During Steve Dembowski’s 19 years as a member of the coaching staff in Swampscott, the Big Blue has never lost to Marblehead two years in a row. Before Thursday’s morning game, Dembowski’s team was a clear underdog, and his streak was in grave danger. Following his team’s remarkable 25-16 victory over the Magicians on Thursday morning, Dembowski was all smiles.
“I don’t think anybody picked us in any newspaper,” said Dembowski, who loved the effort of his team. “[The players] executed the plan from the mental standpoint as well as the physical standpoint. I’m just really proud of them.”
Swampscott quarterback Brian Santry launched his team on an eight-play, 3:20 drive that ended with Santry running for the touchdown with 1:50 remaining to clinch a well-deserved victory for the Big Blue.
“It’s disappointing,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff. “As a team, we did a really bad job this week. I feel bad for our seniors because they deserve better.”
The Big Blue defense gained confidence early after forcing Marblehead to punt on its opening drive. The Magicians were unable to put any points on the board in the first half, thanks to a fourth-down tackle on quarterback Ian Maag by Swampscott lineman Toby Hale, and two interceptions by sophomore Ryan January.
Swampscott’s offense took advantage of the opportunities created by its defense. After the first interception by January, Santry found senior captain Robert Serino for a 33-yard play-action pass that ended the opening quarter on a high note for the Big Blue. Fifteen plays later, a 15-yard Santry touchdown pass to Josh Rothwell put Swampscott up 7-0 with 5:41 left in the first half.
“I thought it would be really important for us to get the first score, and at least win the first quarter,” said Dembowski. “I kept telling our kids this: The longer we can stay in the heavyweight match, the more the pressure is going to tilt towards them.
Twice in that drive Swampscott was able to force Marblehead offsides, with one penalty on fourth down resulting in a new set of downs for the Big Blue.
“There were two offsides penalties that we committed that were actual penalties. There were another 37 penalties called on us that were questionable,’’ said Rudloff, who was exaggerating the number of penalties to make his point. ``I think we had 37 penalties called on us by the same official, and I don’t believe they had one. I do have a little problem with that; I think that hurt us quite a bit. I just feel bad for our kids that it was that way, but unfortunately, had those calls been different, we still would have lost the game.”
After January’s second interception, Santry led his team on an incredible 56-second drive that culminated in a trick play for a touchdown. On the Marblehead 20-yard-line, Santry threw a screen pass to Cronin, who began to run forward. Cronin hesitated, turned around to set his feet, and fired the football back to his quarterback. Santry then carried it in to the endzone to make it 13-0 just before the conclusion of the first half.
“I thought we were in the right position to do it,” said Dembowski of that surprising play. “We got the blitz off the edge that we were hoping to get, and Cronin made the throw that he usually doesn’t make in practice, so we’ll take it.’’
Although Swampscott took a lead into halftime, Marblehead never lost confidence. Following a quick three-and-out to open up the third quarter, Marblehead scored on a Cuzner six-yard run to put the Magicians within 13-7 with 3:22 left in the third quarter. After a Marblehead turnover-on-downs at the Swampscott four-yard-line, Spencer Craig tackled Santry in the endzone for a safety with 7:30 to go in the fourth quarter. Cuzner then scored on another six-yard touchdown run to bring the Magicians within 19-16 with 5:10 remaining.