By Jean DePlacido
---- — WINTHROP — There was never a doubt about whether to settle for the tie and go to overtime, or try to win the game with a two point conversion as far as Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt was concerned.
After Doug Santos capped an 81-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard run with 1:35 remaining in the game and Peabody trailing by a single point, Bettencourt put the ball in quarterback Mike Raymond’s hands.
“There was never a question in my mind about kicking,” said Bettencourt. “I never gave it a thought. We wanted to get Raymond on the outside and give him the option of running or passing. (Billy) Teehan made the block, and we had Cody Wlasuk in the end zone. I told Raymond if he was wide open to hit him, but if he saw the pylon to go for it.”
Raymond ran to the right sideline and took it in himself to give Peabody a 30-29 lead, but the game was far from over. Winthrop drove down the field to the Peabody 16-yard line with time running out. Jake Chuidina’s field goal attempt on the final play of the game sailed wide left.
Winthrop quarterback Dylan Driscoll tried several passes on the last drive and completed two, but the Tanners were able to break up two others. Santos batted a ball away and Tanner Moquin broke up a pass in the end zone.
“That play by Moquin was huge,” said Bettencourt. “We really needed him to come up big. Tanner does a great job playing both ways, and Raymond was terrific. This was a team win. Our offensive line showed up, our backs ran hard, and our defense made some big plays. We didn’t always stop them, but we were in the right position to make plays.
The Tanners (2-3) snapped a two-game skid and avoided losing to Winthrop (3-2) for the first time since 1923.
“We came into their house and pulled it off as a team. They were 3-1, and this was a fight all the way. Our guys are starting to learn what we want them to do and starting to see the results,” said Bettencourt. “I was a little concerned because we had a similar game with Danvers (a loss in the final minute), and then the fall back against Classical (40-0 loss last week). This was a big one for us, and I’m so proud of this team.”
It was back and forth all game with Peabody scoring on an 11-yard pass from Raymond to Ryan Collins on the opening drive. Raymond completed 12 of 14 attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a touchdown.
It took the Vikings just 23 seconds to tie it up on a 60-yard run by Driscoll, and they went ahead, 15-7 on a Driscoll pass to Vinny Sparacino before the Tanners answered with a 5-yard touchdown run by Raymond.
Winthrop threatened to take the lead, but Mike James recovered a fumble in his end zone, and the Tanners drove 80 yards to take a 22-15 lead on the first of two touchdowns by Santos.
“Our offense was working tonight,” said Raymond. “I had guys open on the passes, and the backs ran hard. On the two point conversion I saw daylight, and took off. The plays we run in practice worked.”
It felt like the team that had the ball last might be the winner after Winthrop knotted it up again at 22-22 on the opening drive of the second half. Jordan Corbett-Frank, who rushed for 128 yards, broke tackles for a 10-yard touchdown run.
Winthrop took a 29-22 lead with 5:12 remaining in the game on a 90-yard drive with Driscoll scoring his second TD of the night. The Tanners didn’t fold, putting together the winning drive on a combination of passes to Moquin, Andrew McLaughlin, and Ivan Tran, and runs by Collins, Teehan, and Raymond.
“Our line blocked, and Moquin and McLaughlin had some huge catches,” said Bettencourt. “We need to play like this the rest of the season.”