BEVERLY — He was holding a metal lunchbox under his right arm, one that was adorned with white, orange and black Beverly High football stickers. It was, he said, a symbol of the team’s lunch pail mentality that they bring, both literally and figuratively, to the gridiron every week.
Marc Babcock then spoke the seven words that every Panther senior was certainly thinking.
“We got them,” said the offensive guard and team captain. “We finally got ‘em.”
Tied at halftime, Beverly High exploded for four second-half touchdowns, two from the mercurial Brendan Flaherty, and pulled away from Marblehead to capture the Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 2 championship with a resounding 35-14 win before an estimated 5,000 fans Saturday at Hurd Stadium.
In one of the most highly aniticipated regular season games in recent North Shore history, unbeaten Beverly (10-0) didn’t disappoint its rabid (and ever growing) fan base, rolling up 421 yards of offense while knocking the defending league champions from Marblehead (8-2) off the conference’s perch. Flaherty’s 198 yards rushing and 301 yards of total offense (rushing, receiving and kickoff returns), not to mention the perseverance and depth of Beverly’s offensive line, was a big reason why.
“We lost to them as freshmen, as sophomores in the JV game and last year as juniors. But to win this one, as seniors on our home field and clinch the (league) title, it’s a great feeling,” said quarterback Dave Rollins.
“It’s a relief,” admitted senior lineman Mike Dooling, part of a unit that eventually wore down the Magicians’ front seven, allowing Beverly’s run game to run for 275 second half yards (158 of those by Flaherty, all in the third quarter).
“We had a sour taste left from last year’s loss (to Marblehead, which ended Beverly’s title hopes). We wanted to take back what we thought should’ve been ours last year.”