On a roll
Since beating Danvers for its first win Oct. 15, Beverly has scored 122 points in four games, all victories. The Panthers seem to finally have the kinks ironed out in their new Wing-T offense, with the team's experienced offensive line opening big holes for backs Brendan Flaherty, Nick Theriault and Kenny Pierce to dart through.
Flaherty, in particular, has exploded onto the North Shore football scene over the last month, so much so that he has to be considered one of the two favorites to win NEC Small Player of the Year honors (along with Swampscott's sublime QB, junior Mike Walsh). The 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore, who is so dangerous running the sweep by hitting full speed as he turns the corner, has rushed for a mind-boggling 822 yards and 12 touchdowns in the last month.
"All three of Beverly's backs have outstanding speed," said Dembowski. "Flaherty on the sweep, Theriault on the dive inside and Pierce on the counter — they can all bust a big gainer. They're willing to nickel and dime their way down the field, but if you make a mistake on a gap assigment, they can take it the distance."
Hulking linemen such as captain George Kallas (265 pounds), Alex Ego (6-foot-4, 245 lbs.), Andrew Cannata (245 lbs.) and George Kastrinakis provide time for plays to develop as senior captain Joe Wioncek runs the Panther ship at QB.
"We have a mixture of older and younger players at key positions," said Beverly head coach Dan Bauer, who was a member of Ivy League championship teams at Penn in 1986 and, ironically, 1988. "We've seen continued improvement and have really started minimizing our mistakes."
Big potential offensively
Conversely, Swampscott brings its famed Spread offense into Hurd Saturday with Walsh at the controls. A threat both running and passing the football, the first-year starter has accounted for 30 touchdowns, completed almost 61 percent of his passes and, as Dembowski said, "we wouldn't be in the position we are without him."