PEABODY — The excitement is in the air this fall for the Peabody football team. Literally in the air, now that sixth-year coach Mark Bettencourt has bucked the Tanners’ old-school, ground-and-pound offense, opting instead to implement a new spread offense.
“We’ve changed our offense and are going to throw the ball more this year than we have in the last five years combined,” said Bettencourt. “That’s why we brought Gino Fedora over from Lynnfield. Who knows better than he does how to run that offense? And we have a brand new defense as well. The emphasis is all on speed and forcing the ball to the outside. Joe McLaughlin is our new defensive coordinator and his philosophy is to stop the vertical runs. It’s all about filling the gaps in the middle and get our fastest guys swarming to the ball.”
The Tanners will be led this year by their five senior captains — guard Abe Kaba, center Michael Lock, guard Chris Glass, tight end Tyler Norman and running back Jake Sousa.
Norman leads a tight end group that includes juniors Ramon Franco and James Guiry and sophomore Dom Annese.
Sousa leads a large group of running backs that includes junior Angel Paulino, and senior Luis Guirdys.
Peabody’s loaded with wide receivers. That group includes seniors Jared Ridley and Jack Woods along with juniors Dylan Peluso, Colby Therrien, Declan Russell, Brandon Caniff, Jack Flaherty and Colten Cole.
The Tanners have three quarterbacks on the roster, beginning with senior Matt Jandrisevits.
“Matt and sophomore Alex DeNisco have been going back and forth, but right now Matt is our No. 1 and Alex is our No. 2,” Bettencourt said. “Colby Therrien may also be used in different packages.”
Defensively, the Tanners will play a 4-3. Norman, Lock, Glass and Kaba form the core of the defensive line. Sousa will start at middle linebacker while sophomore Kyle Maglione and junior Joe Casey will start at outside linebacker.
Senior Carlos Hernandez and Peluso will man the corners, while Russell will start at free safety and senior Joe Mastromatteo will start at strong safety.
Last year, the Tanners finished 6-5 and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years. Peabody stood at 3-4 before the state tournament and fell as the odd team out on a coin flip, bumping the Tanners out. One of the Tanners’ goals this year is to right that ship.
“It’s hard to put numbers on paper right now as to whether we are a 6-5 team or 7-4 team. It all depends on how quickly they pick up the new schemes,” said Bettencourt. “Last year we were the odd man out and lost a spot in the playoffs in a 4-way coin flip. Three teams made it and we were the only one that didn’t. The key this year is to get there and get there with authority. We can’t leave our destiny in other people’s hands. Peabody football should be a playoff team every year, like the baseball team. We should be on the dance floor every year.”
Peabody opens the season Friday night (7) at Coley Lee Field against NEC rival Somerville. This year’s Thanksgiving Day tilt against Saugus (the 71st in the series) will be hosted by Peabody on Thursday, Nov. 22 at 10 a.m.
“We have the same schedule as last year, it’s just flipped, but those four away games against Danvers, Marblehead, Beverly and Masco will be tough,” Bettencourt said.