MARBLEHEAD — The final play of AJ Russo’s high school career instantly became one of the best moments of his life.
The senior wide receiver hauled in the winning 21-yard touchdown pass with seven seconds remaining, lifting host Marblehead to a thrilling 22-16 win over Swampscott in the 110th meeting between the schools on Thanksgiving Day.
After Swampscott kicker Thomas Frisoli gave the Big Blue a 16-14 lead on a 24-yard field goal with 46 seconds left, sophomore quarterback Josh Robertson drove the Magicians down the field and perfectly placed a pass to a streaking Russo in the end zone.
Marblehead finished the season 7-4, and Swampscott (9-3) will look to rebound with a Division 5 Super Bowl matchup against Amherst on Dec. 7 to prepare for.
“That was easily one of the best moments of my life, it was breathtaking,” Russo said. “I saw single coverage and I knew I could beat him. It’s the best feeling in football. There’s no other way I would rather have it happen.”
Robertson and Russo put Marblehead up early, connecting in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass. However, Swampscott responded immediately on Zack Palmer’s 65-yard kickoff return.
Tim Cronin (29 carries, 140 yards, TD) put the Magicians ahead, 14-7, in the third quarter on a 39-yard scamper down the sideline. Late in the fourth quarter, Swampscott quarterback Graham Inzana engineered a scoring drive that was capped by a touchdown pass to Andrew Augustin. But a blocked extra point kept Marblehead ahead, 14-13.
Swampscott successfully recovered an onside kick with 3:05 to go and booted the go-ahead field goal before Robertson and Russo hooked up in the final seconds.
“It was an unbelievable drive,” Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. “The play was intended to get a quick 5 yards and set up for a field goal but Josh decided to throw it and did a great job putting the ball right on the money. This win means everything.”
Matt Doherty can be reached at email@example.com.