For Hanover football fans, Thursday was both a reminder of what might have been and what might be.
With rising junior quarterback Michael Landolfi leading the way, the Hawks captured the Northeast 7v7 New England Championship Gold Cup with a 21-20 nailbiter over Marblehead at Xaverian High, emerging as top dog from a field of nearly 100 teams.
Coming off an impressive performance on Thanksgiving Day as a freshman, Landolfi was slated to start for Hanover during the Fall II season as a sophomore, but after he enrolled in a Florida high school and played a game during the fall season before getting hurt, he was ruled ineligible by the MIAA.
“It was devastating,” said Chris Landofli, Michael’s father and Hanover’s head coach. “It was our fault. We didn’t read the rule. The rule came out in July and I didn’t see it.”
Michael Landolfi will be back under center for the Hanover High team next month when fall practices begin, but he got an early chance to reconnect with many of his top targets through the 7v7 tournament.
“It’s the best feeling,” Michael Landolfi said. “I love all those guys. It’s great.”
Without their expected quarterback, the Hawks went 0-4 during Fall II. They had never competed in the Northeast 7v7 league before and didn’t reach the title game of their regional play-in tournament, but were invited to the New England Championship as one of four wild cards. Then they opened pool play with a 22-20 loss to Milton.
But suddenly Hanover hit its stride, beating Scituate and Wilmington before knocking off previously undefeated Methuen 27-0 in the semifinals.
“We stuck with it,” Chris Landolfi said. “We lost the first one to Milton, but the kids were like ‘What’s next?’ They kept going. I’m proud of them. They did a good job today.”
Featuring a young roster, including junior receivers Dave Quinlan and Joe Curran, junior linebacker Nick Freel and junior defensive backs Matt Connerty and Max Aiello and sophomore receiver Ben Scazli, Hanover got its senior leadership from twin brothers Dylan and Jayden Rice.
“This does a lot for our confidence,” Chris Landolfi said. “We had a lot of young guys playing. They’ve been playing together forever. It’s a young class. It was such a good experience, especially after what we’ve been through.”
In the championship game, Hanover got the ball first and Michael Landolfi found Quinlan, a big, tall receiver, for a leaping touchdown. Marblehead came back and tied it up as quarterback Josh Robertson connected with George Percy to knot the game at 7-7.
Hanover took just two plays to score on its next possession, with Joe Curran snagging a touchdown pass near the left pylon, but the extra point fell incomplete for a 13-7 lead.
Once again Marblehead answered, with Connor Cronin pulling down the first of his two touchdowns. The conversion put the Magicians ahead 14-13.
Without missing a beat, Landolfi split the Marblehead defense and found Dylan Rice on a deep pass up the middle. A successful two-point conversion put Hanover up 21-14 with just under four minutes to play
Robertson found Cronin again with just under two minutes remaining to make it 21-20, but Marblehead couldn’t convert the point-after. The Magicians came up with an interception in the end zone on Hanover’s final possession, but time ran out before Marblehead could run a play.
“We didn’t have a great year last year, we had a lot of stuff happen,” Michael Landolfi said. “So for this to happen really boosts us. We have big expectations and this helps. It’s a good way to start.”
Marblehead, which is coming off a 7-0 record in Fall II, reached the finals despite playing without tight end James Doody, a Bowdoin commit who was out sick, and free safety Xander Danforth, a junior who is visiting Croatia. Replacing them were senior tight end Drew Annese, who missed the Fall II season with an injury, and sophomore safety Elliott Pluss.
Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff was happy that his team, which went 4-0 in pool play and beat Andover 20-14 in the semifinals, enjoyed success together before preseason practices begin Aug. 20.
“There’s no way you can teach someone to compete,” he said. “This is how they learn to do that.”
What is 7 on 7 football?
- It’s a passing league that features only quarterbacks, tight ends, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs.
- Games are 20 minutes long with no breaks
- There’s no tackling, it’s one-hand touch
- Teams start on the 40-yard line and can achieve first downs by crossing the 25 and the 10
- Quarterbacks face no pass rush, but have to throw the ball within four seconds
- After a touchdown, teams can go for 1 from the 5-yard line or 2 from the 10-yard line
- Interceptions can become defensive touchdowns if the ball is run back past the 40
- One offensive player snaps the ball and then is ineligible as a receiver
- Quarterbacks cannot scramble