By Matt Williams
---- — PEABODY — With three minutes left in the most tumultuous football season in recent memory, Peabody High interim head coach Matt O’Brien called a timeout and had his nine seniors walk off Coley Lee Field together.
It was a tender moment in a season that had far too few of them.
Visiting Saugus was in complete command of a 43-0 win over the Tanners on Thanksgiving morning in front of about 2,000 fans.
Peabody (0-10) finished the season winless for the first time since 1958, allowed the most points in school history and never held the lead on any opponent in any game.
The Tanners, try as they might, couldn’t find their footing on either side of the ball.
“They deserved that. They worked hard for four years and they deserved to come off that field together,” said O’Brien, who was tapped as interim coach when Scott Wlasuk resigned after five games.
Saugus (6-5) had 419 total yards, including senior Nick Benoit’s 122-yard, 2-touchdown effort that pushed him over 1,100 rushing yards on the season. The Sachems enjoyed their biggest victory in the holiday series since 1966, beating Peabody for the third time in five years.
“It’s a great way for our seniors to go out,” said Saugus head coach Mike Broderick. “They took their lumps when they were young, and they had a tremendous season (this fall).”
Benoit opened the scoring yesterday with a 39-yard touchdown run on Saugus’ first possession. He scored from 7 yards out later in the first quarter, with conversions by Justin Barrasso and C.J. Randolph making it 16-0.
The Tanners were hanging around, down by just two scores, and held the ball for 8:55 aided by two Michael Raymond fourth down conversions. Pat Tuoy’s punt was downed by senior Angelo Beado at the Saugus 1-yard line, but six plays later Randolph hit Ryan Henehan for a 79-yard TD with 1:00 left in the half and it was 22-0.
“Those big plays have plagued us all year,” said O’Brien. “It’s young mistakes; small things that lead to big results.”
Randolph threw for 100 yards on just two completions and ran for 57 yards and a score. Henehan intercepted Raymond just before the half to take away any momentum Peabody gained from a 60-yard Billy Teehan kick return as well.
“Teams play 11 in the box against us and we felt like that was the right time to throw it,” said Broderick. “The offensive line gave us plenty of space.”
Saugus scored on its first three possessions of the second half with touchdown runs by Randolph, Ismael Minaya and Ryan Clarke as it built a sizable lead. Peabody went three-and-out the only time it touched the ball in the third quarter and fumbled the kickoff after Saugus’ other score.
“All year we talked about stopping big plays. This week I thought we were capable of doing that — and we couldn’t,” said senior Brian Norwood, one of Peabody’s leading tacklers at linebacker.
Saugus’ Dan Cacciola ran for 88 yards on three carries, and as a team the Sachems outgained Peabody on the ground 319-16.
In all, 15 of the Tanners’ 29 offensive snaps came on the long drive in the second quarter as they were shut out for the third time this season.
“We knew what they were going to do and we couldn’t stop it,” said O’Brien. “We just couldn’t get the ground game going.”
Peabody’s seniors — Norwood, Beado, Frank Lowry, Max Gordon, Jake Summitt, Matt Ward, Pat Coutnie, Jared Vachon, Tyler O’Shea and George Tsonis — won 10 games between their sophomore and junior seasons. Their record regressed in 2012, but O’Brien complimented their efforts to hold the team together during an extremely trying season in which they were outscored, 420-78.
“The results aren’t what we wanted, but hopefully we set the foundation for something,” said O’Brien, who hasn’t decided if he’ll apply for the permanent head coaching job.
“It’s less about the wins and losses and more about friendship. It’s been a tough season, but we stuck together and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. I love these guys,” said Norwood. “We have a lot of young guys and we tried to set the right foot forward for them. I’ll be rooting for them.”
Junior Cody Wlasuk was the leading tackler for Peabody yesterday with a dozen stops. Raymond and Tanner Moquin busted through the line to block a Saugus PAT, and sophomore Ryan Collins was all over the field defensively.
Beginning with the head coaching search, Peabody will look to build on its young base. The Tanners need to shake off the history made in 2012 and write their own chapter moving forward.
“We’re close,” said O’Brien. “In one or two seasons, we could really turn this thing around. The young guys on this team are going to be really good.”
Saugus 43, Peabody 0
at Coley Lee Field, Peabody
Saugus (6-5) 16 6 8 13 — 43
Peabody (0-10) 0 0 0 0 — 0
S-Nick Benoit 39 run (Justin Barrasso rush)
S-Benoit 7 run (C.J. Randolph rush)
S-Ryan Henehan 79 pass from Randolph (rush failed)
S-Randolph 1 run (Benoit rush)
S-Ismael Minaya 1 run (kick blocked)
S-Ryan Clarke 3 run (Trainor kick)
RUSHING: Saugus — Nick Benoit 18-122, Dan Cacciola 3-88, C.J. Randolph 11-57, Ismael Minaya 7-34, Ryan Clarke 2-7, Justin Barrasso 3-6, Justin Wynn 1-5. Peabody — Cody Wlasuk 9-8, Michael Raymond 7-6, Billy Teehan 2-2, Tanner Moquin 1-2, Ryan Collins 4-0, Ivan Tran 1-(-2).
PASSING: Saugus — Randolph 2-3-100-1-0; Peabody — Raymond 2-4-17-0-1
RECEIVING: Saugus — Ryan Henehan 1-79, Cacciola 1-21; Peabody — Collins 2-17.