PEABODY — A pivotal year.
That’s the way Peabody football coach Mark Bettencourt describes the upcoming 2019 season.
“It’s starting to come together and kids getting used to playing with each other,” said Bettencourt, now in his seventh year at the helm. “This is a pivotal year for us to step up and be a winning program again. In my six years we are 33-33. That’s not good enough. We can’t fall back and be a losing program. We have to do something about that.”
Last year’s team finished 5-6. The Tanners qualified for the Division 2 North playoffs as the No. 6 seed with a regular season record of 3-4 only to be eliminated by No. 2 seed Reading.
This year, the Tanners are looking to their five senior captains – Colby Therrien, Declan Russell, Angel Paulino, Ramon Franco and Dylan Peluso – for leadership.
“Those five guys are the nucleus of the team, no doubt about it,” said Bettencourt.
Therrien, Peluso and Russell lead an experienced group of receivers who will also see action at defensive back. Paulino returns for a third season at running back. He was the Tanners leading rusher last year with 741 yards on 148 carries with eight touchdowns.
“Angel is our starting tailback and go-to guy in our run game, while Colby’s a hard-running, tough, fast, change of pace guy who runs our jet sweep and short yardage situations,” said Bettencourt. “Dylan was injured most of the preseason but is ready to go as our starting corner.”
Russell will also handle the punting duties.
“Declan put some good weight on and will also fill in at tight end,” said Bettencourt. “He’s multi-versatile and is an important member of special teams.”
Franco will see action at tight end and defensive end.
“Ramon is another two-way guy and is the emotional leader of this team,” Bettencourt said.
Junior Alex Denisco is back as starting quarterback. He completed 44 of 81 passes last year for 460 yards and six touchdowns.
The Tanners lost a ton of talent on both lines with senior Phil Makoci the only returner.
‘He is the anchor of our offensive line. With four new guys in there, he’s going to be the leader of that offensive line,” said Bettencourt. “He’s a tough kid who is going to give us stability. He’s very important to us.”
Peabody returns an experienced linebacking group in seniors Joe Casey and junior Steven Bua with junior newcomers Nick Vecchio and Dante Olowu in the mix.
“The linebacking core is going to be the heart and soul of the defense,” Bettencourt said.
Senior Brandon Caniff returns as the starting safety.
Junior Joe Swanton will handle the kicking duties.
Peabody, which opens the season at home Friday (7) against Salem, has not won a league title since 2000.
“It’s been 19 years and, while there are no easy games in the NEC, somehow we have to change that,” Bettencourt said.
9/13 – vs. Salem (7)
9/20 – at Revere (6:30)
9/27 – vs. Gloucester (7)
10/4 – vs. Danvers (7)
10/11 – at Marblehead (7)
10/18 – at Swampscott (7)
10/25 – vs. Beverly (7)
11/28 – at Saugus (10)