BEVERLY — The early season rust has been shaken off. The newcomers are settling into their roles.
And the Beverly High football team? Well, they’re starting to play Beverly High football.
The Panthers host Swampscott at Hurd Stadium Saturday (1 p.m.) looking not only for their third straight win of the 2013 campaign, but also to get over .500 for the first time this fall.
In its final game before the Division 3 Northeast playoffs begin next weekend, Beverly (3-3) wants to continue to trend upward by playing a full 44 minutes against the always-ready-to-battle Big Blue (1-5). They’re not at all focused on potential playoff matchups or who they could be playing in November; their sole focus is on their long-time Northeastern Conference rivals.
“At the beginning of the year, turnovers killed us,” said captain Isaiah White, who needs just 65 yards rushing to hit 1,000 for the season. He’s averaging over eight yards and carry and has crossed the end zone 11 times.
“But now we’re focused on what we need to do and not making those mistakes. Changing the pace of the offense has helped; our stingy defense is coming together, too.”
Since dropping their first two games to Haverhill and Danvers by a combined seven points, the Orange-and-Black have won three out of four. They piled up a staggering 600 rushing yards in a 48-28 win over North Andover, then shocked previously unbeaten Marblehead, 17-14, three weeks later.
“We might not have the biggest or toughest guys out there,” noted senior quarterback Nick Manthorne, “but if we do all of our blocking assignments like our line has been, if Isaiah hits the holes and me carrying out my fakes and everyone getting in sync last year ... we’re going to be all right.”
For a team that lost a plethora of starters from last year’s unbeaten Super Bowl champions, the Panthers knew they’d need to rely heavily on the seniors they had back. They’ve delivered, too; White has been a beast out of the backfield; linebackers (and fellow captains) Sam Mulumba and Sean Winston have performed likewise at linebacker; Zack Duguid has been as good as advertised as a two-way lineman and Jay Kozlowski has been valuable both split out and in the defensive secondary.