By Phil Stacey
---- — BEVERLY — After nearly a week of watching himself on film and what he did wrong the last time around, Sam Mulumba made sure his final performance at Hurd Stadium in a Beverly High football uniform would be an Oscar-worthy performance.
The senior linebacker/safety and wideout was all over the field Saturday afternoon, picking off one pass and creating a fumble off another, catching three passes for 44 yards and delivering eight bone-jarring tackles as his Panthers won their home finale, a 20-8 decision over rival Danvers.
“I looked at film from the last Danvers game (a 33-28 Beverly loss in Week 2) and watched all the mistakes I made,” said Mulumba. “Then I went out and worked on correcting them during practice. I didn’t want to lose to these guys again.”
Fellow senior Isaiah White also had a stellar outing; the captain ran for a game-high 186 yards and two scores and moved to within 30 yards of breaking Greg Pierce’s Beverly High record for most rushing yards in a single season (1,648).
“This game was like a mini-Super Bowl; it’s how we treated it all week,” said White.
The win guaranteed an eighth straight winning season for Beverly (6-4), with only its 115th meeting with Thanksgiving Day rival Salem remaining. Danvers, despite falling to 7-3 with the setback, can win eight games for the first time since 2005 with a victory at Gloucester on the holiday morning.
A dominant first half in which Beverly outgained the Falcons, 260-80, had three times the number of first downs (15 to 5) and held onto the football for twice as long (14:46 to 7:14) enabled the hosts to take a 14-0 lead into halftime.
After fumbling on the Danvers 1-yard line on the game’s opening drive, the Orange-and-Black got a 26-yard punt return from Christian Miller to give them excellent field position on the Falcons’ 35 to start their next possession. Five plays later White swept around right end from 19 yards out and a 6-0 lead.
Peter Mulumba, Sam’s sophomore brother (whose block sealed the edge and sprung White for his first TD), powered his way to paydirt from 16 yards out in the second quarter, then added a 2-point conversion rush for good measure and a 14-0 lead. He took on a would-be Danvers tackler at the 4-yard line, shook him off and waltzed into the end zone.
Beverly junior Bryan Flaherty, making his first start at quarterback, was very efficient for the home team. He completed all three passes he attempted (for 60 yards) and seemed at ease under center.
“We came out flat (and) were real, real slow. I don’t know what it was, but they were beating us off the line in the first half,” said Danvers head coach Sean Rogers. “While I think our guys responded in the second half it’s tough coming back against a team like Beverly when that happens.”
The Beverly lead swelled to 20-0 late in the third quarter when White capped a 7-play, 85-yard drive with a 3-yard TD surge over right tackle. The big plays were a 22-yard pass from Flaherty to Sam Mulumba on 3rd-and-13 from the Beverly 12, and a 49-yard scamper by sophomore Matt Madden.
Sam Mulumba picked off a Danvers option pass on his own goal line to open the fourth quarter, then essentially sealed the ‘W’ for his club when he stripped Lucas Lentine of the football after the tight end snagged a pass from Falcons’ QB Nick Andreas (109 yards passing) and took it 42 yards into Beverly territory. Beverly junior Jordan Rawding fell on the loose ball, ending the Blue-and-White’s final threat with 4:19 to go.
“We’re very competitive with Danvers in all sports, so this game was huge for us,” said Sam Mulumba. “It’s a great rivalry we have with them, which is why it meant a lot to win this one.”
“We tried to mix it up as well as we could (defensively),” added Beverly head coach Dan Bauer. “I thought our defense really bore down, made some huge fourth down stops and that great (strip and fumble).”
Danvers captain Alex Valles (87 yards rushing), still not 100 percent after an injury several weeks ago, helped get his team on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter with a 35-yard run to put the ball in Beverly territory. Six plays later, Nick Andreas took it over the goal line himself, sprinting in from 12 yards out.
“We didn’t press the edge on some instances and weren’t making our blocks on the edges, either,” Rogers said. “So when you’re doing a rollout or sprint-out and can’t get to the edge, it makes a difference.”
In addition to Valles, Chris Behen gained 47 tough yards on 10 carries. Lentine (2 catches, 56 yards), wideout Cris Valles, and captains Anthony Cordoba and Mike Favreau were also standouts for Danvers.