By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — All week long in practice, Peabody football coach Mark Bettencourt talked to his team about the importance of the final home game for the seniors and how they wanted to leave Coley Lee Field with a victory.
The Tanners came so close last night but couldn’t pull it off, losing to Lawrence 28-26.
It came down to little things like a blocked field goal in the third quarter when the Tanners trailed by three points (22-19) and could have tied it up, as well as a pair of failed two-point conversions.
Early in the fourth quarter Peabody was facing a 4th-and-long situation and faked a punt. Billy Teehan picked up eight yards around right end, but came up shy of a first down. The Lancers (3-7) took over and scored to go up, 28-19, on an incredible fourth down pass by Nelson Valerio to Christian Valentin with three minutes remaining. Peabody had Valerio pinned in behind the line of scrimmage, but he made a few nifty moves to elude wouldbe tacklers and completed his fourth touchdown pass of the game.
“We had four shots at the quarterback on that play,” said Bettencourt. “I feel terrible that our seniors didn’t walk off this field for the final time with a win. They fought like champions tonight.
“This was a chess match. We knew they had some athletes, but we thought we could compete. We decided to take a shot on the fake punt because it’s a play we practice all the time, and if Billy (Teehan) hadn’t tripped we would have had it. At that point I didn’t think they would be expecting it. As far as that blocked punt goes, I’ll have to look at the films to see what happened.
“We lost because we didn’t make plays when we needed to, and we had plenty of opportunities.”
The Tanners went 70 yards on their opening drive, with sophomore Doug Santos (175 yards rushing on 15 carries) breaking loose for an 11-yard touchdown run. But it took Lawrence only one play to answer when Valerio turned a broken play into six points by throwing a 61-yard TD pass to Rainer Almonte.
On the next possession the visitors took a 14-7 lead when Valerio found his favorite receiver, Justin Rivera, for a 5-yard TD reception. Peabody responded with a 66-yard drive, capped by a Cody Wlasuk touchdown from a yard out, but with just over a minute left in the half the Valerio-to-Rivera connection worked again, making it 22-19.
Peabody (3-7) scored with just over a minute remaining on a 2-yard touchdown by Ryan Collins. That score was set up by a 49-yard pass from Mike Raymond to Teehan.
Raymond was 8-for-21 for 154 yards passing and went over 1,000 yard passing for the season.