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Spreading Wings

Saugus lineman and his team have gone a long way to erase past doubts

Posted: November 13, 2008 10:52 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Saugus High senior offensive lineman Justin Peacock is a two-year varsity starter for the Centurions. The 6-foot, 230-pound lineman has been part of two of the most successful teams in the program's history.

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The Saugus football team has always played the role of David in a league of Goliaths.

The Centurions were never in conversations regarding Foothill League titles or championships.

Those conversations were reserved for Hart, Canyon and Valencia.

But now Saugus has stoned its way into the picture.

Behind the Centurions' quest to win its first-ever outright Foothill League title is a quiet yet formidable leader.

He's one of the more anonymous faces behind the success of two of the team's offensive stars - quarterback Desi Rodriguez and running back Ryan Zirbel.

His name is Justin Peacock.

The 6-foot, 230-pound offensive lineman has played a significant role on the Centurions' offensive line.

"It comes down to the O-line, who has stepped up and been a consistent force for us," said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. "All year they have allowed our play makers to make plays. Justin is the guy that we'd like to run behind. He's the guy we count on to get the other guys going."

Peacock, a second-year starter, has only seen success in the Saugus program.

He was just a boy playing Warriors youth football when Saugus struggled to make a name for itself in years past.

It's likely the reason he's so optimistic and adamant on quieting doubters.

"Some people think it's an off year in the Foothill League - it's not as tough as it used to be," Peacock said. "We just have to stay focused and keep winning and prove to people that we are for real."

But Peacock felt the sting of losing out last season on the league crown.

Three points and 15 seconds ended the team's chances of holding the title.

He recalls that game against Hart on Nov. 9, 2007. An Indians field goal sealed the win giving them the appellation of league champions.

"I was on my knee on the sideline just hoping they would miss or we would block the kick," Peacock said. "We tried to score in the last few seconds and when it didn't happen I was disappointed. We had been working all year for that moment."

Saugus would go to lose in the semifinal round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs to eventual champion St. Bonaventure.

"I was definitely sad because I knew what a great team we had," Peacock said. "We had a great defense and good players. I felt we had so much talent and didn't really have anything to show for it. We didn't win league or a CIF title."

At the start of the 2008 season, Peacock did not look back on the team's perceived shortcomings.

Many skeptics said Saugus would not be able to duplicate its success from last season.

With an all new lineup on the defensive line and only five returning starters, it took all of its non-league schedule for Saugus to establish a foundation.

But after taking a commanding stance at the start of Foothill League action, the team solidified its spot as not only a contender for a league title, but for the Northern Division championship as well. The Centurions win over a then undefeated Valencia last Friday night gave them their first taste of Foothill League glory.

"It was amazing," Peacock said of the win. "After four years of hard work it finally paid off, but we know we're not done yet."

When Saugus takes the field against Canyon tonight, Peacock said he looks forward to celebrating a win with teammates and friends on the field. One of those friends Pea cock will embrace is longtime teammate Justin Wells.

Wells, a fellow Saugus offensive lineman, said Peacock is a staunch leader, galvanizing his teammates.

"Everyday he comes out with a great attitude," Wells said. "He motivates everyone and (by) taking on the leadership role he holds people accountable."

Peacock is humble.

Content without the recognition.

He said the best part of his job is basking in the success of his more distinguished cohorts.

"Seeing the guys that I block for score touchdowns is great," he said. "Some people don't realize how it happens and don't always appreciate it. But it's good for me to see when they do well."

Peacock is sort of a reflection of his team.

Offensive linemen usually fly under the radar.

For years, Saugus has as well.

But his play this season has been best exemplified by the success of Rodriguez and Zirbel.

Rodriguez has 1,227 yards passing and 1,183 yards rushing and Zirbel has 1,155 yards rushing.

Fittingly, people are also starting to take notice of Saugus football.

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