The last time the Big Blue played a game at Piper Field, it was one the team would like to forget.
Marblehead routed Swampscott, 51-0, in 2015.
But a lot has changed since then. Last year’s game was much more competitive, even though the Magicians rolled out to an early 27-0 lead before Swampscott put one on the board to make the final 27-6.
Now, the Big Blue senior group, who were sophomores under coach Bob Serino in his first year, have grown into a formidable bunch that made noise during the regular season, going 6-1 with the only blemish coming against eventual Division 3 North finalist English.
Swampscott was bounced from the postseason by Watertown, 31-27, in the first round of the Division 5 playoffs, but holds a 7-3 record coming into Thanksgiving, the first time the Big Blue has come into the contest with a winning record since 2011.
“We were in the playoffs this year again and had a great showing,” Serino said. “We got beat in the last few minutes against Watertown. These guys, as a senior class, got beat real bad as sophomores (on Thanksgiving), but last year was a more competitive game.
“This year, we have all the confidence in the world,” Serino added.
Unlike last year, when Marblehead was preparing for the Super Bowl against Falmouth, the season will end for both teams on Thursday. Serino says that one thing that bothers him is that with the MIAA playoff system taking away the importance of Thanksgiving from a playoff standpoint, some people say that the rivalry games just don’t matter as much anymore. Serino’s response to those people?
“People who say that don’t know what football is all about,” he said. “People think season’s over because we’re out of playoffs, but we’re working just as hard as a team going for the Super Bowl. They’re our rival.”
This time around, Serino’s expecting a very competitive game. The Big Blue will have their work cut out for them against a 9-1 Magicians team that reached the Division 4 North final.
“Marblehead has a great run game, great athletes and a great line,” Serino said. “A great group of skill kids, and special teams has been good all year. These two teams are very familiar with each other.”
Although the game isn’t on the new Blocksidge Field turf this season, the experience of playing all of its home games on turf will be a help when the Big Blue hits Piper Field.
“It doesn’t make a big difference now that we have it and are used to playing on it,” Serino said.
It will be an emotional goodbye to a large senior class for Serino, many of whom are three- and four-year varsity players. After a string of subpar seasons in Swampscott, it’s been this senior group, led by quarterback Colin Frary, guard Alex Sheehan, tackles Kwest Tyler Lacy and Noah Carreiro, and receiver/tight end Dom Codispoti.
“They want to win this game bad obviously,” Serino said. “They’ve turned it around, and it’s been a high note but they’re not satisfied. I’ll miss this group of seniors and they’ve been great leaders.”
In addition to the strong senior group, Serino has a talented sophomore class that has seen valuable playing time this season. Although the Thanksgiving Day showdown will be a big stage for young players, it’s nothing they haven’t dealt with this season.
“I said to them this week, ‘we’ve already played a few big games, nothing different than English or Watertown in playoffs,'” Serino said. “You just have to go out there and do your job and have fun. If you’re not having fun, nothing’s worth it. You won’t do your job. We’ve been in a couple of big games this year, but turkey day is like a Super Bowl to a lot of teams.”