Clough the perfect fit as Magicians’ signal caller

Marblehead quarterback Andy Clough flips a pass to a teammate. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

MARBLEHEAD — Not many high school quarterbacks look like Andy Clough.

The Magicians signal caller stands at 6 feet 7 inches and 245 pounds. Clough mainly played tight end — not a surprise, since he looks like a high school version of Rob Gronkowski — for Marblehead in the past, and was planning on doing so again this season until he injured his shoulder.

A few weeks into the season, Clough moved under center, and it’s been a seamless fit. Clough ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries and threw for 182 yards and a touchdown in Marblehead’s 35-17 win over rival Swampscott Thursday at Piper Field. Clough showed off his many skills, breaking away from the defense for a 75-yard touchdown run and connecting on a few deep passes for huge gains.

The passing has been a work in progress for Clough.

“In the beginning, when I was learning the passing plays, it was a little tough for me,” he said. “I had to rely on my running, one of my strengths. As the passing came, that helped, but it was keeping my eyes downfield and making sure I wasn’t forcing anything, but just making the safe play and going from there.”

Magicians coach Jim Rudloff said that Clough’s biggest issue at first was simply handling snaps.

“He’s started to understand what routes are being run and why, who is going to be open, why they were going to be open,” he said. “All season long, one of the biggest problems he had was just catching the snap. You think of how overwhelming it is, how his eyes were all over the field, I can’t tell you how many snaps he dropped.

“You saw, over the course of the year, him understanding where the receivers would be, and the final step was understanding what the coverages were. Once he did that, he became a real good passer.”

Clough has the luxury of an equally imposing figure on the receiving end of his passes: fellow senior Derek Marino. He connected with Marino for several big gains on Thursday, including 51- and 45-yard gains to get the Magicians into Swampscott’s red zone. Marblehead scored on both drives.

“It’s special,” Clough said of his connection with Marino. “He’s a very, very good athlete, so always knowing that he’s on the field, when I’m in trouble I can throw it up to him like that and he’ll always bring it down, it’s a good security.”

“Derek is really funny because there’s nothing he can’t catch,” Rudloff said. “His ability to go up and get it is tremendous. Last year, we didn’t throw the deep ball a lot so he didn’t have the opportunity to go after it as often. With Andy, it seems like he could throw it over Derek’s head every time, so the ability to go up and get the ball, even when he’s covered, is tremendous. Those two made a great combination and fit together nicely.”

Another thing Clough has going for him is his laid-back demeanor. Rudloff likens him to a “big Labrador Retriever.” That kind of attitude was an asset this season in particular, when the Magicians dealt with a rash of injuries to starters over the first five or six weeks of the season.

“He doesn’t get rattled,” Rudloff said. “He’s probably the most calm kid, almost to the point where it doesn’t make sense in football. No one will ever call Andy fiery. He’s just a big mellow dude. That’s a really good quality as a quarterback, because you don’t get rattled, but at the same time, sometimes you want to see that fire. He has so much talent, and I think he’s going to have a lot of fun playing college football.”

Clough is bound for Division III Middlebury College next fall.

“I’m excited about the win, but at the same time, it hasn’t quite sunk in that my time as a high school football player is over,” Clough said. “But it’s a good way to go out.”

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