By Phil Stacey
---- — Patrick Charlton doesn’t want to beat Beverly High Thanksgiving morning solely for himself. The Salem High two-way lineman wants to do it for his fellow seniors, the rest of his football teammates and coaches, his school and his city.
But Charlton especially wants to beat the Witches’ arch rivals for his family — specifically, his two older brothers, Nick and Taylor.
“Nick (28-7 in 2006) and Taylor (28-14 a year later) both lost to Beverly in their senior seasons,” said the Salem captain. “So I’d really like to get a win so we can all celebrate it.”
The Witches (2-8) will be a decided underdog when they host Beverly (6-4) in their 115th meeting on the holiday at the new Bertram Field (10 a.m.). But that doesn’t bother Charlton — nor does the fact Salem has lost eight of their last 10 meetings against the Panthers or haven’t beaten them at home since 1999.
“If we could beat them, it’d be like our Super Bowl,” said Charlton.
Having grown up around Salem High football with his teammate, fellow senior Austin Connolly, Charlton is well versed in what it means to take part in one of the state’s oldest Turkey Day rivalries. He and Connnolly (nephew of head coach Scott Connolly) were waterboys for the Witches for four years (5th to 8th grade), and Charlton was eager to carry on the family name when it was his turn to play for the varsity.
The 5-foot-11 Charlton, who began the season at 203 pounds but now weighs “190-ish, I’d say,” was a tight end and outside linebacker for most of his high school career. But position scarcity for Salem at both offensive tackle and defensive end meant he switched positions for his senior season.
“Without question Patrick’s a skill position guy,” said Scott Connolly. “But he never complained or said a word when we asked him to change to a lineman. We felt he’d do well because he’s athletic and a strong kid who finishes his blocks.”
A weight room fiend who can bench press more (315 lbs.) than any other Salem High player, Charlton said the changes were difficult initially, but he accepted the challenge and grew to really enjoy them.
“Tight end is like playing tackle in that you’re going up against someone across from you on every play,” said Charlton, who wears No. 53. “But running plays are different; as a tight end I was usually going right at the linebacker, but now as a tackle I have to be more explosive to get after a bigger guy by being quick and getting low.
“I loved playing linebacker, too, but I knew the move was for the good of the team. I have to use my speed and quickness to get around guys, and have been able to make a few tackles because of it.”
Connolly said the prep school coaches at Worcester Academy like Charlton for those reasons and more. “He has a motor that never stops running,” said the Salem coach. “You always hear coaches say they want a kid who would run through a brick wall for them — well, Nick’s that kid. He can definitely play college football somewhere.”
Having just turned 18 years old last Wednesday, Charlton can talk to his brothers about football at any time. Nick, the oldest, is a graduate assistant for Boston College while Taylor, six years older than Patrick, is back teaching at Salem High while also coaching the freshman football team.
A victory on the holiday would not only give Salem its first win on its new turf field; it’d also be a sweet ending to a trying season.
“They’re the favorite; Beverly always seems to be,” said Charlton, whose favorite subject in school is science. “We need to go out, believe in ourselves and play 100 percent. That means getting 11 hats to the ball, being able to stop their running backs, stay on our blocks ... and wanting it more.”
SALEM HIGH STARTING LINEUPS OFFENSE No. Name Year Pos. 2 Christian Costa Sr. TE 53 Patrick Charlton Sr. LT 74 Riley Grondon Jr. LG 50 Josh McRae Sr. C 56 Ian Carter Sr. RG 74 Wilson Echavaria Sr. RT 24 Anferny Jiminez Sr. WR 11 Shakir White Sr. WR 25 Austin Connolly Sr. QB 28 Aaron Palmer Sr. RB 20 Genrri Rosario Sr. RB DEFENSE No. Name Year Pos. 80 Jerry Canada Sr. DE 56 Joe Byors Jr. DT 74 Wilson Echavaria Sr. DT 53 Patrick Charlton Sr. DE 50 Josh McRae Sr. OLB 35 Victor Claudio Jr. ILB 44 Glenn Gard Jr. ILB 2 Christian Costa Sr. OLB 24 Anferny Jiminez Sr. CB 19 Tarron Wigfall Jr. CB 25 Austin Connolly Sr. S