SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

December 1, 2012

Unbeaten champions never let go of the rope all season

(Continued)

FOXBOROUGH —

But it was the rope that truly defined the makeup of the 2012 Beverly Panthers, who meshed superstar talent with unselfish role players and a what's-good-for-the-team-is-good-for-me mentality into the greatest football season in school history.

"What does the guy do who's hanging off the end of a cliff? He relies on his friends to pull him back up," said head coach Dan Bauer. "That's all these kids did all season -- pull each other up when one of them needed it. I'm very fortunate to have been part of this team."

Sure, stars such as Brendan Flaherty (175 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 30 carries), Kenny Pierce (71 yards and 2 TDs on 7 carries) and junior Isaiah White (87 yards on 11 carries) carried the rope in much the same fashion they'd done all season. But the rope was just as much, if not more, symbolic of the way certain players would step up and make a huge play that proved critical in the final outcome.

Saturday evening, seniors Ryan Shipp and Brendan McGee were those two players.

Shipp is a wide receiver on a Wing-T team that runs the ball more often than Christmas commercials are shown this time of year. He's better known as a ball-hawking cornerback in the Panther secondary, and he was busy on Saturday against Natick and their gunslinging quarterback, Troy Flutie.

In a 7-7 game midway through the second quarter, Natick was driving for the go-ahead score when Flutie lofted a high, arching pass to Justin Robinson along the right side. Robinson caught the ball in stride, cut left towards the goal line -- and was promptly relieved off the football by a monster hit from Shipp at the 2-yard line.

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