SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 29, 2012

Beverly football notebook: Offseason training has paid off handsomely for Panthers this fall

By Phil Stacey
Sports editor

---- — While the Beverly High football team has turned its entire focus on Natick in anticipation of their Division 2A Super Bowl matchup Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough (3:30 p.m.), we’re not ready to do so just yet.

Let us take a look back at some of the many news, notes and nuggets that have transpired over the previous dozen games and how the Panthers found themselves playing for a state title for the second time in three seasons:

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It can’t be a coincidence.

For the umpteenth time this fall, Beverly’s offensive and defensive lines wore down their opponents en route to victory in Tuesday’s Division 2A semifinal win over Burlington. Usually smaller but quicker and better at getting leverage on their foes, the Panthers have stayed fresh in the trenches while the guys in the other colored jerseys get winded. Subsequently, the holes open up for Beverly to run through (offensively) and attack through (defensively).

A large part of that has to be attributed to the team’s year-round dedication for assistant coach Ben Goodhue’s weight training program. Grueling and unforgiving but one that apparently pays huge dividends, the Panthers are reaping the benefits for all those days weightlifting in a non-heated clubhouse in the middle of the winter or sweating it out in the dog days of summer without anything to cool them down.

As the saying goes, pain is nothing but weakness leaving the body. The Panthers can attest to that.

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Here’s an impressive stat: the Panthers have held opponents scoreless in two-thirds of the quarters they’ve played in 2012, keeping teams off the scoreboard in 32 of 48 total periods. The only club to score more than one touchdown in a single quarter against them came on Thanksgiving Day, when Salem punched in two fourth quarter scores.

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According to Salem News records, Beverly High has never in its history faced Natick on the gridiron. (Newton and Nashua, N.H. yes, but not Natick).

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For the first time in its history, Beverly has cracked 4,000 yards rushing as a team; it will take a cumulative total of 4,018 yards into Saturday’s Super Bowl. Their 334.8 per-game average is also an all-time single season high.

Three times the Panthers have cracked 400-plus yards in a game: 405 against Masconomet, a season-high 438 vs. Swampscott and 419 against Burlington. All three were road victories.

Interestingly, the only time they’ve thrown for triple digits came in the season opener against Concord-Carlisle, when the Panthers took to the skies for 146 yards.

Overall they’ve piled up 622 yards passing, with five different players — captains Dave Rollins, Dom Abate and Brendan Flaherty, as well as juniors Nick Manthorne and Jack Morency — having thrown, and completed, at least one pass.

That gives Beverly a grand total of 4,640 yards of offense, or 386.7 yards per game. Again, those are all-time highs in Beverly High football history.

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This is the eighth unbeaten team in Beverly High football history. The 1949 squad, headed up by the Baron of Beverly, Charlie Walsh, considered by many to be the Garden City’s finest, went 9-0-0 and scored 253 points while allowing a mere 20. The 1960 and 1964 clubs, both under the direction of Roy Norden, also went 9-0-0.

The 1908 (8-0-2), 1915 (8-0-1) and 1958 (8-0-1) teams were also unbeaten but had at least one tie, while the powerhouse 1988 team went a perfect 10-0 in the regular season before losing the Division 2 Super Bowl to Dracut, 23-6, at what was then known as Sullivan Stadium in Foxborough.

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Senior linemen Pat Quieroz and Alex Negron, as well as junior trenchmate Jared Paris — three players who aren’t household names and aren’t starters — have all factored into the team’s overall success in more ways than one. Time to give that trio some kudos.

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The 13-point margin of victory Tuesday night was the closest any squad has come to beating Beverly this season. Salem had been the closest (14 points) in the Panthers’ previous outing; only one other team, Masconomet (which fell, 30-14) has come within 21 points of the Orange-and-Black.

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Of the 64 touchdowns scored by Beverly this fall, 46 those have come via the ground. Flaherty leads the way with 16 followed, in order, by fellow captain Kenny Pierce (13), junior Isiah White (6), Abate (5), senior Luke McDonald (3), junior Joey Kozlowski (2) and Manthorne (1).

The squad’s 11 receving touchdowns have come from Flaherty (4), senior tight end Brendan McGee (2) and Abate (2), and one each from senior wideout Ryan Shipp, Pierce and White.

That leaves seven more touchdowns via more unconventional methods: Flaherty has returned a kickoff return, a punt return and two interceptions for scores; junior linebacker Sam Mulumba has a kickoff return and a pick that both hit paydirt; and White has also brought back a kickoff for six points.

