Mistakes haunt Marblehead in Div. 4 North semifinal loss to Melrose

MELROSE — The Marblehead football team built an early lead in Friday’s Division 4 North semifinal but couldn’t hold on in a 26-14 loss at undefeated Melrose.

With the win, the No. 1 Red Raiders punched their ticket to the sectional final. They’ll host No. 2 Revere next Friday (7) in a battle of unbeaten teams. 

For the Magicians, it came down to execution. A string of uncharacteristic mistakes on both sides of the ball left Marblehead wondering what could’ve been. 

“We made a lot of mistakes and it’s tough enough to beat a quality team like Melrose when you don’t play perfectly,” Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. “But when you spend most of the game shooting yourself in the foot, you have no chance.”

Tim Cronin’s 9-yard touchdown run at the start of the second quarter put the Magicians on the board. Eli Feingold split the uprights on the first of two PAT’s, giving Marblehead a 7-0 lead. 

The Magicians forced Melrose to punt on their first possession of the second, but then things started to fall apart for Marblehead. Matthew Hickey swiped a Josh Robertson pass in Marblehead territory and was brought down at the Magicians’ 39-yard line. One play later, Melrose quarterback Brendan Fennell fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to Sean Herbert, and Zach Federico’s PAT made it 7-7. 

Melrose forced Marblehead into at three-and-out on its next possession, and used seven plays to get into the end zone just before the first half came to an end. Fennell dove in from the one, and Federico made it a 14-7 game at the break.

Melrose got the ball to start the second half and once again Fennell came up big, throwing a 28-yard touchdown strike to Matthew Dussault to bump the score to 20-7.

Marblehead did take full advantage of its one possession in the third quarter, a 10-play drive that covered 75 yards and ended with Cronin rumbling in from three yards out to make it 20-14. 

After a short Marblehead punt, the Red Raiders went 43 yards in six plays, with Christopher Cusolito getting the final 35 yards for the final score of the game, with 10:42 left to play.

“It was just a cavalcade of mistakes for our team,” Rudloff said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Melrose, but I thought we could play with them, we did for a while and then we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Magicians now drop into the non-tournament bracket and await next weekend’s opponent (TBA).

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