MANCHESTER — The undefeated Beverly football team’s biggest asset is its speed.
Offensively, the Panthers are quick to the line and even quicker to the edge. The running backs turn tight spaces into long touchdown runs and small leads into big ones in the blink of an eye. And defensively, the Panthers get multiple guys to the football in a hurry. There is no way in practice for opposing teams to simulate the pace at which the Panthers play the game.
Saturday night, Gloucester had no answer for Beverly’s speed on either side of the ball as the Panthers pounded the Fisherman, 35-6 on the road at Manchester’s Hyland Field.
Big Drew Shairs helped Gloucester (1-7) clog the middle with some success but Beverly (8-0) consistently got to the edge and hit a pair of big plays in the first half to take a commanding 21-0 lead into the locker room.
“We knew they liked speed and space to the quick side and we knew they liked power to the strong side. So we put Shairs over in the strong side and tried to take away their power game. I thought we did an alright job over there,” explained Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli. “It’s the speed in space. You work filling the lanes all week but you can’t match their speed at practice. We were getting to our spots and they were beating us there.”
Gloucester moved the chains on its opening drive but some penalties and some porous pass blocking killed any momentum for the Fishermen.
Beverly got the ball and on its fourth play Kenny Pierce got outside to the left sideline and took the ball 54 yards for the first score of the game. Just before the end of the first quarter, Sam Mulumba jumped a Gloucester halfback option pass and carried the interception seven yards for another Beverly score.
Gloucester tightened things up defensively forcing Beverly to turn the ball over on downs before the half with a chance to take a 13-0 deficit into halftime. But Gloucester couldn’t convert a fourth down of its own and the Beverly quick-strike offense came back out on the field with one minute and 49 seconds left.
On the Panthers’ second play, signal caller Dave Rollins faked a wide receiver reverse and hit Isiah White on a 55-yard touchdown pass down the center of the field.
The play was perfect from the line holding its blocks, White burning past the Fishermen’s secondary and Rollins hitting him in stride with a perfectly placed ball.
“It’s always big for momentum going into the second half. We were fortunate we were able to defer (after the opening coin toss) and get the ball in the second half,” said Beverly head coach Dan Bauer who also discussed the Rollins’ TD pass.
“It was a well-executed play. David (Rollins) threw the ball well, Isiah ran hard and the line protected very well too.”
Dom Abate added a two-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter before Luke McDonald scored the final Panther TD on a three yard burst up the middle. Between White, Abate, Pierce and Brendan Flaherty (181 rushing yards combined) the Panthers are one of the toughest teams around to game-plan for.
“Its not easy (stopping Beverly). Everybody talks about Flaherty, but its not just him. They got a lot of guys,” noted Zerilli.
Santo Parisi returned a kickoff 84 yards in the final minute but was caught on the Beverly nine-yard-line. Mark Horgan punched it in from a yard out against the Beverly back ups, in the final minute to spoil the shutout. Beverly wasn’t spectacular against the Gloucester run allowing some 10-plus yard runs over the course of the game. But the Panthers didn’t miss many tackles and Gloucester could never break one.
After the game Bauer spoke highly of his defensive line but also praised the opposing Fishermen for playing tough and until the final whistle.
“The defensive line did a good job. They played hard and came off the ball,” said Bauer. “We were fortunate to get up in there and create some problems. Gloucester did a nice job and chewed up a lot of clock and that made it hard on us. They sustained some drives and scored at the end. Gloucester played very hard.”