PEABODY — Alex Valles saw a flash of leather. The rest of the stadium saw a flash of white running the other way.
Danvers’ senior captain took the ball away from Peabody’s Doug Santos, came out of the pile and ran 85 yards the other way to send the Falcons to a thrilling 20-14 win at Coley Lee Field.
Moments earlier, Danvers (2-1) had turned it over at their own 20 when their punter was ruled down. The Tanners (1-2) had tied the game, 14-14, with 1:53 left after Cody Wlasuk capped a 19-play, 90-yard drive and Mike Raymond rushed for the two-point conversion.
The Falcons, specifically Valles, were undaunted. As Santos fought for yardage to set up a game-winning field goal, he saw an opening and he jumped on it.
“I saw the ball and I went for it. I stripped it away and just started running,” said Valles. “We have that mentality where we came come back from anything. We have confidence in ourselves and our teammates.”
It was a stinging swing of momentum for Peabody, which trailed 14-0 after giving up the second of two 70-plus-yard touchdown runs to speedy Danvers junior Chris Behen early in the third quarter. The Tanners got scores, and stops, they needed to tie the game, but Valles’ fumble return took away a chance at the win or overtime.
“It’s a difficult locker room to walk into after that, no question about it,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “We have some resilient, tough kids. That was as good a second half as I’ve seen a Peabody team play in a while.”
Behen did the bulk of the damage for the Falcons, running for a game-high 153 yards on six carries. The first was a perfectly sealed toss that went 79-yards to the house on Danvers’ first possession in the first quarter. Then on the opening drive of the third, he cut up the middle and raced 70 yards to the end zone.