The Beverly High football team should have no trouble finding its footing offensively early on this season.
With the returning three-pronged running attack of seniors Dom Abate, Kenny Pierce and Brendan Flaherty, who rushed for a combined 2,155 yards and 24 touchdowns last year, and 10 starters returning (including 4 offensive linemen), Beverly is looking to start fast this season and finish strong.
“Whenever you have returning players who have a familiarity with the system it allows you to work hard and hopefully take things a little further in terms of detail,” explained Bauer, whose team will once again run the Wing-T offensively.
Returning starting Dave Rollins is in his second year under center for the Panthers. As a junior, he completed completed 54 percent of his passes for 547 yards and six touchdowns as the Orange-and-Black finished 7-4.
Rollins will have his leading receiver back in Flaherty, who has been excellent since his sophomore year at catching the ball out of the backfield. Flaherty, who is being recruited by several programs to continue his football career in college, hauled in 17 passes for 324 yards a year ago, including five touchdowns; with a QB who has a better handle on the offense, year those numbers could rise even higher this fall.
“There’s no substitute for game experience,” noted Bauer. “The system has been relatively the same. Now, it goes beyond just knowing where to line up. (Rollins) can the do smaller things that allow him to become more effective as a QB.”
Mike Dooling leads a powerful offensive line along with returners Marc Babcock, Brian Perry and Kevin Kennedy — all seniors who are used to playing in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The Panthers have an extremely strong secondary coming back with Flaherty, Abate, Rollins and senior wideout/defensive back Ryan Shipp. However, they’ll need returning lettermen like Luke Macdonald (senior), Rob Cattell (senior), Zach Duguid (junior), Sam Mulumba (junior) and Sean Winston (junior) to step up at linebacker, along with returning senior starter Brendan McGee. The linebacking corps has been a strength for the Panthers the last couple seasons.
“We had to replace three guys (from last year),” said Bauer of his linebackers. ““It’s been a lot of work in the preseason. A lot of work.”
The Panthers’ first test is a good one with Concord-Carlisle — which won the Division 3 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl last season while going unbeaten — coming to the Garden City tomorrow afternoon in the season opener for both clubs.