By Phil Stacey
---- — GLOUCESTER — When it was all over, many of the Gloucester High football players made their way to the middle of the field and shook hands with Beverly head coach Dan Bauer, wishing him and his team good luck the rest of the season.
While Bauer certainly appreciated the show of sportsmanship from the Fishermen, he most certainly wishes they didn’t have to do so at all.
Playing their first football home game in 120 years of football, Gloucester made sure they came out victorious as the hosts dominated the line of scrimmage and were stout defensively the entire night, pinning a 28-13 loss on the Panthers in a Division 3 Northeast quarterfinal playoff game at the new Newell Stadium.
Jordan Pallazola ran for a game-high 137 yards (115 of those in the second half) and scored three touchdowns, giving him 18 for the season, to lead Gloucester (6-2). Jon Good added another 118 yards and a score at fullback as the hosts broke open a tie game with 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Aside from some big runs from senior captain Isaiah White (121 yards and a TD on 15 carries), the Beverly offense was stagnant much of the night. A large part of that was due to Gloucester’s front seven, which put constant pressure on the Panthers’ O-line and shot the gaps to make tackles at or near the line of scrimmage for much of the evening.
As they had in their previous loss to Gloucester (18-14) last month, mistakes crippled the Panthers last night. This time it wasn’t fumbles, but penalties: the visitors committed seven infractions for 55 yards, including three defensive offsides calls and two that were 15-yard personal fouls.
“Mistakes got us again; that’s the story of this game,” said Bauer, whose defending Super Bowl champions fell to 4-4 on the season. “We shouldn’t have even been in the position we were, but those mistakes really hurt us. That, and Gloucester was so physical up front and played very, very hard. It wasn’t in the cards for us.”
Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said his team’s defensive effort was the key to victory. He told his players that the mercurial White would get his yards; it was a matter of making sure those big plays were kept to a minimum.
“We’ve got a senior-dominated offensive and defensive line, and when those guys get going we run and defend the ball very well,” said Zerilli. “We were able to keep our composure (defensively) and make the plays we needed to.
“I consider Beverly a sister school to ours in that they have the same kind of tough kids and run the same offense (Wing-T) as us. I told Coach Bauer before the game that I couldn’t have thought of a better opponent for us to host our first-ever playoff game against.”
Failing to put any points on the board in the first half, Beverly trailed only 7-0 and had a strong wind at its backs in the third quarter. They took advantage by going 84 yards on just 4 plays, capped by White’s 47-yard scoring run. Matt Madden’s kick tied the game at 7-7.
Gloucester, however, was unfazed. They went on a scoring drive that lasted 8 minutes and 52 seconds, a 15-play, 81-yard march that culminated when Pallazola powered his way in over the left side from 4 yards out.
Down seven with 6:12 to go, Madden broke off a 61-yard run to the Gloucester 4-yard-line, and a White rush gained 2 more yards. But a dead ball foul against Beverly pushed it back 15 yards, and a double reverse pass was picked off by the Fishermen (where Beverly got another 15-yard penalty at the end of the play). Pallazola then ripped off a 39-yard scoring run, making it 21-7 Gloucester with just 4:37 remaining.
“Gloucester came off the ball firing on all cylinders,” Bauer admitted. “They really got after us and made it tough for us to get to our blocks. They got off the ball very fast.”
Quarterback Nick Manthorne hooked up with senior Sam Mulumba on passes of 10 and 37 yards before senior Steve Negron bulled his way into the end zone from a yard out, giving Beverly hope at 21-13 with 2:25 to go. But Gloucester successfully recovered the onsides kick attempt, and Pallazola ran for 47 and 5 yards, the latter hitting paydirt for the third time to salt the game away.
Beverly will now face the loser of today’s Somerville at Tewksbury playoff contest next weekend (date and time TBA).