By Nick Curcuru Sports Editor
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — MANCHESTER-- Head coach Tony Zerilli and the Gloucester football team knew the task at hand Saturday against unbeaten NEC/CAL Division 2 front-runner Beverly.
The Fishermen knew what to expect out of the Panthers wing-t offense and put a game plan in place to stop it. While Gloucester certainly did not do a poor job executing its game plan, all the preparation in the world could not prepare it for Beverly’s speed at the skilled positions.
Led by a backfield quartet of Brendan Flaherty, Dom Abate, Kenny Pierce and Isiah White, Beverly showed off its superior foot speed en route to a 35-6 win over the Fishermen at Hyland Field.
Gloucester’s loss, it’s fourth in a row, moves its record to 1-7 on the season, 0-2 in NEC/CAL Division 2 play while Beverly moves to 8-0, 2-0 in conference.
“We knew what was coming, we filled in our lanes all week at practice but you can’t simulate their speed on the practice field,” Zerilli said. “We got to our spots and they beat us there. They’re a great team and they’ve been proving that all year.”
Gloucester did its best to slow down the Panthers attack putting nose tackle Drew Shairs on the strong side in an attempt to shut down the Panthers power running game. While the 300 pound nose tackle was stellar in blocking up the middle, Beverly had little trouble finding the edge and picking up yards on the quick side.
Pierce led the way for Beverly with 78 yards on the ground while four other Beverly running backs had at least 30 yards on the ground.
“Everybody talks about Flaherty with this team and rightfully so,” Zerilli said. “But they’re loaded back there with Pierce, Abate, White; everybody is good. I thought our defense was where we wanted it to be but they’re tough kids to bring down.
They like to run power to the strong side and speed in space to the quick side. Shairs did a good job taking away their power game but it was the speed in space where they beat us.”
The Beverly offense relied on big plays to gain a comfortable lead as its first two offensive touchdowns came on big gains. Pierce raced for 54 yards on the Panthers opening drive. Linebacker Sam Mulumba scored next for the Panthers picking off a Gloucester screen pass and taking it seven yards to the house for a 13-0 Panthers lead.
The biggest blow, however, came late in the first half with quarterback Dave Rollins hit Isiah White with a 55-yard strike making it 21-0 at the half.
“We got caught looking in the backfield in the secondary (on White’s touchdown),” Zerilli said. “It was a simple split end reverse pass that we have seen before and prepared for. We need to be aware that late in the first half they are going to look for the big play.”
Beverly tacked onto its lead in the second half on scores from Abate and Luke McDonald. Gloucester, however, prevented the shutout in the last minute of play when Santo Parisi’s 84-yard kickoff return set up a two yard plunge from Mark Horgan to make it 35-6.
Parisi, who missed last game with injury, switched from quarterback to running back taking most of the snaps at running back and leading the team with 75 yards on the ground.
The Fishermen, however, had a couple of drives sputter in Beverly territory and several penalties led to just 121 yards of total offense.
“We need to block better,” Zerilli said. “Running backs, linemen, everybody. But give credit to Beverly, that’s a good defense and they stopped us when they needed to.”