Mike Dooling reached into the waistband of his white Beverly football pants and fished out a piece of history.
It was a small piece of white knotted rope, probably three or four inches long and beginning to fray from wear and tear. Dooling's was similar to the one that each of his teammates had been given by assistant coach Ben Goodhue some three-and-a-half months ago.
"That rope is our season in a nutshell," said fellow senior lineman Brian 'Mustachio' Perry. "Ripped apart and tattered, but it never broke."
Neither did Beverly's will to win.
The Panthers completed their season-long mission by becoming the first BHS team to finish 13-0 by winning their second Super Bowl in three seasons, defeating Natick, 28-21 Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. Star players, role players, special teams performers -- they all had a hand in finishing the journey.
"We never let go of the rope," said Dooling, the right tackle/defensive end who gutted out the final three games of his senior season by playing on a badly injured ankle. "One guy falls down, everyone else picks him up. That's what the rope is all about."
"We must have said 'Hold the rope! Hold the rope!' about 90 times during the game," admitted Perry.
Virtually every team in every sport, from high school on up, looks for something to symbolize what they hope will be a championship campaign. A catchy slogan, a simple gesture, a trinket that holds special meaning ... they've all been used to inspire teams to glory.
The Panthers came up with their own bit of verbal encourgement -- 'finish the journey,' which was originally picked up by the coaches during a leadership training seminar last spring. It was later shortened to simply 'finish,' which the players had plastered across the back of their team T-shirts.