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The Panthers have only trailed three times during a game in 2012. They fell behind Masco, 14-10, before retaking the lead for good three plays later; trailed Danvers early, 7-0, before returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown; and found themselves down one at halftime Tuesday (14-13) against Burlington before putting up 21 straight points in the second half.

On just four occasions they’ve been tied (other than 0-0). The quarter have all been 7-7 affairs: against Concord-Carlisle on opening day, the aforementioned Danvers matchup, 7-7 at halftime against Marblehead and Tuesday in the first quarter against the Red Raiders.

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The unbeaten Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 2 champions have picked off 14 passes, including four in one game against Lynn English. They’ll definitely need to add to that total Saturday against the pass-happy Redhawks if the Panthers hope to raise their second state championship trophy in three years.

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The Panthers have outscored their foes by a whopping 109 to 21 in the first quarter of games, a testmanent to their getting off to a fast start in virtually every contest. Only once were they held scoreless in the opening frame, a 0-0 stalemate against Marblehead in Week 10.

But that’s not even their best quarter in terms of point differential; they’ve outscored their opponents by 101 points (114 to 13) in third quarters — where a majority of football games are won or lost — this fall.

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Tuesday was the second time this season than Flaherty and White have both rushed for 100 or more yards. (Flaherty had 251, White 109). In the Panthers’ October win at Masconomet, Flaherty had 234 yards on 22 carries while White picked up 101 on 13 totes.

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The most points Beverly has scored in one quarter was the 28 it put up against Peabody en route to a 49-0 triumph. Those 49 points are the most they’ve put up consecutively (ie without an opponent scoring), followed by the 35 they hung on Danvers in a 35-13 win.

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One of my favorite plays Tuesday night came during Pierce’s 28-yard touchdown run. It was sprung by two terrific plays: a crackback block by McDonald coming out of the backfield and cutting a Burlington linebacker down at the legs, and McGee’s sealing off the cornerback, which allowed Pierce to cut back inside and sail into the end zone. That was teammwork at its finest.

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It’s probably not a coincidence that teams have scored more points against Beverly in the fourth quarter of games (46) than any other; virtually all of those came against the Panthers’ second and third-team defensive units, long after the outcome had been decided.

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Four juniors will start for the Panthers on Saturday afternoon: right guard/defensive end Zack Duguid and linebackers Sean Winston, Mulumba and White.

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Good to see one of the North Shore’s all-time coaching legends, Jack Welch, on the sidelines Tuesday night in Burlington during the Panthers’ semifinal win. Welch, who guided Ipswich High to 224 wins and five state championships (including three Super Bowls) during his 36-year career from 1964-2000, has no direct correlation to the BHS program, but is extremely close with one of his former players: ex-Ipswich High quarterback and current Beverly High offensive coordinator, Roger Day. The two shared a warm on-field embrace after the victory.

Welch, who attended the game with Dave Drown and another all-time IHS great, Bubba Galanis, proudly wore a pullover jacket bearing the insignia of his beloved Notre Dame football team. His eyes lit up when talking about the undefeated, No. 1 ranked Fighting Irish and their chances of winning the BCS championship.

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Not that it mattered in the long run, but Burlington held one significant edge over Beverly Tuesday night: time of possession favored the Red Devils, 24:52 to 16:08. That’s because Beverly’s scoring drives came out to, in order, 43 seconds; 2 minutes and 57 seconds; 33 seconds; 55 seconds and 3 minutes and 7 seconds.

Folks, that’s called efficiency.

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Two years ago in Beverly’s Super Bowl win over Somerset, sophmores Marc Babcock (a starter on the offensive line) and Flaherty played big roles in the championship win. There aren’t any 10th grade starters on this year’s club, but if I had to put money on one to make a key play this time around, I’d go with linebacker Jimmy Kastrinakis.

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If Pierce has a huge game on the ground (170 or more yards) against Natick, he’ll join Flaherty by rushing for 1,000-plus yards this season, a rarity even in high school football. The Panthers came close two years ago with Flaherty and then-captain Nick Theriault (997 yards).

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The only losses for Beverly so far this season have come from head coach Dan Bauer and assistant Bruce Doig, who have each dropped more than 50 pounds from this time last year.

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Saturday’s Super Bowl will conclude Bauer’s 10th season as Beverly’s head coach, during which time he has compiled a 68-42 overall record.

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Finally, in looking through our paper’s archives I found something this writer had penned following the Panthers’ season-opening win over Concord-Carlisle:

If this is a sign of things to come for Beverly — a team whose own expectations are seemingly only exceeded by the fans and media types that follow them — then 2012 is going to be a very enjoyable season.

As it turns out, it already has been for everyone associated with the program.

Now, it can be the greatest season in Beverly High history with a triumphant victory on Saturday.