There were depths to almost hopelessness, the transition of new players to starting roles wasn’t easy, but at 3-3 the Peabody Tanners have finally found their groove.
Escaping what became an unnecessarily close game late, Peabody took down Lynn English 21-18 setting up a pivotal regular season finale at home against Danvers this upcoming Friday.
Two trips to Lynn are behind and the once 1-3 team has found their identity. Making plays routinely when needed, they hopped all over both teams from the start.
Matt D’Amato stepped to the line on the first play of the game before faking a handoff left and finding Evan Thompson ahead of the entire defense for an 80 yard touchdown to quickly make it 7-0.
“We kind of knew we were going to come out and take a shot early” Bettencourt said. “We wanted to start out and get some momentum early…just to complete it gets us off on the right foot…for it to go for a touchdown was a bonus.”
The play set a progressive tone on the game as Bettencourt often hopes his creative first plays might. From there the weapons around Doug Santos, especially Eric DeMayo, helped to alleviate the pressure off the senior. T
This newfound variance offensively now has Doug feeling part of a system rather than the only means of production:
“I feel like a lot of teams were keying in on wherever the running-back goes…Matty’s throwing very well and its been improving my game too. When Matty’s throwing they’re backing off a little bit…then he hits me with a run and its open.”
When needed though Santos continues to show the ability to put the team on his back, after a quick strike back from English on Peabody’s defense to make it 7-6 the senior responded with another one of his vintage drives. A pair of 10+ yard gains, along with a 32 yard dash to the 6 set up one of Doug’s two touchdowns on the game to make it 15-6.
“We have one playmaker and thats Doug Santos, when we need a pick-me-up Doug accepts that…he embraces that…if you watch the game we drive from the 20 down to the 20 on Doug…we just need to find those other playmakers,” Bettencourt stated.
A fourth down debacle by English where QB Severance passed up almost 20 yards of open field in front of him to fire an incompletion to the end-zone ended the half.
Off a Peabody turnover in the 3rd, English pulled off the good old pitch and throw by the runningback Gonzalez to get a Story TD to pull within three.
The Tanners followed up the trick play showing nothing but poise, going on a 8 play drive featuring the best of Santos and a red-hot DeMayo to set up another touchdown putting Peabody up 21-12.
English went on a wild drive to end the game that included a 65 yard completion to Story that almost went all the way before more time was drained.
Lynn would pull within 21-18 on another Story with 30 seconds left, but Ugonna Okananwa hauled in the onside kick with relative ease to put the comeback to a close. The finish wasn’t silky smooth but another win has Peabody exactly where they wanted to be with a new-look roster in 2015, in position to claim a playoff spot.
“I think its mostly been energy..energy coming from our teammates…they've been staying positive and thats what it comes down to” Santos said with delight following the win.
The progress has indeed been enormous. Despite the competition Peabody faced in Lynn not being marquee, the road games allowed the Tanners to hone in on who they are.
Two wins have thrusted them into an 8 seed in Division 1 North; meanwhile the team found a two-sided steadiness, a level of comfort playing each other that escaped in their disappointing losses, and most importantly offensive variance outside of Santos.
“I think the confidence level is where it should be at this point,” Bettencourt commented, before stressing the importance of cleaning up the pre-snap process on the offensive end to make sure everybody is in tune.
“We need to mix up our cadence” he said. “There was a lot of A gap blitzes that go in there because they jumped the snap. We need to be aware of that and our line needs to communicate with D’Amato and say ‘hey they're jumping on 1 we need to start going on 2’”
That aforementioned line has come a long way too; now featuring David Pence, Chris Goggin, Francisco Mendoza, Marcus Gutierrez, and Randy Ramos. Several groups tried and failed to build cohesion up front, but these five took full control of the front lines in both Lynn games and looks as though they are the personnel Peabody will move forward into the big games with.
The biggest issue going into the season was how Peabody would fill the immense offensive line production from last year, for the first time all year that group looked in tune and confident. They caught a great deal of praise from Santos following the win:
“They have heart, all of my offensive lineman they have heart…when they get the job done we execute plays”
On the other side of the trenches the Tanners have caught a pleasant surprise with the immense charge from the likes of Cam Powers, Geordan Siewe and others who wrecked havoc in late-down situations.
Defensive captain Frank Falco applauded the work of the front seven, who highlighted by him and Jake Doherty have become a major strength of this team:
“We’re becoming a team…working together in practice understanding head signals. We don't even need to talk to each other on defense, me and Jake, its just a nod and we know whats going on.”
Danvers now sits ahead for the Tanners. One final showdown on the Tanners’ home field to end the regular season and determine Peabody’s playoff fate.
There were questions whether Peabody would be competitive again through their major turnover, but Bettencourt and the captain’s constant stressing of the values they displayed in 2014 have resonated. To practically have a play-in game on hand for their regular season finale is evident of how far they’ve come together.