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MARBLEHEAD — Perhaps as Marblehead High’s A.J. Russo gets a bit older and has more life experiences, something will surpass Thursday’s last-second touchdown catch that beat Swampscott as the best feeling of his life.
Until then, that’ll do nicely.
Russo, a senior receiver, accounted for 16 points in the Magicians’ 22-16 win at Piper Field. But it’s the final eight he’ll perhaps never forget.
Meanwhile, the Big Blue will have to wait until next year to stop their holiday winless streak, which reached seven with Thursday’s defeat. They last won on Thanksgiving in 2012.
Russo said it was the best feeling of his life — beating Swampscott in his final high school football game.
“This win means everything to me and my teammates, it means a lot more because that team (Swampscott) is going to the Super Bowl,” Russo said. “We’ve had a lot of struggles this season but we were able to pull it together. My quarterback (Josh Robertson) and my team pulled it together and we won.”
Robertson found Russo in the back of the end zone with just eight seconds left in the game, as the Magicians went from being down 16-14 to leading, 20-16. The sophomore quarterback added the gravy on the last touchdown, hitting Russo again for the 2-point conversion.
That left the Big Blue needing a miracle finish. Andrew Augustin brought the ball over midfield on the kickoff, but that’s where Swampscott’s regular season ended.
With the Division 5 state championship game next Saturday, there was speculation that Swampscott coach Bobby Serino would rest a couple of starters.
He did not. The first group played the whole game on both sides of the ball.
“Our guys definitely wanted to see their starters, and credit to them, and the Swampscott coaches for playing their starters the entire game,” Magicians coach Jim Rudloff said.
That praise from the opposition didn’t make things any easier for Serino and his team.
“It was tough for sure, for our guys,” Serino said. “you certainly want to win every game you play.
“A loss is always very hard to swallow, even though we do have that Super Bowl game coming up. We played our starters the full game, because when you make changes with people, that’s how injuries happen.”
Marblehead’s first score was aided by a short punt that was blown down deep in Swampscott territory to give the Magicians excellent field position. Tim Cronin ran the ball in from Swampscott’s 15 on the second play of the second quarter. The Magician PAT was blocked, but they were still ahead 6-0 after a scoreless first.
The guests didn’t trail very long after Cronin’s score. Zack Palmer took the ensuing kick 75-yards for a touchdown, with Thomas Frisoli’s PAT kick putting Swampscott up 7-6 just 10 seconds after the Magicians’ score.
Both teams had six possessions in the first half, but that only resulted in those 13 points going into the break. After a three-and-out to start the third quarter, Marblehead took the lead back when Cronin went 39 yards for a touchdown. Robertson then hit Russo for two points putting Marblehead up 14-7.
Facing a fourth-and-one from the Magicians 17, Big Blue quarterback Graham Inzana connected with Andrew Augustin for six. Marblehead’s Brady Lavender blocked the PAT try and the score stood 14-13, Marblehead, with 3:05 remaining.
Swampscott responded with a successful onside kick, which was corralled by Dylan Dubiel at Marblehead’s 48. The Blue used that possession to set up a 24-yard field goal by Frisoli that put his team up 16-14 with 47 seconds to go.
That set the stage for Russo’s game-winning play.
The Magicians wrap up their year at 7-4.
Swampscott, 9-3, will play Amherst in the Division 5 Super Bowl next Saturday (1:30) at Gillette Stadium.