By Phil Stacey
---- — BEVERLY — There was no wild celebration, overenthusiastic pig-piles or screaming and hollering when it was over. Head coach Dan Bauer wasn’t even doused with a traditional Gatorade shower.
If they were a little bit older, you’d call the way the young men on the Beverly High football team act after victories as workmanlike, even professional.
Bauer has another word for it: focused.
The Panthers completed the first 11-0 season in program history — which dates back to 1891 — by methodically knocking off their arch rivals from Salem, 28-14, yesterday before a crowd estimated at better than 7,500 fans at Hurd Stadium.
In the 114th playing of the contest known across the North Shore as ‘The Game’, Beverly did exactly what it needed to do: build up an early lead, got plenty of backups into the contest and emerged relatively injury-free to complete a magical regular season.
Now, they can turn their focus to Burlington High (10-1), whom they’ll face on the road in the Division 2A state playoffs Tuesday night (7:45 p.m.).
“It feels awesome,” said Beverly senior captain Kenny Pierce, who had 120 yards rushing on just five carries, including touchdown runs of 9 and 61 yards. “Salem always plays us tough; they might be the most talented team we played all season, and they gave us a real battle. But we were able to do what we came here for.”
“One of the big things for me is I like to have a purpose for the things I do,” added tight end Brendan McGee, “so to make history by finishing 11-0 and beating Salem on the seniors’ last game here at Hurd Stadium, that means the world to me. This team will always be remembered.”
The Beverly players were reminded early and often about what happened two years ago at Hurd, when its playoff-bound squad was upset by Salem on the holiday. Although the Panthers went on to win their first Super Bowl that season, they still had the sting of losing to their rivals from across the bridge.
“We heard about it all week; Coach (Ben) Goodhue even brought a tape of the game into our locker room and had it playing before the game (yesterday morning),” said McGee. “I said, ‘That’s not happening today.’ It was a great way to motivate us and keep us focused on what needed to be done.”
Salem (4-7) never get untracked offensively until it was too late. The Witches, who had won two straight games at Hurd Stadium, picked up only two first downs in the first half while losing a fumble that led to a Beverly score right before the half.
“Two big plays hurt us,” said Salem head coach Scott Connolly, referring to Pierce’s 61-yard run and a 27-yard scoring pass from captain Dave Rollins to captain Brendan Flaherty, both in the second quarter. “We knew they were a big-play offense and tried to guard against that, but you can only do it against them for so long.
“We were able to find our offense later in the game and had a few big stops in the red zone, but by then they already had a big lead.”
Pierce got Beverly on the scoreboard on his team’s second possession, completing a 10-play, 81-yard drive with a 9-yard run around left end. The first of Harry Brown’s four extra points gave the hosts a 7-0 lead.
Following a Salem punt, the Panthers took over on their own 39-yard line and turned to Pierce again. Pinching the tight ends in close to the line and running to the weak side, Pierce took a sweep, cut back inside and sped 61 yards into the end zone, doubling his team’s lead.
“It’s expected I’m going to run to the outside,” said Pierce, “but this time I cut back inside. It felt good to run between the tackles.”
For the season the jet-fueled Pierce is averaging an amazing 13 yards a carry, with 780 yards and a dozen rushing touchdowns on just 60 carries.
After Salem’s dynamic quarterback, Christian Dunston (156 yards passing), was crushed on a blitz by linebacker Sam Malumba, he fumbled on the Witches’ 27-yard line and it was recovered by Beverly’s Sean Winston. On the next play, Beverly scored again as Flaherty got behind the safety and dove to haul in Rollins’ arching pass in the left corner of the end zone, sending Beverly into halftime with a comfortable 21-0 lead.
“We were able to make some athletic plays when we needed to,” said Bauer.
The Orange-and-Black stretched their lead to 28-0 in the fourth quarter as captain Dom Abate found himself wide open in the end zone and corralled a 28-yard halfback option pass from Flaherty for his team’s final score.
“I’ve been playing here (at Hurd) since I was 7 years old, and there was no way we were losing this last game here,” said Abate. “The memories we made here, they’ll last a lifetime.”
Salem would not quit, however. Dunston took to the air and found senior Ben Sattiewhite twice in the end zone, once from 27 yards out and another from 11. They were the fifth and sixth TD catches of the season for Sattiewhite, while Dunston finished his 2012 campaign with 1,057 passing yards. In both instances, junior Connor Duncan booted the extra points. But the Witches never got any closer.
“How well this group has focused all season to get to this point, it’s pretty amazing,” said Bauer. “They came together as a group and included everyone by being encouraging, respectful and caring about each other.”
Beverly 28, Salem 14
at Hurd Stadium, Beverly
Salem (4-7) 0 0 0 14 — 14
Beverly (11-0) 7 14 0 7 — 28
B-Kenny Pierce 9 run (Harry Brown kick)
B-Pierce 61 run (Brown kick)
B-Brendan Flaherty 27 pass from Dave Rollins (Brown kick)
B-Dom Abate 28 pass from Flaherty (Brown kick)
S-Ben Sattiewhite 27 pass from Christian Dunston (Connor Duncan kick)
S-Sattiewhite 11 pass from Dunston (Duncan kick)
RUSHING: Salem — Christian Dunston 17-73, Greg Speliotis 7-18, Billy Muse 1-0, Genrri Rosario 2-(-2); Beverly — Kenny Pierce 5-120, Luke McDonald 6-57, Dom Abate 14-56, Brendan Flaherty 6-47, Isiah White 7-45, Zack Duguid 1-2, Dave Rollins 1-1.
PASSING: Salem — Dunston 9-22-156-2-1; Beverly — Rollins 3-9-34-1-1; Flaherty 1-1-28-1-0.
RECEIVING: Salem — Ben Kapnis 4-101, Ben Sattiewhite 2-38, Shakir White 1-11, Rosario 1-5, Speliotis 1-1; Beverly — Abate 1-28, Flaherty 2-25, Brendan McGee 1-9.
You ought to know Ben Kapnis didn't get into the end zone for Salem yesterday, but he was a monster when the ball was thrown his way. He caught four balls for 101 yards, often leaping high into the air to beat his man 1-on-1 and come down with one of QB Christian Dunston's passes. Although the 28 points scored yesterday were its lowest point total of the season, Beverly now has 409 total points this fall, the most they have ever scored in one year. One of Salem's brightest stars yesterday was Jonathan Crimble. The junior free safety was all over the field breaking up passes and making tackles from the secondary. Beverly junior right guard Zack Duguid had the first rushing attempt of his career, a 2-yard carry, late in the fourth quarter -- by it wasn't by design. A play was set up for sophomore Kevin Flaherty to get the ball and hand it off to his older brother, senior captain Brendan Flaherty, but the snap popped up in the air, which Duguid quickly grabbed and surged forward. Seniors Cam Harvey and captain Jared-Louf Woods had fumble recoveries for the Witches while junior Josh McRae had an interception. The Panthers were 2-for-2 on fourth down attempts: QB Dave Rollins hit tight end Brendan McGee for a 12-yard pickup to keep one drive alive, and Brendan Flaherty hit fellow captain Dom Abate with a 28-yard halfback option pass for a touchdown on 4th-and-11 later in the same drive. The winning 50/50 drawing for yesterday's game was a staggering $3,755.