MELROSE — Melrose’s offense is in Brendan Fennell’s hands (and legs) now.
Two years removed from a Division 4 state championship and an undefeated season led by star running back Isaac Siede, the top-seeded Red Raiders are two steps away from accomplishing that feat again after they defeated No. 5 Marblehead, 26-14, in the D4 North semifinals Friday night at Melrose High School.
The Red Raiders (9-0) will face second-seeded Revere, also 9-0, in the finals next Friday.
Fennell, a junior, passed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 77 yards and a TD on 12 carries.
“He has kept getting better every week as far as reads, as far as leading the team,” Melrose coach Tim Morris said. “He’s just one of those guys, in pressure situations things don’t get to him.”
After Marblehead (6-3) took a 7-0 lead with 10:49 left in the second quarter, junior Matt Hickey intercepted a pass on the Magicians’ next drive to give Melrose first and 10 at the Marblehead 39. On the next play, Fennell hit senior Sean Herbert (3 catches, 71 yards) for a touchdown to tie the score and start a string of 20 unanswered points.
“Watching film . . . we kind of realized that they were going to be throwing to the middle most of the game,” Hickey said. “They found a lot of other teams’ weak points right through the middle, so we knew they were going to be attacking [the middle].”
Fennell added a 1-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter and started the second half by capping Melrose’s first drive — a 10-play, 80-yarder — with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Matt Dussault to go up, 20-7, after a missed extra point. Chris Cusolito (15 carries, 82 yards) rushed for a 35-yard touchdown with 10:52 left in the fourth quarter to give Melrose a two-score cushion.