MARBLEHEAD — Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff got exactly what he wanted out of Friday night’s 35-0 win over Malden in Northeastern Conference play at Piper Field.
His team improved to a perfect 5-0, but more than a handful of penalties offered plenty of teaching points at this critical juncture of the season as just two games now remain at Gloucester and Danvers before the playoffs.
“We came out and, I thought, did the things we wanted to do offensively, but we’ve obviously got to clean up the sloppiness,” said Rudloff. “The mistakes hurt us and need to be corrected. My hat goes off to Malden because they played really hard. They’re having a tough (0-5) season, but they’re good kids, a really disciplined team. I’m happy we got a ‘W’ out of it.”
The offense, though, fired right from the start. Senior quarterback Chris Gally threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more to lead the Magicians to their second shutout in five weeks, while running back Tim Cronin added another rushing score to his junior year resume.
Quarterback Justin Nortelus posted back-to-back runs for a first down on Malden’s opening series, but Marblehead forced a punt that led to a six-play touchdown drive for the game’s first points. Cronin ripped off two runs of longer than 10 yards before Gally hit Mason Poisson in the end zone for a 14-yard score.
Gally also completed passes to senior Ryan Harris and junior Sean McCarthy on the drive that Poisson capped off with an extra point.
“It was good for us that they were able to make a couple of plays. If we came out, scored, and stopped them right away, it would have set a bad tone for us,” Rudloff said. “We needed to see that those guys (from Malden) were here to put up a fight. I liked how our guys responded when they saw that, coming right back with a touchdown.”
The Magicians defense sacked Nortelus on Malden’s next series before the teams traded turnovers, though Gally responded with another score after junior Declan Rudloff returned an interception more than halfway down field. Gally then found Harris on back-to-back plays to set up an 11-yard run of his own on third down, giving Marblehead a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
Another sack and a blocked punt in the red zone set the hosts up with prime field position to begin the second quarter. Gally posted his second touchdown after just three plays, scoring from nine yards out.
“The big thing for us tonight was Declan’s interception,” Rudloff said. “To have a lineman do that was tremendous. We had just given the ball back to them in our own territory so that put us in a tough position, but fortunately that kind of swung things back our way.”
Marblehead forced a turnover on downs on its next defensive series, but the visitors got back on offense quickly after Jerry Mervil intercepted Gally. Back-to-back penalties set the Magicians back when they took over, but Cronin scored from four yards out after logging a 21-yard catch and four other runs during the drive.
Cronin got the lion’s share of the work on the first drive of the second half before junior Ryan Freiberger caught Gally’s pass and ran for a 35-yard score. Poisson then split the uprights to extend the score to 35-0 with 8:27 left in the third.
Sophomore Miles Smith and senior Derek Testa led the Marblehead offense on a long drive that killed off most of a scoreless fourth quarter.
Marblehead (5-0) visits Gloucester (5-0) in a battle of undefeated teams.