NORTH ANDOVER — We’re only a week into the regular season, and Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff already has had a carousel at quarterback.
But with Joshua Robertson — the team’s fourth-string QB when training camp started — under center Friday evening against defending Division 2 state champ North Andover, the Magicians were able to work some magic.
The sophomore was 12 for 15 passing for 133 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers, helping Marblehead earn the 25-20 season-opening upset.
The new-look Knights had graduated a talented group of seniors from last year’s championship squad, but still came into the season with high expectations — and the state’s longest active winning streak (13).
“Everybody came improve, no matter what,” said North Andover coach John Dubzinski. “I think we just got beaten up front, and that’s tough to correct. So we’re just going to work at it, have a good week of practice and get ready for Lowell.”
Marblehead won the battle in the trenches, and three-year starting back Tim Cronin chewed up 183 yards on 31 carries. The Magicians took a 25-20 lead with 5:14 left when Robertson hit Sean McCarthy on a 12-yard fade, then held North Andover to a 3-and-out on its ensuing possession to force a punt.
From there, it was all Cronin.
The senior chewed up 45 yards and two first downs on the final possession to run out the clock. Thanks to long drives and a North Andover kickoff return for a touchdown, Marblehead ran 30 offensive plays in the second half to the Knights’ 11.
“They blocked well at the point of attack and their running back ran hard,” said Dubzinski. “They definitely chewed up a lot of clock in the second half, and that definitely kept our offense off the field. They controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half, and I thought that was the difference.”
The game-winning pass to McCarthy was actually the second time the Magicians had run that play for a touchdown. But both times, Robertson hit him right where he needed to. He also connected with Will Twadell in stride for a 54-yard bomb in the first half.
Once 4th string
It was a crazy night for Robertson, who was an afterthought at QB for Marblehead when camp started.
Try to follow along.
Junior Miles Smith won the starting job over AJ Russo, but an ankle injury to the starting tight end forced Russo to switch positions and take over that spot. The Magicians’ third-string QB, Twadell, is battling tendinitis in his shoulder, so he’s currently playing receiver.
So Smith was still the starter, but in the final scrimmage against BC High he got hurt and in stepped Robertson.
The experiment, at least Friday night, seemed to work well.
“I wouldn’t have even classified him as a ‘string,’” joked Rudloff. “He wasn’t even in the mix. But he’s a tough kid, and he makes good decisions.”
Mike Difo had a solid day defensively for the Knights, but the unit collectively struggled to stop Cronin. Offensively, Freddy Gabin ran the show. The senior had 86 yards on 16 carries and a pair of TDs on the ground, then added his team’s third and final score on a 78-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Methuen transfer Ricky Brutus (7 carries, 22 yards) looked shifty in his Knights’ debut, and new quarterback Will Schimoeller — a junior — didn’t turn the ball over and finished 5 for 9 passing for 52 yards.
The defending champs will now try and regroup to travel to Lowell on Friday (7 p.m.).
“Last year is ancient history. We don’t talk about it,” said Dubzinski. “It’s a different team, it’s a new season, so we just have to be the best football team that we can be.”