Last-second field goal block allows Big Blue to beat Beverly, stay unbeaten

·6 min read

Oct. 24—BEVERLY — The colorful lei worn around Xaviah Bascon's neck after every football game is a tribute to his Hawaiian heritage.

The relentless way that the workhorse tailback plays for Swampscott from the first snap to the last is a tribute to his skill, work ethic, and willingness to do anything to help the Big Blue prevail.

With host Beverly lining up for a potential 22-yard game-winning field goal with two seconds to play Saturday afternoon, Bascon timed his jump perfectly and tipped Drew Fowler's kick before it could ever reach the goalposts, enabling Swampscott to stay unbeaten after a 13-12 road victory at Hurd Stadium.

"It's all about repetition. Coach (Peter) Bush has us every week go over it," Bascon said of the blocked kick. "I look to time (my leap). For me, it's just (looking out of the) corner of my eye and go from there. I'm hungry from there, go for the ball and make a play."

It was a difficult loss for the Panthers, who not only had taken a 12-0 lead in the second quarter but missed two extra points in addition to the end-of-game field goal. They also fumbled in Swampscott territory, leading to what turned out to be the game-winning score.

"We had a great start, but that turnover flipped the whole thing," Beverly (3-4) head coach Jeff Hutton said.

"We just don't have any consistency in the kicking game, and it's killing us," he added. "It's not from lack of effort, but for whatever reason we've been snakebitten this year on special teams and converting extra points."

Beverly, which plays at 1-6 Gloucester next Saturday (1 p.m.), is not guaranteed a playoff spot in the upcoming Division 2 playoffs even with a win; it will ultimately depend on how the state's rankings system plays out when the regular season concludes next weekend. Currently, the Panthers are ranked No. 12; the top 16 teams qualify for the postseason.

A cinch to make the postseason, Swampscott (now 7-0, ranked second in Division 5) was playing without starting quarterback and one of its best linebackers, Cam O'Brien, who was called for targeting on a tackle last weekend against Danvers, meaning he had to sit out his team's next game. Filling in under center was junior Zack Ryan, who completed 16-of-21 passes for 143 yards.

"Our mindset was go with what we've got," said Joey Mignone, Swampscott's 6-foot, 240-pound right guard. "Next man up. Play hard every snap, get off the ball, get a good push and do what we do."

In simplifying its game plan for Ryan, the Big Blue relied on 4-5 basic pass plays out of their extensive playbook — mainly quick hitters to the outside and screens — while mixing in a whole lot of Bascon (177 yards rushing on 29 carries).

"We talked to Zack during the week about getting the ball in our playmakers' hands," said Swampscott's offensive coordinator, Robert Serino Jr. "We said, 'Take what their defense gives you' and he did a great job with that. Really, he had a terrific game for his first varsity start, making his reads and running the offense very well."

Time and time again, Bascon broke out of arm tackles and kept moving his legs to pick up valuable yardage.

"We were diving all over the place," lamented Hutton. "I looked like we were trying to go on a Slip 'N' Slide."

The Big Blue also got more and more push up front as the game wore on while controlling the clock. Mignone and fellow guard Ethan Gee, tackles Dylan Dubiel and Michael Erickson, and center Jake Papazoglou did the grunt work up front and the results proved effective.

"It was about following your gap like we do," said Pignone. "If they (i.e., the defense) send heat, we just pick it up and do what we can."

Senior tailback Jordy Irvine capped off a 10-play, 80-yard drive for Beverly by taking a direct snap and running it in from three yards out, making it 6-0. His score was set up by a 47-yard pass from quarterback Pierce Heim (144 yards through the air) to captain Andre Sullivan.

Then, after Sullivan picked off a Big Blue pass deep in his own territory, he finished off the ensuing drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Again, it was a big pass from Pierce — this one to tight end Zack Sparkman one for 51 yards — that set things up.

This time, Swampscott answered after starting their own 45. On 3rd-and-5 from the Beverly 33, Ryan found Elijah Burns on a wide receiver screen, and the speedy junior weaved his way through the defense for six points. Aydan Wulf's extra point made it 12-7.

The Orange-and-Black had that big fumble on their next drive, with Mignone recovering for Swampscott. Two plays later on a broken play, Burns somehow found Cole Hamernick (7 catches, 67 yards) open down the right sideline for a 30-yard halfback option pass. With just five seconds until halftime, Bascon took it in from four yards out.

Beverly got the ball with 6:31 to go on its own 18 and used the rest of the clock before attempting a field goal on the game's final play. Irvine, who ran for a team-high 85 yards, rambled for 29 yards into Swampscott territory on aE; modified draw play — "we call it 'Wraparound Sally'" said Hutton — to set up the exciting final minute.

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Swampscott 13, Beverly 12

at Hurd Stadium, Beverly

Swampscott (7-0);0;13;0;0;13

Beverly (3-4);0;12;0;0;12

Scoring summary

B-Jordy Irvine 3 run (kick failed)

B-Andre Sullivan 5 run (kick blocked)

S-Elijah Burns 33 pass from Zack Ryan (Adyan Wulf kick)

S-Xaviah Bascon 4 run (kick failed)

Individual Statistics

RUSHING: Swampscott — Xaviah Bascon 29-177, Zack Ryan 3-11; Beverly — Jordy Irvine 14-85, Manny Hernandez 5-31, Andre Sullivan 9-27, Gabe Copeland 4-5, Pierce Heim 1-0.

PASSING: Swampscott — Ryan 16-21-143-1-1, Elijah Burns 1-1-30-0-0; Beverly — Heim 6-9-144-0-0.

RECEIVING: Swampscott — Cole Hamernick 7-67, Bascon 3-48, Burns 1-33, Jason Codispoti 4-19, Nakarree Davis 1-9; Beverly — Zach Sparkman 2-61, Sullivan 2-61, Matt Sopp 1-17, Matt Burke 1-5.

Contact Phil Stacey

@PhilStacey_SN

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