WINTHROP — The Beverly High football coaching staff was talking up Joey Loreti this summer to anyone who would listen.
He's not just a kicker anymore. He's put one some muscle, he's got great speed ... he's going to help us out in a big way this season. You just watch.
Friday night on the turf at Miller Field, Loreti let his actions speak louder than words.
The 16-year-old junior made the most of his seven carries in the second half, rumbling for a game-high 123 yards and two fourth quarter touchdowns as the Orange-and-Black pulled away from host Winthrop for a 21-6 opening night triumph.
"He gives us more depth, another great player we can give the rock too," Beverly captain Duncan Moreland — who had a spectacular 80-yard touchdown catch late in the first half — said of Loreti. "Joey's going to help us a ton."
Playing with lead back Merje Mulumba, who was nursing a minor injury suffered in practice earlier this week, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Loreti stepped up when asked to and delivered.
He took an inside handoff 31 yards up the gut on his first carry, coming late in the third quarter. Then, with five-and-half minutes remaining in a one-point game, he took a handoff from junior quarterback Danny Morency on a dive left, hit the hole and sped 63 yards down the left sideline to paydirt. His second point after kick of the night gave the Panthers a 14-6 lead.
"I broke through the hole and saw that crease to the outside — and used my speed to get out there," said Loreti.
A few halftime tweaks by the Panther coaches made a big difference on the score. The line (Xavier Copeland, captain Braeden Pratt, Jonus Pavia, Billy Adams and Jack Ewer) overloaded to one side and timed their blocks perfectly, and Loreti blasted through the open space easily with speed to burn.
"It was good to see Joey Loreti rise to the occasion," said Beverly head coach Andrew Morency, whose team held Winthrop to 123 yards of offense. "He's worked harder than anyone; he put on pounds in the weight room. He's a great kid; I'm so happy for him.
"We had been missing holes and were sloppy (in the first half)," he added, "but Joey listened at halftime, hit that hole and reaped the benefits."
His second touchdown, coming with 40 seconds to play, salted the game away. On 4th-and-2 from the Winthrop 30, he hit the edge going right against an unbalanced line, got past the first wave of defenders and was gone.
"I knew we wanted to run the clock out with a first down," said Loreti, "but I saw the opening and knew (taking it all the way) would fire everyone up."
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Moreland, who will take his talents to the University of New Hampshire next season, used both his leaping ability and breakaway speed for Beverly's first score. He outleaped two Viking defenders at the 50-yard line, clamped down on Morency's pass before landing and racing into the end zone with 42 seconds left before intermission, was the lone bright spot offensively in a rather sluggish first half for the visitors, who fumbled three times (losing two).
"That couldn't have come at a better time. We were really on our heels," said Morency. "So we took a time out, and one of our goals is 'Let's get it to Duncan.'"
Winthrop had gotten on the scoreboard first four plays before Moreland's touchdown, with quarterback Bobby Hubert connecting with Austin Daigneault on a 20-yard fade pass to the left corner of the end zone. Beverly blocked the extra point attempt, however.
The Garden City boys managed to get defensive pressure on Hubert and the Vikings for most of the night, with nine tackles-for-loss. Unofficially, captain Chris Curran was in on seven tackles from his inside linebacker spot while fellow captain and inside backer Braeden Pratt had a game-high eight stops. Defensive backs Owen Keve, Mike Burgess and Moreland also had strong games for the winners, as did linebacker Huriel Calice and defensive linemen Pavia, Copeland and Adams.
Beverly will now have a week off, giving Mulumba ample time to heal, before they welcome a powerful Lynn English team to Hurd Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21 for the home opener.
"Winning on the road against a gritty team without one of your key guys, it shows character," said Morency.