BURLINGTON, Mass. – Beverly running back Brendan Flaherty was determined to return Gillette Stadium this season after missing out last year’s playoffs.
The senior captain turned in the game of his career on Tuesday night as he erupted for 252 yards on 17 carries and four touchdowns to lead Beverly to a 34-21 win over host Burlington in the EMass Division 2A playoffs.
“We did not make it to the playoffs last season so it was constantly on our minds all off-season,” Flaherty said after the game. “It is awesome to be back.”
The Panthers opened the game with a two play, 42-yard drive capped off by a 37-yard dash by Flaherty 43 seconds into the opening quarter.
Burlington would answer that drive on the following possession as senior running back Marcus Odiah took a pitch to the right and ran it in from nine yards out for the game-tying score.
Flaherty and Burlington running back Anthony Cruz would exchange second quarter touchdowns with Beverly missing an extra point giving Burlington a 14-13 lead at the half.
Trailing 14-13 at the half, Beverly’s defense shut the door on the Burlington offense allowing only a late fourth quarter touchdown pass en route to a 20-7 halftime edge.
“The kids worked hard and really got after it in the second half,” Beverly head coach Dan Bauer said after the game. “They got a feel for their speed and Burlington is very fast and very physical up front.”
Beverly received strong efforts defensively in the second half from junior linebacker Sean Winston (10 tackles), junior defensive end Zack Duguid (sack) and senior defensive back and running back, Dom Abate (forced fumble).
Flaherty would score two more times and senior running back Kenny Pierce would also add a 28-yard touchdown for the remaining second half Beverly scores.
Burlington received a great two-way game from senior wide receiver and defensive back Harrison Smoske (receiving TD, INT) and strong running games from Cruz and Odiah in their final games in a Red Devil uniform.
All-State Effort: Flaherty’s four touchdown, 252-yard effort gives him 24 touchdowns to go with 1,322 yards rushing on the season.
“We came here and did what we had to do,” Flaherty said. “Now we just have to look toward Saturday.”
Flaherty had two touchdown receptions in a 28-20 upset, Super Bowl win over previously undefeated Somerset at Gillette Stadium in 2010.
“We are excited to get back,” Flaherty said. “Sophomore year  was our last time. We just have to finish this journey out now.”
In the Trenches: The Beverly line was amazing all night as they opened holes for the Panthers' stable of backs to run through. Flaherty, Pierce, Abate and Isaiah White (4 carries, 96 yards) all found running room inside and outside the Red Devil defense on the evening.
“They have been awesome all year,” Bauer said of his offensive line play. “All five of them work well together plus Brendan McGee, the tight end.”
The Beverly line is made up of offensive linemen Mike Dooling, Duguid, Kevin Kennedy, Brian Perry, and captain Marc Babcock (fumble recovery) along with McGee.
“Our line did a great job blocking all night,” Flaherty said. “If I score the line scores. It was really a team effort and a team win.”
BEVERLY 34, BURLINGTON 21
BEV (12-0) 7 – 6 – 14 - 7– 34
BUR (10-2) 7 – 7 –0– 7 – 21
Bev – Brendan Flaherty 37 run (Harry Brown kick)
Bur – Marcus Odiah 9 run (Christopher Aria kick)
Bev – Flaherty 2 run (kick failed)
Bur – Anthony Cruz 3 run (Aria kick)
Bev – Kenny Pierce 28 run (Rush failed)
Bev – Flaherty 4 run (Brendan McGee pass from Dan Rollins)
Bev – Flaherty 27 run (Brown kick)
Bur – Harrison Smoske 37 pass from Shane Farley (Arria kick)