The communities of Marblehead and Swampscott are naturally tied together. It takes little effort to get from one town line to the other, not to mention the towns have a fierce rivalry when it comes to high school sports. But now, they are more somberly intertwined with the passing of members from each football family just days apart from one another.
Mark Ryan, of Swampscott, and Jeff Scogland, of Marblehead, were each fathers of players on the Swampscott and Marblehead high school football teams. Mark’s son, Zack Ryan is the starting quarterback for Swampscott, and Jeff’s son, Jake Scogland, is an lineman for Marblehead.
Early last week, Mark lost a hard-fought battle with cancer just days before Ryan was slated to take the field against Lynn English. Mark was 57 years old and a fire captain who graduated from Swampscott High in 1983. Despite his father’s passing ahead of his next game, the Swampscott quarterback decided to play.
With the backing and support Ryan received from every single one of his teammates and coaches, Ryan led Big Blue’s football team to a dominant 27-6 win over the Bulldogs in honor of his late father. The quarterback had an exceptional day on the field, throwing for 127 yards and two touchdowns and tacked on another with his legs. For many athletes, playing in a game shortly after a tragedy can provide consolation, and Ryan knew that the way he played on Friday would make his dad proud.
“I wanted to win for him,” Ryan said after Friday’s game. “It means the world to me. This support system is tremendous.”
Unfortunately, a strikingly similar situation occurred just days after in Marblehead. Jake Scogland found out just hours prior to his game against Lynnfield on Friday that his dad had passed unexpectedly.
Jake’s father, Jeff, was a youth coach for nearly every kid playing on Marblehead’s roster. Whether it was football or baseball, Jeff was important in the life of not only his own son, but the lives of the entire team, making the loss even heavier for Marblehead.
Despite the emotions Scogland was experiencing, the lineman showed immense courage and spirit, and decided to suit up for the game. An early injury to one of Marblehead’s first defensive lineman in the depth chart gave Scogland the opportunity to play on both offense and defense throughout the night. The Magicians fought hard for their teammate, but Scogland fought even harder for himself on the field. He played solid on both sides of the line and was even able to block an extra point attempt by Lynnfield, stopping the Pioneers momentum dead in their tracks as he helped Marblehead come back from 11 down to beat Lynnfield 26-18.
Head coach Jim Rudloff commented on Scogland’s determination to play and how much he means to this team.
“We heard from Jake very early on after we got the news, and he texted us and said ‘i’m playing tonight, I’m going to be there at four o’clock and i’m going to do this’, it’s amazing that he was able to do that,” Rudloff said.
“He’s everyone’s brother, he’s the type of kid that is just friends with everyone,” he added.
Both athletes got an outpouring of support from their teams, which helped them find the spirit and strength they needed to have such amazing performances that were dedicated to their fathers, but Scogland and Ryan were also embraced by a number of communities on the North Shore.
Although the two schools have an intense rivalry when it comes to football, both teams will be playing for something bigger than themselves for the rest of the season as they try to help their football brothers navigate through these recent tragedies, with the annual meeting between both programs on Thanksgiving making for a heavy and emotional day.
Ryan Vermette can be reached at [email protected].