BEVERLY — Beverly captain Marc Babcock held a lunchbox decorated with Panthers stickers as reporters surrounded him after their 35-14 CAL/NEC 2 division-clinching win over Marblehead.
Babcock runs on the field with the lunchbox before every game and places it on the sideline while the Panthers play. The senior lineman explained that it symbolizes every day is a work day for Beverly, providing motivation for the No. 7 Panthers (10-0).
Saturday was a good work day for the Panthers as Brendan Flaherty’s 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns punched their ticket to the playoffs.
Tied at 7 to start the third quarter, Flaherty received the kickoff and returned it 52 yards to put the Panthers in great scoring position. Six plays later, the 6-foot-1-inch, 185-pound running back punched a tough 6-yard run into the end zone for his first score of the game.
“I’m proud of our guys for the perseverance, they didn’t panic at halftime,” said Panthers coach Dan Bauer. “We made some adjustments and played hard in the second half and we were able to take advantage of our depth, which was good, too.”
Beverly’s aggressive defense, which allows only 8.1 points per game, forced a three-and-out, leading to another Panthers touchdown. Flaherty again moved the ball efficiently behind his line and found an opening, breaking a 44-yard touchdown dash.
The offense continued clicking for the Panthers, who scored 21 unanswered points in the second half. Beverly drove 91 yards in eight plays on its next possession, including a 52-yard run by Flaherty, to give the Panthers a 28-7 advantage.
Isaiah White capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.
“We knew it was on us [the senior leaders],” said Flaherty. “We have a big senior class, so this is our last year and we want to make the most out of it. We realized that the second half we needed to step it up and I think we responded to the adversity well.”
Marblehead’s versatile quarterback, Ian Maag, got the Magicians back on the board with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, but a late fumble recovered by Beverly put an end to any possible comeback.
With 41 seconds left on the clock, Beverly’s Kenny Pierce broke a few tackles en route to a 34-yard touchdown scamper.
The unbeaten Panthers will play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game against Salem, but have already secured a playoff date against Burlington Nov. 27.
“We had no answer for their weapons,” said Marblehead coach Jim Rudloff. “Good luck to everyone that plays them from this point forward because you could come up with the most brilliant things you want but they’re just too good.”