GLOUCESTER — The Gloucester team appeared to be on its way to a loss multiple times in the fourth quarter of its Northeastern Conference Large opener against Beverly High last night at New Balance Track and Field at Newell Stadium.
The Fishermen offense was stuffed on a pair of late drives by the stingy Panther defense, and all the road team needed to do was take care of the football to run out the clock for a victory.
But Beverly could not hold onto the ball as the opportunistic Gloucester defense, which forced and recovered four fumbles in the game, forced and recovered two of those on Beverly’s final two drives. Gloucester would make the most of its chances as quarterback Ian Kennedy plunged into the end zone from a yard out with just 19.9 seconds to play, sending Beverly to a 18-14 defeat.
“You aren’t going to win when you make that many mistakes,” Panthers head coach Dan Bauer said. “You can’t take anything away from Gloucester; they played really tough, made less mistakes and deserved to win.”
Mistakes were the key for Beverly (1-3) as two of its fumbles happened in the red zone and another in its own territory, giving the Fishermen the ball back with under two minutes to play.
“When you make mistakes like that, you put yourself in a hole,” Bauer said. “The kids played hard to the end like they always do, but when you make that many mistakes it’s hard to win.”
Leading 14-12 at the half, Beverly struggled to get anything going in the second half as the Gloucester defense would not give an inch.
The Beverly defense, however, was equally up to the task and made several big second half stops, including a fourth down stop just inside the Panthers’ 20 early in the fourth that thwarted a 13-play, 9-minute and 32-second drive by Gloucester (now 3-1).