A team’s best player has to rise his game up in the biggest games, and Flaherty certainly did that on Saturday — particularly in the third quarter, when the game was completely turned around.
It began when he found a seam and returned the second half kickoff 52 yards to the Marblehead 25-yard line. “That was a big spark that got our adrenaline going,” Panther senior linebacker Rob Cattell said.
Six plays later, Flaherty dove into the end zone from six yards out, stretching the football over the goal line to give the hosts a 14-7 lead.
Following a Marblehead three-and-out, Flaherty strapped on the workhorse’s saddle and carried his team into the end zone. He carried the ball all five plays of the ensuing drive, breaking free on a fullback dive where he cut back left and outran the secondary for a 44-yard score, making it 21-7 for the Panthers.
Including the kickoff return, Flaherty carried the ball on 15 of Beverly’s 18 plays in the third quarter.
“Offensively we don’t focus on getting one person the ball; we attack with what’s working,” said Flaherty, who has 1,023 yards rushing, 19 total touchdowns and 118 points in 2012. “But if calling your number is working, you’ve got to be ready to do your job.”
Junior Isaiah White’s 13-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Garden City kids a comfortable 28-7 lead, but the Magicians wouldn’t quit. Maag (112 passing yards, 66 rushing yards) showed poise and leadership in directing his team 66 yards downfield, hitting Brian Daly with a 34-yard pass before running around the right end himself from a yard out with 6:33 to play.
But the Panthers held from there, and captain Kenny Pierce sealed the team’s title-clinching victory when he escaped for a 34-yard scoring run on 4th-and-6 with 41 seconds to play, and Harry Brown booted the fifth of his five extra points.
“The train keeps rolling along ... until we make our next stop,” said the well-spoken Cattell.
BEVERLY/MARBLEHEAD: BY THE NUMBERS Beverly Marblehead First Downs 18 13 Time of Possession 18:32 25:28 Total Yards 421 242 Rushing Yards 349 130 Passing Yards 72 112 Penalties-Yards 4-35 2-20 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1 Quarterback Sacks 2 0 3rd Down Conversions 6-10 5-14 4th Down Conversions 3-4 5-9 Attendance Estimated at 5,000-plus 50/50 winner Took home $1,345