Marblehead — Visiting Wilmington scored 17 unanswered points in the second half at Piper Field Friday night but unfortunately for the Wildcats, Marblehead put 24 on the board in the first half. With their 24-17 win, No. 2 Marblehead improves to 9-0 and will take on Melrose next weekend in the Division 4 North Final.
The Wilmington team that played the second half was the complete opposite of the team that played in the first half. Marblehead dominated, the first half allowing the guests just four first downs on four possessions.
Things got nerve-wracking for the Magicians in the second half, with the Wildcats scoring two touchdowns in 19 seconds in the third quarter, and adding a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that cut the deficit to 10-points with 5:54 left in regulation.
Wilmington held Marblehead, got the ball back with 1:04 to go, but saw their hopes of a fantastic comeback thwarted by Seamus Keaney, who picked off Wilmington quarterback Graham Smith at the Marblehead 5-yard line sealing the win with 26 seconds left.
Keaney said Smith was tough, scrambling for long stretches waiting for someone to get open.
“He was tough to tackle, and we just tried to cover people, he did a really great job keeping the play alive,” Keaney said. “He really made it tough on our defensive line, it was a battle until the end.”
Marblehead got on the board on a Phelan Tinti-Kane field goal in the first quarter. The Magicians got in the end zone three times in the second, quarterback Andy Clough hit Jack McGrath for a 24-yard score, Clough ran one in from the six, and Tim Cronin broke free from 23 yards away with seven seconds left before the break.
Clough said that Wilmington never quit and gave his team fits in the second half, and the key for his team is to play a full 44 minutes next week against the Red Raiders.
“That was a real great win for us. We started off extremely strong in the first half, but let our foot off the gas in the second half,” Clough said. “We need to be able to play all four quarters if we want to continue in the playoffs.”
Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said he was frantic coach for a half Friday night, and that was due to the second half effort by the Wildcats.
“We really hadn’t seen much of them passing, they were ahead in almost every game this year, but they spread it out and did some damage,” Rudloff said. “I’d love to be mad at my guys, they just got tired in the second half. We had a lot of guys step up and we needed all of them.”