After a 2017 season that saw the Marblehead football team rotate four starting quarterbacks and a handful of starters at tailback, the goal for the Magicians this year is simple: stay healthy.
Injuries took their toll on the Magicians last fall but Marblehead still managed to reach the Division 4 North final and finish at 10-1.
“Last year, managing and coaching the team was very difficult,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff, who’s entering his ninth season. “We had to use so many different lineups. We had to use four different quarterbacks. The shame was we were getting better and better as the year went on. I feel we should’ve won that Melrose game (Division 4 North final). It would’ve been an even greater success. As great as last year was we fell a little short.”
Fast forward to this year and the Magicians still face a few uncertainties in their starting rotations. The steamy temperatures created by the heatwave at the end of August forced the Magicians to cancel a scrimmage.
What Marblehead does know, however, is that it returns three senior veterans as captains in quarterback/safety Chris Gally, receiver Jack McGrath and offensive lineman/nose guard Aidan Michaud.
“They’re three hard workers,” Rudloff said. Last year they did a good job for us with the roles they were given.This year in the offseason they went out of their way to outwork everyone and earn the captain roles. They’ll be good captains. They lead by example.”
The Magicians return four tailbacks in seniors Derek Testa and Eric Faia and juniors Tim Cronin and Devin Romain. Cronin will also see snaps at receiver, outside linebacker and safety. Each of the four started at least one game at tailback last season as Marblehead battled injuries.
“With the four of them, we’ll figure out how to get them the ball in some way, shape or form,” Rudloff said. “We need one of them to emerge and find ways to get the others on the field. Hopefully they can all stay healthy this year.”
Others projected to play key roles include senior guard Jack Herman, senior outside linebacker Nik Karns, junior left tackle/defensive end Declan Rudloff (Jim Rudloff’s son) and senior receiver Ryan Harris.
“I feel very good. We’re athletic,” Rudloff said. “As long as the kids can understand the concepts and understand what they’re supposed to do. If we’re still trying to understand our roles, we play slow. That’s difficult with new players. We’re trying to get to the point where everyone understands their role and that allows them to play much faster.”
With new faces filling into vacant roles, Rudloff said there isn’t one particular area he can point to as this team’s strength. The players have worked hard through the preseason and shown a willingness to improve, and Rudloff feels that’s a good sign moving forward.
“We’re so green and I don’t say young because we have seniors stepping up,” Rudloff said. “It’s not necessarily a youth thing, it’s a lack of playing time and significant playing time. I think the strength of the team is the kids are willing to put in the work. That’ll be necessary because we have to get better each week to take on new opponents.”
Rudloff foresees an improved Northeastern Conference this season.
“I think everyone took a step forward this year,” Rudloff said. “Last year most of the teams we played were young, kind of in the shoes we’re in this year. I think this year we have a stronger schedule ahead of us. Beverly looks strong. Peabody’s always one of the stronger teams we play. Danvers and Gloucester have always given us difficult games. Revere’s going to be better this year.”
Marblehead opens the season Friday night (7) when the Magicians host Triton.