Jim Kelliher watched his Green Wave wash over South Shore rival Mashpee on Saturday night, 34-7. The longtime Abington High coach called the game his team’s best performance of the season.
Defensively, the Green Wave limited Mashpee to just 25 total yards through three quarters. And the Falcons scored their only touchdown in the final two minutes of the game.
Now his 7-0 squad will wade into Friday’s matchup against another league rival, neighboring Rockland (2-5).
Last season, Abington prevailed, 14-10.
Kelliher will going head-to-head against his friend, first-year Rockland coach Brian Kelliher (no relation), a former assistant at Hingham High who is fielding a less experienced team this season than the Green Wave.
Abington was in a similar situation last season, working new starters into the lineup, and finished 6-5 overall.
“One of the things we did start out with was a good portion of the kids last year as first-time starters, and there were some mental mistakes,” said Jim Kelliher.
“We knew we had kids who could play the game. We just had to convince them of some things good football teams do to win; hold the ball, move the chains, be good at special teams. We made some mistakes because of being youthful and new, but this year we can’t make those mistakes.”
An Abington High alum, Kelliher has walked the Green Wave sideline as head coach since 1971, and he taught math at the school until 2006.
As a player, he was a member of a team that won a Southeast Conference title, playing alongside Bob Bancroft, the current head coach at Pembroke High.
Needless to say, Jim Kelliher is passionately attached to Abington High, and an unbeaten regular season and securing a trip to the Division 4 playoffs would be the perfect farewell in his final season as coach. He will retire at season’s end.
Kelliher guided the Green Wave to Super Bowls in 2002 and 2005, winning both seasons, and that remains the ultimate goal this year.
The next hurdle is Rockland.
Abington fullback Jack Malafronte is looking forward to a matchup against a number of players he has faced since his days in youth football, or played alongside for the South Shore Eagles youth hockey program.
“Rockland is a huge rival for us, and we know that any time we’re playing them they’re going to bring their best,” said Malafronte, a senior captain.
“We grew up with a lot of those kids, so it’s fun.”
Malafronte and his teammates carried an extra bit of motivation into their matchup against Mashpee.
Just hours before the game, assistant coach Matt Chirokas was released from the hospital.
Chirokas is battling leukemia and watched from the sideline wearing a surgical mask. After their victory, the Green Wave ran over to Chirokas en masse and cheered, as if to say, “we did this for you.”
“For this being the first game he actually attends, I think it’s very fitting that we take control in first place of the league by ourselves,” said Malafronte.
The Green Wave have taken control by following a mantra repeated by their coach all season, one he emphasized before and after every practice session: leadership and discipline.
“Coach Kelliher at the beginning of the year started to become adamant about discipline and leadership this year, starting with our four captains; myself, Brandon Cawley, Tim Ferguson, Joe Buckley,” said Malafronte. “We’ve been disciplined, and we’ve had good leadership, and we’re playing good football.”
Abington still has a few tough matchups standing in the path of winning a league championship, starting with Rockland and followed by Hull and East Bridgewater (5-2).
“We work hard every day, and we’re really striving towards one goal,” said Malafronte.
“Every day we always work hard. We know the league wasn’t decided Saturday, so we still have to work hard.”
Brian Kelliher acknowledges the work Abington has put in to display its athleticism this season on the gridiron.
“Overall they have an outstanding offensive line, an excellent receiver in Joe Buckley, all their running backs run hard,” he said.
“Their quarterback, Brandon Cawley, is an excellent athlete. Overall they’re a very well-rounded team.”
Cawley had four touchdown passes in the win over Mashpee.
“It’s obviously a very big rivalry with a long history,” he said.
“It’s going to be a challenge.”
Sharon and Roberts
both bounce back
Sharon is the midst of a turnaround season, and the Eagles hammered home that point Friday night against previously unbeaten Stoughton. After suffering its first loss the previous week against King Philip, 43-0, Sharon (6-1) rallied from a 14-3 halftime deficit to pull out a 16-14 win over the Black Knights.
The Eagles cut the deficit to 14-10 in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Sean Asnes and the senior back punched in the go-ahead score, a 9-yard rush, in the final 10 seconds.
First-year coach Dave Morse and Sharon, which have secured the program’s first winning season since 1998, take on Randolph Friday night. . . .
Brockton High quarterback Austin Roberts made a smashing return to field against Durfee Friday night. He suffered three minor fractures in his back in a 27-12 loss to St. John’s Prep on Sept. 28. Roberts scored three touchdowns in a 50-0 romp as the Boxers improved to 4-3 overall.
Coryn Doncaster can be reached at email@example.com.