SAUGUS –– For decades — for almost a century — the Peabody High football team has not been known as the school that aired it out.
But Thursday, at Christie Serino Stadium — in the first-ever Thanksgiving game played at the facility — balls were zipping through the air left and right, as quarterback Shea Lynch was unstoppable in leading the Tanners to a 48-6 win over Saugus.
“Through years of Arthur Adamopoulos and Ed Nizwantowski, it was ground and pound,” coach Mark Bettencourt said, regarding two of his more noteworthy predecessors. “Getting the spread [offense] put in here has been very, very difficult.”
But, said Bettencourt, “he (Lynch) stayed with it and was patient, learned it, and now he ran it quite well this year.”
“He’s certainly the founding father of the spread, at least here,” Bettencourt said.
He was certainly the master Thursday on a chilly but brilliantly sunny morning, connecting on 11 of 13 passes for 291 yards. He led the Tanners to scores on every possession until the game was no longer in doubt, and when the clock was on running time.
“I told him after the game that it was a privilege playing against him,” said Saugus coach Steve Cummings, who was upbeat about the game when it was all over. “He is a once-in-a-generation talent.”
Lynch had 50 yards on perfect passing on Peabody’s first drive, which culminated in a 23-yard TD pass to Eli Batista. The same combo hooked up again on the next drive, this one for 54 yards.
On Lynch’s second strike to Batista, his 76th of his career, he broke Kyle Beatrice’s Northeastern Conference record of 75 touchdown passes.
He never relented. Next came a 36-yarder to Danny Barrett, and then a spectacular 69-yard razzle dazzle halfback pass from Barrett to Alan Paulino (with Lynch lateralling to Barrett; it was the first TD pass Lynch had not thrown for Peabody since last year).
Moving on, Lynch and Colin Ridley connected on a 31-yarder to close the first half with Peabody up 34-0.
Opening the second half, Kyle Moura ran one in from seven yards out and Will Pinto scored Peabody’s last TD on a 4-yard run.
Lynch ended up with 36 touchdown passes for the season (four for Thursday), smashing the old record set by Steve Lomasney, “who was a pretty fair quarterback back in his day,” said Bettencourt.
“It’s absolutely astounding that he has not received any Division 1 or D2 offers,” said Bettencourt.
The win moves Peabody’s record to 10-1 – its only loss coming in the first round of the MIAA Division 1 playoffs against Bishop Feehan.
Saugus, 1-10, got the day’s final touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Cam Preston to Isaiah Rodriguez, both juniors — something that put a smile on Cummings’ face despite the final score.
“Did you see that catch?” Cummings asked. “Wasn’t it great? It’s things like that that make me hopeful for the future.”
The Sachems were also involved in one of the most bizarre plays you’ll ever see. Late in the second quarter, Preston lateralled to Tommy DeSimone, who then handed off to Josh Osawe, who was going the other way.
However, the Tanners chased Osawe 20 yards back who collided with, and knocked over, the referee. Osawe recovered and completed a pass to DeSimone – for no gain.
“You won’t see that too often, I’m sure,” said Cummings.
Saugus only graduates five seniors, and Cummings says he’s building the program from the ground up.
“These kids had four coaches in four years,” Cummings said. “But we are here for the long haul.”
“Right now, we’re still teaching, and learning from our experiences,” said Cummings, who completed his fourth year with the program. “It was great to play a program like Peabody. He [Bettencourt’ has really done a great job in bringing it to where it is.”
“That’s where we want to be,” Cummings said. “We want to have the numbers they have. We’ll get there.”