By Matt Jenkins
---- — BEVERLY -- The Beverly football team had been plagued by turnovers and miscues through the first four games of the season. On Saturday, in their fifth game, the Panthers finally found themselves on the other side of the coin.
Beverly took advantage of two Marblehead fumbles in the second half and held off the Magicians’ late comeback bid to register the upset, 17-14, at raw and misty Hurd Stadium.
Turnovers may come in waves,and seemingly by chance, but the Panthers created their good fortune against previously unbeaten Marblehead (now 5-1).
The Panthers (2-3) forced two fumbles on back-to-back possessions, creating a 14-point swing and drastically shrinking Marblehead’s comeback chances in the process.
“Our kids, I have to hand it to them, they’re mentally tough,” Beverly coach Dan Bauer said. “They (Marblehead) have quick-strike capabilities, which we saw there at the end. We were able to keep things close and we capitalized on a few big turnovers. We did a pretty good job protecting the ball, which we haven’t been doing in the past.”
Beverly followed its game plan to near perfection in the first half, getting stops on defense and controlling the clock with a hard-working run game. The Panthers were rewarded for their effort with a 9-yard touchdown run from Isaiah White (24 carries, 138 yards) late in the first quarter, and a 25-yard field goal by Matt Madden late in the second quarter.
Beverly held a 10-0 advantage at the half, but it was Marblehead’s two third-quarter fumbles that proved to be the difference.
The Magicians forced a Beverly punt on the second half’s first possession, but the Panthers knocked the ball loose on the return and fell on the bouncing ball at the Marblehead 11-yard line. Four plays later, on 4th-and-1 from the 2, Beverly ran a reverse pass with Madden lofting a pass out to the left flat, where quarterback Nick Manthorne hauled it in and stretched into the end zone for a three-score lead.
“That was gigantic,” Bauer said. “Anytime you get field position like that, it’s tough to overcome and that’s happened to us the last couple of weeks. It was good to have some luck bounce our way.”
Luck, as Bauer called it, shined down on the Panthers again about five minutes later.
Needing to produce points, Marblehead changed the pace of the game and started marching down the field.
On 1st-and-goal from the Beverly 2-yard line, Panther linebacker Sean Winston forced a fumble and Beverly fell on it for a touchback.
“We didn’t execute,” Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff said. “The turnovers killed us. There was nothing that they did that surprised us and I’m sure there’s nothing that we did that surprised them. It was poor execution on our part and we got outworked on the line. The 11 kids wearing black beat up the 11 kids for Marblehead, until the last quarter.”
The Magicians mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter. Senior receiver Brian Daly (4 catches, 92 yards) beat the Beverly secondary twice and quarterback Matt Millett (16-for-26, 187 yards) found him both times, once for a 24-yard score and again from 33 yards to cut Beverly’s lead to 17-14 with 2:05 to go.
Marblehead then got the defensive stop it needed, but couldn’t threaten on its final possession.
“It was too late,” said Rudloff, who is left looking for answers after the Magicians struggled in the second half of last week’s win over Gloucester and now losing to Beverly.
“We don’t need to refine our passing game or work on our stunts, or anything like that. We need to figure out if we want to get our noses dirty and win football games in the trenches. We did that the first couple of weeks. The last couple weeks we’ve gotten spanked, all in the trenches.”