NORTH ANDOVER – Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff admits that his players were quiet Friday afternoon on their bus ride to face North Andover.
After all, North Andover, the defending Division 2 state champions, came into the opener riding a state-best 13-game winning streak, while the Magicians were starting a sophomore quarterback for the first time in more than a decade.
But as the game progressed, and that sophomore made big throw after big throw, Marblehead was able to wrestle away the momentum and pull out a 25-20 victory.
“We were a little intimidated by [the Scarlet Knights’] reputation,” said Rudloff. “It was a tremendous challenge to get the kids to buy in that we could beat these guys. All summer long they were thinking about going up against one of the best teams in the state and that made them a little apprehensive about coming in here. It took time, but their confidence really started to grow.”
Marblehead opened training camp with junior Miles Smith and senior AJ Russo battling for the quarterback job. Both moved to receiver after suffering preseason injuries and third-string quarterback Will Twadell came down with shoulder tendinitis, forcing Josh Robertson into a starting role.
The sophomore shined in his debut, completing 9 of 13 passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns, including a go-ahead 12-yard touchdown to Sean McCarthy with just less than four minutes to play.
“I trust my O-line, so I was confident going in,” said Robertson. “I felt prepared because of how many reps I got in practice, so that translated to the field.”
Robertson sparked Marblehead in the first half with a 3-yard touchdown pass to McCarthy and a 54-yard scoring strike to Twadell.
Freddy Gabin (16 carries, 85 yards, 3 TDs) responded with a pair of rushing scores to give North Andover a 14-12 halftime lead.
Marblehead tailback Tim Cronin (31 carries, 183 yards, TD) controlled the second half, scoring from 2 yards out to put the Magicians ahead, 19-14, but Gabin immediately responded with a 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Still, the Magicians stayed poised, as their young quarterback led them on a 65-yard scoring drive to take the lead. Their defense forced a three and out, and Cronin milked the rest of the clock when tough inside running.
“As a sophomore, you usually don’t see composure like that,” said Rudloff. “[Robertson] is even better than what he showed today. But to play like that against the defending state champions, I can’t say enough.”