The Panthers got some experience playing against passing teams when they battled Lynn English, Swampscott, and Salem this year. Although none of those teams posed the threat that Natick does, Beverly remains confident.
“We have to play physical because when you play a spread team sometimes they don’t like to play physical. We have to stay disciplined, not let up any big plays, and stay in our zones and play our game,” Abate said. “I think we match up pretty well. They have a bunch of athletes on their team, but we’re competing every day with each other. We should be able to hold them up on defense.”
Natick does have a tough, in-between the tackles type of running back in Nick Lee, but he is currently listed as a game-time decision.
On the flip side, Natick does have the unenviable task of trying to slow down Beverly’s potent offense.
“They’re well balanced and very well coached. Their offense is scary. They’re explosive with their misdirection, and they shift quite a bit,” Natick coach Mark Mortarelli said. “Number 33 (Flaherty) is one of the better players I’ve seen. We want to try to contain him as much as possible, but it looks like no one has done that. That looks like our biggest challenge.”
Flaherty is now up to 1,321 yards rushing, and Mortarelli knows his team also has to worry about guys like Pierce (830 yards, 13 TDs) and Isaiah White (775 yards, 6 TDs).
“We gotta take care of the basics. We gotta tackle because they have a really strong running game, and we have to make sure we don’t give up extra yards,” Mortarelli said. “We have to catch the ball, and block and tackle.”
Another possible advantage Beverly has is its familiarity with playing on a stage as big as Gillette.