By Matt Williams
---- — PEABODY — The seniors on the Peabody High football team were wide-eyed sophomores the last time they walked off Coley Lee Field with a win.
Battle tested through two tough years, having grown stronger and wiser together, the Tanner upperclassmen finally got to taste another victory last night.
Peabody held on to beat Somerville, 34-27, when sophomore Javier Moyeno stopped Highlanders QB Pheonix Huertas on fourth down at the hosts’ 16-yard line. The victory snapped an 11-game losing streak for Peabody (1-1) and was its first win at home since Week 2 in 2011.
“After coming off a season with no wins, the feeling of winning is so good,” said senior offensive guard Matt Crawford, a game captain last night. “To be around these guys, the joy we’re feeling, it’s better than anything.”
Peabody’s O-Line, Crawford, Ethan Mercedes and fellow captains Brandon Rapoza and Joe Molica, opened big holes as sophomore Doug Santos rumbled for 180 yards and two TDs and junior Ryan Collins was the ideal complement with 145 yards and two scores of his own.
The Tanners ran for 363 yards as a team, building a 20-0 lead as Santos scored on runs of 32 and 49 yards and Collins added a 55-yard cutback all in the first quarter.
“It starts on the line. That’s our philosophy,” said Crawford. “We worked all week to get to that point and we knew we were in for four quarters of hardcore football.”
Somerville (0-2) and its dynamic signal caller Huertas stayed in the game. The senior ran for 90 yards and threw for 143 yards and two scores and engineered two straight scoring drives to bring his team back with a TD at 20-13.
Collins then cutback for his second score from 17-yards out to send his team to the room ahead 26-13.
The Tanners were without both starting linebackers, Cody Wlasuk and Billy Teehan, due to injury. Sophomores Santos and Frank Falco were pressed into action and the experienced Huertas took advantage, driving to make it 26-20 to open the second half.
“Their QB is a very good player and we found out our youth at that position,” said Peabody’s Mark Bettencourt, after earning his first win as head coach.
The Tanners extended the lead again when QB Michael Raymond (who completed all six of his passes) hit Ivan Tran with a picturesque fade for a 30-yard score. Somerville needed just two plays to score themselves and the shootout was on at 34-27.
“When you take over a program that’s not having success, sometimes they’re waiting for bad things to happen,” said Bettencourt. “I felt that a bit, but we recovered on offense and took that aura away.”
Peabody fumbled at their own 30 with 2:31 to play, but the visitors took a pair of motion penalties to put themselves in third and long. Huertas fired an incomplete pass to the end zone and was then stopped by Moyeno on fourth.
The Highlanders had one more timeout than Peabody believed, so Raymond actually had to run a play on fourth down. He ran the clock out and fell at his own 1-yard line as the Tanner bench poured onto the field to celebrate.
“We haven’t practiced taking a knee. We’re not cocky enough to think we should be practicing that,” said Bettencourt.
With one win in the books, these Tanners are hoping it’s a play they can get used to calling.
“We want it to be the first of many,” said Crawford. “When things look down, we feel like we can pull it out this year. We feel like we can persevere.”