SWAMPSCOTT — With just 19 seconds remaining, the fate of the 109th showdown between North Shore rivals Marblehead and Swampscott had come down to the final drive.
Swampscott senior quarterback Devin Conroy, who on the previous drive threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to senior Ryan Cresta to cut the deficit to 21-14, had led the Big Blue on a nine-play, 50-yard drive that put Swampscott at the 5-yard line.
Following a Marblehead timeout on second and goal, Conroy dropped back to pass and was looking for a Big Blue receiver over the middle.
Instead, Conroy’s pass found Marblehead free safety Garret Keough, who intercepted the pass in the end zone and sealed the Magicians’ 21-14 win at Blocksidge Field.
“Our guys were tired,” Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. “It was a nice stop. Garrett [Keough] made a terrific play.”
Thanks to the two-headed monster of Marblehead senior captains Spencer Craig and Brooks Tyrrell, the Magicians got off to a strong start, beginning with a 13-play, 55-yard drive capped by Craig’s 8-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Will Millett on fourth and goal.
“It was a designed pass play,” Craig said, who finished 5 for 11 for 99 yards and two touchdowns. “[Millett] was open. He’s one of the best in the state and I just threw it up for him.”
“The leadership of this team comes entirely from those two people,” Rudloff added of Craig and Tyrrell.
Following the Magicians’ opening score, both teams played to a stalemate in the first half, the offenses struggling to create any cohesion because of poor field conditions.
“We couldn’t really get a lot of traction,” Rudloff said. “I think the field conditions always help the underdog. It reduces your playbook down to [fewer] things you can do.”
On their opening drive coming out of halftime, Marblehead (10-1) gained some traction and scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Craig to Millett that made it 13-0.
But just when momentum was swinging in Marblehead’s direction, Conroy and running back Jordan James orchestrated an eight-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a Conroy 18-yard touchdown run to make it 13-7.
The Magicians answered back.
After Craig recovered a Swampscott fumble, Tyrrell, who finished with 131 rushing yards, scored on a 7-yard run to make it 21-7.
But Swampscott, which finished 4-7, never folded.
With seven minutes remaining, Conroy hooked up with Cresta for the 60-yard touchdown pass that cut the lead to 21-14.
After forcing a Marblehead punt, the Big Blue put together one final drive but came up just short when Keough intercepted Conroy’s pass and fell to the ground to secure the Magician’s 51st win in the series.
“With the playoff system still in its infancy, Thanksgiving Day still means more,” Rudloff said. “It’s an entire year of bragging rights. It means so much when the towns are so close.”
“It was so big for us and for the whole program to get this win,” Craig added. “It was so nice to finish like this.”