By Phil Stacey
---- — WINTHROP — The words being spoken inside the visitor's locker room during halftime at Miller Field last night could be neatly summed up in one sentence.
"We realized it was time to man up," said Beverly High captain and offensive guard Marc Babcock, whose squad came out after intermission and put up three unanswered scores to run away from host Winthrop, 36-8, on a windy, rainy evening.
"We came out a little flat, but we had a good week of practice and I think that's why we persevered in the second half. We came out and were ready to go."
As the turf at Miller Field worsened, particularly between the 40-yard-lines — it was more suited for a Tough Mudder outing than a high school football clash — Beverly's linemen were finally able to sustain their footing, hold their blocks and give their backs time to run and holes to scamper through.
The end result was that captains Kenny Pierce (133 yards on 9 carries) and Brendan Flaherty (106 yards on 10 carries) both had two rushing touchdowns. Flaherty added a third score on a scintillating 86-yard interception return up the left sideline (the same wheel pass that Winthrop had scored its lone TD on late in the first half) in the opening seconds of the third quarter, making it 30-8.
Pierce had a 47-yard TD scamper in the second quarter, which turned out to be the game-winning points. His 37-yard scoring burst in the fourth quarter sealed the deal for the Panthers.
Beverly, which will bring in temporary lights for a Friday night home game against 0-4 Peabody next week at Hurd Stadium, has now outscored its four opponents by an aggregate score of 157-28.
Flaherty, whose two TD runs came from 31 and 19 yards out, now has 374 yards rushing and 10 total touchdowns this season, with a grand total of 64 points. Pierce is close behind with 350 rushing yards and seven total TDs.
All of this offset a tough night holding onto the football for Beverly, which suffered 10 fumbles (mostly on center/quarterback exchanges), but losing only one. All told, there were 16 fumbles in the game.
"On a less-than-ideal night, we made the adjustments and changes we needed to at halftime and got back to doing what we wanted to do," said Beverly head coach Dan Bauer. "I really thought we stepped up defensively in the second half, and the line did a terrific job (offensively) as the conditions got worse, allowing our backs to break through for big yardage."
Linebacker Luke McDonald and cornerback Ryan Shipp were among the Panther defenders who were ball hawks for most of the night, while defensive end Mike Dooling continually got good push up front and allowed his linebackers to rush through the Winthrop line and make plays.
Winthrop (1-3), which kept the Beverly defense on the field for long stretches in the first half, took the momentum into halftime when sophomore QB Dylan Driscoll hit freshman Reise Turransky with a 20-yard fade for a score. But the Vikings couldn't build off that over the final 22 minutes and fell victim to the Panthers' powerful, quick-strike attack.
Beverly backup quarterback Nick Manthorne, playing in place of starter Dave Rollins (mono), got the only pass his team threw, grabbing a 6-yard completion from captain Dom Abate on a double reverse handoff.