The signs going in weren’t great; Ugonna Okananwa was out, so was Hunter Josselyn, and Doug Santos was just a week removed from an MCL sprain with his status in question. But there was no questioning the Tanners’ resolve after a critical 27-0 win last Friday in Lynn over Classical.
Peabody (2-3) 27 Lynn Classical (0-5) 0
Peabody needed that game, falling to 1-4 in the Division 1 playoff race would have been a disaster, but the supremacy of their attack was on display from the start and they're back on the road to a playoff berth with Lynn English coming up.
On just the second possession, the Tanners tried once again as they have for most of the season to get a fake off to fullback Eric DeMayo. So many times it went for a loss, but this time everybody on the defense went Doug’s way while DeMayo sprinted past the entire Classical defense for a 64 yard touchdown to put Peabody up with no looking back.
The play could be looked back on as a turning point based on how this season finishes, DeMayo one of the many crucial role players who Bettencourt has been trying to push all season. A year off playing so well in relief of an injured senior that the job became his as a freshman he had his finest moment:
“I was very happy for Eric” Bettencourt said joking about DeMayo’s 1 yard carry average before the play. “He doesn't say a word…unselfish, spends all his time blocking, he plays both ways now. For him to get that I think that jacked up the whole team…kids were chasing him down the sideline…they wanted him to get into the endzone. Not just have a 64 yard run, but have a 64 yard touchdown.”
The game also presented a big opportunity for the super-versatile Jake Doherty, who was all over the field filling his usual roles on both ends of the ball and taking Ugonna’s supplementary carries alongside Doug.
He helped keep an offensive rhythm, showed off great athleticism at a number of spots, and really got his chance to shine as quite possibly Peabody’s most versatile player:
“He’s similar to DeMayo…unselfish…played tight end last week, fullback full time this week…along with a full complement on defense…guys like Jake Doherty are throwbacks. Guys who could've played with me…they’re on the field 99% of the game and they love it…we need more of them.” Bettencourt said.
Doherty himself showed a great amount of pride in his expanded effort as well, “Anything to help the team. I don’t care if its only blocking or scoring a touchdown, anything to help the team.”
Through two years now I have seen Doherty play RB, FB, TE, WR, CB, LB all at high levels. A weapon like that is such an advantage at the high school level and he became a threat that Classical had to watch for every play. The Tanners need to continue to capitalize with him heavily on the offensive end just as he has been a consistently impactful player at LB.
Evan Thompson, Bettencourt’s choice for game captain, also finally had his signature moment of the season. Tearing upfield with Doherty drawing the attention in the slot, Thompson hauled in a deep pass from D’Amato and surged ahead 60 yards to put the team up 14-0.
For the first time in recent memory, the other players on Peabody’s offense accounted for more all-purpose yards than Doug. The variety the Tanners were able to show on that end was a pleasant change for a team that has fought for an identity on that end.
Santos himself didn't return to practice until Wednesday off the Marblehead loss. While there were some initial doubts about his availability the anger of missing practice seemed to drive him even harder to get back . Rushing for 144 yards and 2 TD before being able to sit down after 3 quarters, he was very pleased with the resurgence of the rest of the team’s offense to keep the pressure off his injured knee:
“They were focusing on me so much that it gave other guys opportunities to do stuff…on that first touchdown we faked a pitch everybody flew for the pitch and DeMayo had it the whole time…we have to do that more often.”
Doug also added that missing those practices was the worst feeling he has ever had and one he wouldn't wish on anybody.
Through all the records he has broken and accomplishments he has garnered in three years at Peabody, you never really saw Santos as heartfelt about his own struggles as he was in the aftermath on that win. Postgame he was fired up and the team was too, for the first time through some resiliency the Tanners were starting to show some of the heart of 2014.
"I did it for my teammates and they did it for me" he concluded.
“That’s Doug Santos” Bettencourt put simply. “You can’t keep him on the sideline very long.”