By Phil Stacey Sports editor
The Salem News
---- — TOPSFIELD — Trailing for the first time the entire season, the Beverly High football team found itself in a bit of a jam early in the third quarter last night.
It didn’t stay there long. Three plays, to be precise.
That’s when senior Brendan Flaherty broke free for a 47-yard touchdown run, spinning and breaking his way out of multiple tackles en route to paydirt. The dramatic score helped energize the Panthers, who went on to score two more touchdowns and remain unbeaten with a 30-14 triumph over host Masconomet at Bunker Stadium.
“Flaherty’s a horse, better than advertised. What’d he break, seven tackles on that one touchdown?” asked veteran Masconomet head coach Jim Pugh. “He was breaking tackles all night. He’s a true game changer.”
Flaherty ran for a career high 234 yards on 22 carries last night and a pair of touchdowns, including a 7-yard scoring jaunt in the first quarter. The senior captain also caught three passes for 38 yards and had a potential third touchdown run called back, from 61 yards out, on a Beverly holding penalty (one of 9 penalties, good for 90 yards, the visitors took on the evening).
“(The Chieftains) were very physical. So we had to get right back and be physical, too,” said Flaherty, whose team improved to 6-0 and has outscored its six foes by an aggregate score of 266-42.
Fellow running back Isiah White also had a big night. The junior transfer from St. John’s Prep saw his number called with much more frequency in the second half after senior captain Kenny Pierce had his bell rung at the end of the first half (he didn’t see any action over the final 22 minutes). White lugged the leather 13 times for 101 yards — all but seven of those coming in the second half — and punched in a critical 11-yard touchdown run three plays into the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a 24-14 lead.
“I couldn’t get more than a couple of plays down when I first started here,” laughed the 17-year-old White, who kept his legs moving and driving the pile forward after the first hit on many occasions last night. “But (assistant) coach (Roger) Day really helped me learn the plays; I’ve got them down now.”
Running a fast-paced, hurry-up offense that at times had the Masco defense hunched over trying to catch their breath, the Panthers ran for 405 yards while quarterback Nick Manthorne threw for another 74, including a 17-yard TD to Brendan McGee.
“Our line was terrific tonight; they were real physical and got low (on their blocks),” said Flaherty, who has run for 655 yards through six games. When we’d get the ball (on running plays), you’d look up and there’d be huge holes to run through.”
Flaherty and White also praised Beverly’s demo team for their behind the scenes work. They praised teammates such as Joe Marciano, Jared Paris, Brahma Sharma, Mike McKenna and Brian Perry “for never letting up on us” said Flaherty while readying the starters for game night.
Masconomet (4-2), which saw its four-game winning streak snapped and played without senior captain and running back Dylan Mann (injured in practice), gave Beverly a true fight for much of the game. Despite giving up an early score, the Chieftains never folded, made the necessary adjustments on both sides of the ball and scrapped the entire way.
Quarterback Chris Schleer ripped off a 53-yard run on a bootleg left early in the second quarter to get the Chieftains deep into Beverly territory, then scored on a 1-yard keeper three plays later to tie the game at 7-7.
Then, after Beverly’s Harry Brown booted a 25-yard field goal on the last play of the half to give his team a 10-7 lead at intermission, Masco sophomore linebacker Harry Brown picked off a pass and ran it back 24 yards to the Beverly 6-yard line on the third play of the third quarter. Again, Schleer finished things off with a 3-yard scamper, rolling out right before cutting back and over the goal line for a 14-10 lead.
“I’m proud of our team. We caused some turnovers and came out and played very physical football,” said Pugh. “For a while there it looked like we were sitting pretty. But that’s the sign of a good team; Beverly was able to withstand our punches and come back with some of their own.
“They’ve got bigger fish to fry this season, and so do we.”
Ryan Shipp had a big night defensively for the winners with an interception and a sack, while Sam Malumba’s fourth quarter, fourth down sack ended a Masco drive late in the fourth quarter.