By Matt Williams Staff writer
The Salem News
---- — SWAMPSCOTT — You might think there aren’t many high-pressure defensive plays in a football game decided by five touchdowns.
Beverly faced a number of those on Saturday, however, and the Panthers defense made just about all of them. The Black-and-Orange stopped host Swampscott inside the 25-yard line four times and forced two turnovers at Blocksidge Field, running their record to 9-0 with a 40-6 win.
The Panthers’ offense scored on every possession that wasn’t ended by halftime, running for 438 total yards and averaging 11.8 yards per carry. Luke McDonald (93 yards, TD), Isaiah White (81 yards, TD), Kenny Pierce (84 yards, TD) and Joey Kozlowski (83 yards, TD) did the bulk of the damage for Beverly, which can earn its third postseason berth by beating Marblehead in a highly anticipated game next Saturday at Hurd Stadium.
“I’m very proud of how our guys played,” said Beverly head coach Dan Bauer. “They played hard, and they didn’t get distracted by looking ahead, which is always a concern.”
As dominant as Beverly’s running game was, it was the plays made by the Panthers’ defense with their backs against their own goal line that enabled another one-sided win. The Big Blue held the ball for 23 of the game’s first 33 minutes, but came away with no points. Swampscott (4-5) turned it over on downs deep in Beverly territory three times and fumbled at the Beverly 7-yard line, as well. Each time the Big Blue turned it over, the Panthers scored to extend their lead. “It’s execution,” said Swampscott head coach Steve Dembowski.
“Beverly’s good, they’re well-coached with good athletes, but we have to play better. The way we played wasn’t good enough to hang with the big dogs.”
Pierce took a counter 45 yards to the house on Beverly’s first possession. Swampscott recovered a muffed punt but turned it over on downs and the Panthers answered with Brendan Flaherty’s 2-yard TD. Pierce then picked off Brian Santry, and Isiah White carried twice for 34 yards to extend the lead to 20-0.
Swamspcott then embarked on a 17-play drive that ate up 9:06 of the second but resulted in no points after a botched reverse lost 18 yards. Beverly shut down a similarly long drive (16 plays) in the third with solid play by Flaherty, Dom Abate and Ryan Shipp in coverage.
The key for the Panthers, who limited Santry to 130 yards passing, was holding their composure on Swampscott’s pre-snap adjustments.
“You almost have to be offensive on defense because if you stand still, Swampscott will pick you apart,” Bauer said. “It comes down to putting those guys in those scenarios during the week (in practice). You can’t replicate Swampscott’s speed, but our guys played with confidence and nobody panicked out there.”
Senior Luke McDonald got in on the action for Beverly, scoring from 68 yards away on a nicely cut counter play. Classmate Dom Abate (46 yards) also scored, and junior Joey Kozlowski raced in from 44 yards away as the Panthers stretched their lead to 40-0.
“They hit us on that counter twice for over 100 yards and two touchdowns,” Dembowski said. “We have to be more disciplined. If you’re not against that offense, you’re in for a long day.”
Santry completed 21-of-31 passes to seven receivers and broke up the shutout with a 5-yard TD run with 34 seconds left in the game. Mike Faia ran for 57 yards for the Big Blue, while Josh Rothwell caught six balls for 44 yards.
The Panthers used nine ball carriers and got just about everyone the dressed into the game.
“That’s a wonderful thing to get those guys in there,” Bauer said. “They work so hard all week, and a lot of them play junior varsity, so they’re doing double duty. Those guys deserve to play.”
The 34-point margin of victory was Beverly’s largest in the series since 1922 and second largest ever. It was a stark departure from the last four meetings, all decided by eight points or less. The Panthers lead the series 26-21-1 and have won four of their last five against Swampscott. Only four games in the 48 all-time between these two have been decided by 30 points or more.