By Phil Stacey
---- — He still attends all the home games, making the short walk from his home on Warren Street over to Hurd Stadium, where he enters by the back gate and sits on the outer edge of the visitors’ stands.
As the only man to ever coach the Beverly High football team to double digit wins without a loss in the regular season, Bill Hamor is still very much interested in anything to do with the Panthers.
And he really likes what he’s seen out of this year’s team, which is 7-0 heading into tomorrow night’s matchup with Gloucester at Hyland Field in Manchester (7 p.m.).
So much so, in fact, that he can see comparisons between the current squad and the last BHS club to win its first seven contests: Hamor’s legendary 1988 team.
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a quarter-century since that ‘88 Panther edition ran the table in winning the Northeastern Conference championship (Beverly’s third in five years). Now, there are folks who are saying this 2012 team is the Garden City’s best since that unbeaten powerhouse.
“Those kids were very close, a real good group of kids. They respected and liked each other,” Hamor said of the 1988 club. “That’s the way it’s got to be with this year’s team, too. You need that to have the kind of success they’ve had.
“But you’ve got to have the talent, too, and these guys have it. They have so much depth, especially in the running back position. That shows week in and week out.”
The 1988 Beverly High team, captained by Division 1 lineman prospect Steve Costa (who went on to play on scholarship at Northeastern), rugged fullback Winston Trefry and bulldog center Lon Hamor, had big expectations that they more than lived up to. After crushing Everett in its season opener, 41-16, they began their NEC slate with a 23-12 win at Lynn English, followed by a 34-0 whitewashing of host Saugus and a 32-7 triumph at Winthrop.
Playing their first home game on October 15, the Panthers outslugged Lynn Classical, 43-28 and smoked Danvers, 37-7 before grinding out a 28-14 win at Gloucester. Their toughest test of the season came in Week 8 when a late touchdown and successful 2-point conversion enabled the Orange-and-Black to eke out an 8-7 home win over Marblehead.
On Nov. 12 at Hurd Stadium, 8-0 Beverly hosted 8-0 Swampscott in a game many expected would come right down to the wire. It didn’t — Hamor’s team rolled all over the Big Blue, 34-14, before concluding their perfect regular season with a tough 14-6 victory over visiting Salem on Thanksgiving Day.
“That team was so focused all season,” said Hamor, who also had stars such as running back Dana Peters, quarterback Jason Shairs and junior linebacker Adam Mott, among others, on that ‘88 club. “They did it on the field every week, one game at a time, and came up with the big plays when we needed them.”
There’s a lot that Hamor likes about the current Beverly High juggernaut. The precision in which the Wing-T offense operates, the ballhawking ways of the Panther defense, the ability for players to step into vacated starting roles without much dropoff, and the sense he gets that everyone is on the same page working towards a common goal are all traits he’s familiar with.
“(Brendan) Flaherty is obviously their go-to guy on offense and a great kid; his father Tim played for me in the 1980s,” said Hamor. “He works hard, he runs hard and gives you everything he has every time he plays. He’s very impressive that way. But the other guys in that backfield — (Kenny) Pierce, (Dom) Abate, (Isiah) White and (quarterback Dave) Rollins — they’re all terrific, too. White’s done a really nice job the last few weeks with Pierce out (injured).
“The line play, the defense ... this group seems to be very focused. What they’ve got to understand, though, is that on a given week, anyone can beat anyone in high school football.”
So far, the current Panthers haven’t come close to losing; they’ve only trailed for a grand total of four plays all season. In six games, they’ve scored just 13 fewer points than the ‘88 team did in 10 games (281 to 274) and are averaging 38.7 points per game, as opposed to 28.4 that the ‘88 team scored. They’re also giving up fewer points (7.85 per game, compared to 11.1 in 1988).
While both teams have had their share of blowout wins, the 1988 team had five wins by margins of 15 points or less. The 2012 team’s smallest margin of victory is 16 points; five of the seven victories have been by 27 points or more.
Following tomorrow’s game against Gloucester, the Panthers hit the road to face always dangerous Swamspcott next Saturday before hosting Marblehead — a potential Game of the Century if both clubs enter 9-0 — at home on Nov. 10, then close with arch rival Salem at home. Every one of them will be looking to knock Beverly off its unbeaten perch.
“You can’t start looking ahead,” said Hamor. “That ‘88 season, everyone knew our big showdown with Swampscott was coming up, but we had a real battle the week before against Marblehead. I don’t know if the kids were looking past them or not, but we really had to pull that one out at the end.
“A close game can be really good for your football team; it gets your head on right when you have a bit of a scare. That Marblehead game certainly woke us up.”
Having said that, Hamor feels current head coach Dan Bauer and his coaching staff won’t let their players start thinking ahead. The veteran coach likes what he sees from the school he both played for and coached, and couldn’t be happier for them.
“It’s great that people all over the city are talking about Beverly football. Every game is a big game,” said Hamor. “It’s always been a good football town, and it’s nice to see the current kids carrying that tradition on and keeping it alive.
“It’d be nice to see them go all the way — even if Dan (Bauer) doesn’t even want to think about that now.”
Moving The Chains, a column on North Shore high school football, appears each Friday during the fall season in The Salem News. Contact sports editor Phil Stacey at email@example.com or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.