MARBLEHEAD — In their own minds, the members of the Dracut High School football team don’t view themselves as a No. 8 seed.
But when the Middies were given the chance to play the role of underdog in Division 4 North, they happily accepted it. And on Friday night, they let their play do the talking and sent a message to the rest of the bracket that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill No. 8 seed.
Dracut delivered an early knockout blow against top-seeded and unbeaten Marblehead and went on to defeat the host Magicians, 28-14, in the Division 4 North quarterfinals. Led by senior quarterback Devin Lambert, who tossed three touchdown passes and had a touchdown run, the Middies led 15-0 after the first quarter, 28-0 halfway through the second quarter, and 28-7 at the half.
“We knew we had a great chance at winning,” said Lambert. “We were prepared all week and we were ready for it. We’re not scared of anything.”
The Middies will face No. 5 Wayland in the semifinals next week.
This is a Dracut (4-3) squad that entered the playoffs having lost its last three games. However, those losses came against top-notch teams in Acton-Boxboro, North Andover and Tewksbury. Playing that iron clearly paid dividends for the Middies as they got a feel for what it takes to hang against high quality opponents.
Marblehead (7-1) was stunned from the get-go. Dracut marched 59 yards on seven plays on the opening drive of the contest, capped off when Lambert connected with senior Cam McCullough on a beautiful 40-yard TD pass down the middle. Lambert found Joseph Petka for the two-point conversion and it was 8-0 less than four minutes in.
The Magicians went three-and-out in each of their first two possessions and then lost a fumble to Dracut on second down during their third possession. Dracut, meanwhile, scored on its first four possessions. Lambert added a 30-yard TD toss to Petka, an 18-yard score to McCullough, and a 1-yard TD run.
Marblehead didn’t even record a first down until late in the second quarter.
“The last three game we played, we played the No. 3 team in Division 1 (North), we played the No. 1 team in Division 2 (North) and we played the No. 1 team in Division 3 (North). I mean, what more prepares you for the playoffs than that? Coming in here and playing against a No. 1 seed, we’ve seen it,” said Dracut head coach Jay Rivers. “We had the mentality ‘we’re the eight-seed, we got nothing to lose tonight.'”
The Magicians finally got on the board when Tim Cronin scored on a 1-yard run with 1:58 left in the first half. The hosts came out with renewed energy to start the third quarter and scored on their third play. Quarterback Chris Gally threw a long pass that was nearly picked off by Dracut, but was instead deflected straight up into the air and then found the arms of Mason Poisson, who raced into the end zone to make it 28-14. The crowd was fired up and momentum was teetering.
From there, the defenses were up to the task, particularly Dracut’s. The Middies put an end to a fourth quarter Marblehead drive that had advanced all the way to the Dracut 27-yard line. Later in the quarter, Middies’ senior Nemisis Lopez picked off Gally at the Dracut 11-yard line and returned it 30 yards upfield to give the visitors more breathing room.
“The kids just executed,” said Rivers. “We can call whatever play we want, but if the kids don’t execute, it doesn’t work. Tonight, our kids just balled-out.
This was Dracut’s first playoff win since 2008.
“This is awesome,” said Rivers.
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone