By Dan Harrison
---- — There are a lot of things that make Beverly’s Kenny Pierce a next-level football player.
His blazing speed, big play ability and elite athleticism are just a few of the reasons Pierce scored 26 rushing touchdowns combined in his junior and senior seasons with the Panthers. But it’s his unselfishness that could prove most vital next fall when Pierce suits up for Division 2 St. Anslem’s in the Northeast 10 Conference after Pierce committed to play for the Hawks this past week.
“I think that (unselfishness) in itself will take him far. When you move to the college level you’re going to be playing with all sorts of great players and in a different scheme anyway so to be able to be a team player is huge,” said Beverly head coach Dan Bauer. “Some kids come in and they were the whole team (in high school) and it’s a hard adjustment. Kenny isn’t that type of kid. He’s a great kid who is coachable and that should give him an edge right off the bat.”
Pierce, who has friends at St. A’s, fell in love with the Manchester, New Hampshire campus when he visited and felt at home in the community atmosphere.
“It (the campus) was beautiful, definitely one of the top five I’ve seen. And it’s a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone holds the door for each other,” said Pierce. “I like the whole NE-10. I have a couple friends at St A’s and they love it and that gave me a more in depth look. I really liked it too and realized it’s where I want to be.”
A superb, two-way player in high school, Pierce will look to get on the field anyway he can when he steps foot on campus.
“They said that a lot of their skill guys play both ways,” said Pierce about what position he will play next fall. “So whatever gets me on the field the fastest.”
After leading Beverly in rushing attempts (97), yards (831) and touchdowns (11) in his junior campaign, Pierce was part of a three-headed-attack with Brendan Flaherty and Isaiah White his senior year. The Panthers rolled to a perfect 13-0 campaign that included the Division 2A Super Bowl championship.
“It didn’t matter to him how many times he carried the ball, he was the same kid. Nothing phased him, he just played,” said Beverly offensive coordinator Roger Day. “He’s a unique kid in this day and age. He was so unselfish and made things happen.”
It was never about the yards or the touchdowns for Pierce, who saw a decline in carries as an opportunity to improve another area of his game. Since Beverly runs the Wing-T offense, when Pierce wasn’t getting the ball the Panthers needed him to block.
“It absolutely helped my blocking skills. Running, more comes naturally, but the blocking side, a lot of the guys are bigger than us so we had to get low and stay low,” noted Pierce. “Lifting and technique came into play. All-around it made me that much better.”
Pierce first saw varsity action as a sophomore the year the Panthers won their first ever Super Bowl and while he only had 343 yards on 48 carries including two touchdowns, he was third on the team in rushing and had garnered the attention of the coaching staff.
His junior season Pierce, had two separate games where he scored five touchdowns including a monster performance in the Panthers 36-35 win over Lynn English.
“I played him as a sophomore because he just had tremendous speed and he got it done no matter how good the team we were playing. He had that tremendous speed that just made it happen,” said Day. “He could turn the game around for you on one play. I always think of him as a game-changer.”
But his abilities weren’t limited to the offensive side of the ball.
Pierce was such a great athlete that Bauer put him at arguably the toughest defensive position on the field — cornerback. He had the size and speed to play the position but more importantly Pierce has always had the ability to bounce back after a mistake, which will be key at the collegiate level.
“He has true speed and that’s something that can’t be coached,” said Bauer. “One of things he did well was play that corner spot. You have to have the personality where if something bad happens you bounce back. (In college) the pond gets smaller and the fish are still big because you’re playing with all-conference kids from all over. That ability to bounce back will be big for him.”
Pierce has another advantage as he prepares for his first season of collegiate football. In his time at Beverly, the Panthers established an elite football culture with players supremely dedicated to the team. Pierce will bring that dedication and winning attitude to a Hawks team that finished just 2-9 last season.
“The first few visits (to St. A’s) they said the toughest part is waking up at 6 a.m. for workouts,” said Pierce. “I’ve been doing that for the past four years.”