PEABODY — Now that it’s all over, Saugus football coach Mike Mabee can reflect on what life has been like for him and his players.
“It was hard,” he said, “but it could have been a lot harder. These kids are the reason why it wasn’t.”
By now, the story is common knowledge. During the first week of preseason workouts at the Belmonte Middle School, a player violated coach Anthony Nalen’s dress code and was told to go to the locker room to change. He apparently returned to the practice field in boxer shorts, a parent reported it to the superintendent, and Nalen became the subject of a police investigation on suspicion of hazing.
The end result was that even though he was cleared of criminal charges, Nalen was let go due to what the school department called “lax oversight.” The process took two weeks, and that, Mabee said, was a factor in the situation.
“In the beginning,” he said, “it was really tough. Remember, these kids didn’t know what was going on. He was coming back, he wasn’t coming back …
“But,” he said, “the kids could have made this a lot worse. It could have taken a different path. Instead, they came together and worked hard for the whole season.”
Even though Saugus ends with a 4-7 record after Thursday’s 38-6 loss to Thanksgiving rival Peabody, Mabee said the team’s unity in the face of chaos was something to be proud of.
As for him?
“The kids came together and they believed in me,” said Mabee, a former Saugus High quarterback who coached many of this year’s Sachems in youth sports. “That was all I could ever ask.”
Mabee would not, however, comment on whether he’ll apply to be the full-time coach.
Prior to the game, the press box at Coley Lee Field was dedicated to 88-year-old Lou Cersosimo, who has been the voice of Peabody cable for 35 years.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt was on hand to serve as the master of ceremonies for the brief dedication, which was held in the press box.
Cersosimo has been broadcasting games in Peabody since cable first came to the city. He’s called Peabody football, as well as boys and girls basketball, and baseball.
He has also broadcast games at St. John’s Prep and Bishop Fenwick.
Cersosimo was a Peabody city councilor for 26 years.
Weather may have been a factor in the game’s slow start (it was 0-0 after a quarter), said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt.
It was 17 degrees when the game started, with a stiff wind.
“I think both teams were cold, and I think we were kind of using it as an excuse,” he said. “But as the game wore on, we got better.”
The final play of the game proved to be the most heartwarming for Saugus on a day that left most players and fans cold to the bone.
Mabee had burned his timeouts on Peabody’s last drive in hopes of having enough time left on the clock to avoid being shut out.
As the clock wound down, quarterback Mason Nickolas delivered a short pass — almost a lateral, really — to Trinitaria Altschul. She (you read that correctly) then scooted downfield, following blockers, and ran 75 yards for the score.
“We worked on that play in practice,” said Mabee. “Trinitaria (a senior) has come to practice every day and worked hard. She fits right in.”
With the win, Peabody moves to 44-29 in the rivalry, which is relatively new compared to others (it began in 1944). It is also the Tanner’s fifth Thanksgiving win in a row.