Pioneers, Tanners make positive strides in 7-on-7 tournament

Peabody quarterback Alex DeNisco throws the ball during the 7-on-7 tournament. (Photo by Joe Brown)

LYNNFIELD — Saturday’s 7-on-7 tournament at Pioneer Stadium was all about getting one step closer to preparing for the 2019 season for the Peabody and Lynnfield High football teams. 

Lynnfield’s defense stole the show, helping the Pioneers to victories over Triton and Peabody. The Pioneers defeated the Tanners 19-8 in the tournament final. Lynnfield allowed just one touchdown on the day. John Lee and Jack Ford highlighted the secondary with a pair of interceptions in the final, each worth three points.

“I think after the first few series we settled in a little bit,” Lynnfield assistant coach Jeff Gannon said. “We started talking and playing our assignments. The defense was pretty consistent throughout the day. A couple breakdowns on that one touchdown but we talked it through. If everyone does their job it goes well.”

Lynnfield’s Clay Marengi returns at quarterback. Marengi looked sharp under center, tossing five touchdown passes in the two wins. 

“Clay was playing really well (Saturday),” Gannon said. “I thought he took the plays in front of him. Instead of forcing the ball down field he took what was there. Especially in (the Peabody game) it was there. Those five-yard hitches, he took it and eventually we got the stuff over the top. That was good to see today for him in year two. I think he’s starting to have more confidence and command with the team.

“Jack Ford made plays throughout the day,” Gannon said. “All our guys whether or not they caught the ball, the routes they ran got other people open. The wide receiver group played really well.”

Peabody defeated Poland (ME) 29-12 in the first round and moved on to take on the Pioneers in the final.The Tanners got off to a fast start with a defensive stop and a quick score to go ahead 8-0. But an interception on their second drive shifted the momentum and Lynnfield took over from there, en route to the 19-8 win. 

“We saw progress,” Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt said, “and that’s all these are for. It’s for the team to get together, get used to each other and used to playing together. Last year’s offense is the same this year so we’re getting the guys that are coming up through the system on the same page. 

“You just want to mend what you lost,” Bettencourt said. “The guys who played last year aren’t here now. The new guys have to mesh for us to have a good offense. And on defense it’s the same thing. We’re running a new defense this year. They have to learn it and learn it together.”

Alex DeNisco was at quarterback for Peabody and threw five touchdown passes. 

“I don’t care what the final score is,” Bettencourt said. “The point is to get better. Alex looked good (Saturday) and Alex looked bad (Saturday). The goal is to get Alex to look good more. We got what we wanted out of this.”

Naturally, the Tanners will look much different when they put the pads on for the first time next month. For now, Bettencourt’s excited to see his players improve and progress on both sides of the ball. 

“Some of our strength is at wide receiver,” Bettencourt said. “We have plenty of talent all catching the football. I mean they all did their jobs (Saturday). We had a couple new kids in the mix (Saturday) too that we’re excited about. With Alex coming back we’re hoping his confidence level is higher for a junior. 

“Defensively I thought our linebacking core play well,” Bettencourt said. “That linebacker crew is going to play a key role for us. Everyone is getting better in the back too. It’s all about getting the kids out there and seeing how they can improve.”

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