PEABODY — It took Peabody a while to get going Thursday at Coley Lee Field. But once the Tanners got it in gear, they were unstoppable in the same manner as a runaway train rolling down the side of a mountain.
The Tanners won their fifth Thanksgiving game in a row, and raised their overall record against Saugus to 44-29 since the rivalry began in 1944, defeating the Sachems 38-6.
The Tanners so dominated the Sachems on a frigid day more suitable for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic than a Turkey Day Classic that Saugus never made it past midfield until the last play of the game, when it scored its only touchdown.
“I’m proud of the way our defense stood up today,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt.
Meanwhile, the Tanners got a varsity performance out of sophomore quarterback Alex DeNisco, who threw for 145 yards on 14-of-17 passing with one interception. DeNisco also connected on three touchdown passes. He did all this while channeling his coach. Bettencourt showed up to the field for a game where the temperature was 17 degrees at kickoff wearing shorts. DeNisco did not throw with a glove on his hand.
“I think the cold bothered us somewhat,” said Bettencourt. “You could see it early. Everybody was working out cobwebs, and I thought we were using it as an excuse.
“But in the second half, we adjusted,” he said. “We told them at halftime ‘we know what the weather was like. The weather is the weather. We’ve played in it for 22 minutes, so there’s no excuse. Now, let’s go out there and play some football.'”
The Tanners began their onslaught in the second quarter, finishing off an 11-play drive from their own 30 with DeNisco hitting Jared Ridley on a beautiful play-fake, finding the receiver over the middle that was vacated by the Sachem defender who bit for the run. Luis Guridys ran in the conversion to make the score 8-0.
From that point on, Peabody’s defense gave the Sachems nothing. In fact, Saugus snapped the ball out of the end zone just before the half ended for a safety, giving Peabody a 10-0 lead at the break.
It only took the Tanners three plays in the third quarter to make it an 18-0 game, with DeNisco finding Brandon Caniff on almost the same type of play fake that he used for the first scoring pass. This one was for 38 yards.
At this point, Saugus coach Mike Mabee decided to go almost exclusively to the air, and Saugus went three-and-out, all of them incomplete passes.
“I’m not happy about today,” Mabee said. “Peabody manhandled us. They really took it to us.
“I thought we played OK early in the game, but after they got up on us, we didn’t play well.”
Upon getting the ball back, the Tanners went back to work. On another long (11-play) drive that started on their 44, the Tanners got a three-yard run from Colby Therrien to make it 24-0.
“I have to give our o-line credit,” said Bettencourt. “We have four seniors up there, and they all played a great game. That was one of the big keys in the game for us.”
Once again, the Sachems were stymied, and even though Peabody fumbled the ensuing punt, which shanked off the side of the kicker’s foot, Kyle Maglione picked it up at the 8-yard line and ran it in for the score that made it 31-0.
By this time, the second unit was in there, and Jake Sousa closed out the scoring with a 3-yard run.
All that was left was a swing pass from Saugus’ Mason Nickolau that Trinitaria Altschul hauled in and ran 75 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game.
Peabody ended the season at 5-6. Saugus wrapped its season at 4-7.