions on Friday night against a Marblehead team on a 21-game winning streak. Pictured, Marley takes off on a 53-yard touchdown run coming not long after a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage gave Lynnfield the opening score. (Kristine Marengi Photo)
MARBLEHEAD – To beat the best, you have to play your best.
For 21 consecutive games, no football team has successfully put together four complete quarters when facing the mighty Magicians of Marblehead. Last Friday night, the 1-0 Pioneers traveled to Piper Stadium in hopes of ending this streak and avoiding becoming the 22nd straight victim.
In the end, the Magicians continued their incredible streak, coming from behind to beat Lynnfield 26-18 in a game that meant plenty to the Marblehead football team and community.
It only took one play for Lynnfield to set the tone and let the home team know they were not here to bend the knee.
On the first play from scrimmage, Marblehead quarterback Miles O’Neill dropped back and threw a quick slant pass for his intended receiver. That was before senior captain Robert Marley stepped in front of the pass and returned it for a 33-yard pick six. Despite a missed extra point, Lynnfield seized the early momentum with a 6-0 lead.
Late in the opening quarter, the high-powered Marblehead offense would finally find their footing. Following two big pass plays for pickups of 32 and 28 yards, the Magicians marched inside the Lynnfield 10-yard line. On 3rd and goal, O’Neill rolled to his right avoiding pressure and found junior receiver Andy Palmer in the endzone giving Marblehead a 7-6 edge.
The Pioneers quickly responded though, and once again, it came from the captain. On just the fourth play of the proceeding drive, Marley (9 carries, 87 yards, 1 touchdown) followed his blockers on a draw play before shooting up the right sideline for a 53-yard rushing touchdown. The 2-point try would fail, but Lynnfield once again led the heavily favored Magicians 12-7 early in the 2nd quarter.
Following a huge defensive stop on 4th down, the Pioneer offense returned to the field taking over at the Marblehead 45-yard line. This time, it would only take three plays to find the endzone.
Facing 3rd and 4, sophomore quarterback Tyler Adamo (12-23, 112 yards, 1 touchdown) fooled the defense on a play action pass hitting senior tight end Sam Gazit (4 catches, 63 yards, 1 touchdown) over the middle. Gazit had enough yardage for the first down, but would not go down easily. The tight end made three defenders miss on his way to a 39-yard score.
“I think our guys hung in and battled tonight,” commented Lynnfield head coach Pat Lamusta on his team’s performance. “We definitely came out and played very intense in the first and second quarter.”
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, games are not won in the first and second quarters. Lynnfield found themselves in the driver’s seat with an 18-7 lead late in the 2nd, but the Magicians still had a trick up their sleeve.
With only enough time for one more play, Marblehead sat 40 yards away from the goal line and needed a miracle. O’Neill stepped up in the pocket avoiding a swarm of white jerseys then heaved a prayer to the endzone. Despite being draped by two defenders, senior receiver Connor Cronin found a way to hall in the Hail Mary making it an 18-13 game at the half.
“We saw a quarterback give his athletes a chance and stay alive in the pocket,” stated coach Lamusta on the first half’s final play. “We had a couple guys in close but he slipped as he’s been doing this year. We just opted to try and have more guys in coverage but that’s a big athletic play by their receiver.”
Lynnfield still led going into the second half, but momentum had certainly swung the Magicians way. It veered even further when the Pioneers fumbled the ball on the first play of the second half. While the Lynnfield defense was able to hold held their ground stopping Marblehead on four straight plays, another self-inflicted mistake would relinquish the lead.
After going three-and-out, a bobbled snap on a punt was recovered by the Magicians in the endzone to give Marblehead its first lead 19-18. Another three-and-out for the Pioneers would lead to another special teams mishap when a blocked punt gave the Magicians possession at the Lynnfield 25-yard line. Once again though, the Pioneer defense didn’t budge and kept Marblehead out of the endzone.
“The defense had to deal with a lot of momentum swings,” claimed Lamusta. “We had a couple of bad situations where we lost field position and they just hung in there. We had a couple fourth down stops so I’m very proud of how the defense played.”
Lynnfield’s offense was unable to replicate their first half success and did not score another point.
Marblehead tacked on another touchdown and for the 22nd straight contest, the Magicians were the victors 26-18.
While the loss, as disappointing as it may be, was a tough pill to swallow, it truly paled in comparison to the reality of life.
Just hours before kickoff, Marblehead player Jake Scogland’s father passed away unexpectedly at the age of 46. When the game was over, both teams met at midfield to embrace one another in a sign of solidarity – a somber reminder the daily trials and tribulations we encounter can truly just be trivial.
Before kickoff, both coaches decided to meet after the game and the moment was certainly not lost on coach Lamusta.
“It was nice to bring it together because that’s tough to fight through…the point of the breakdown at the end was to remind everyone that there’s something bigger here than football.”