The Abington High football team was perfect from start to finish under 42-year coach Jim Kelliher, capping a 13-0 season with a 14-8 win over St. Mary’s in the Division 4 Super Bowl. Sharon and second-year coach Dave Morse put the finishing touch on their remarkable 10-3 season with a 12-3 victory over Wayland in the Division 3 Super Bowl. And with just three returning starters, Blue Hills culminated a 10-2 run with a 26-8 win over Minuteman for the Small School Vocational title. Here’s an inside look:
Sharon 12, Wayland 3
Defining moment of the season: When Dave Morse was hired as head coach before the 2011 season, the Eagles had won four total games in three seasons. There weren’t many believers. There were, however, after Sharon stopped Canton, 21-14, in week 5, for the program’s first 5-0 start since 1998.
“We were down 14-7 late in the game and we threw an interception on fourth down,” recalled Morse, who guided Sharon to a 10-3 finish. “Jalen Epps ran downfield and stripped the ball from the kid that intercepted the pass and we got possession. We wouldn’t have made the playoffs if it weren’t for that.”
Key play of Super Bowl: On Sharon’s first play of the second half, hitting a hole opened up by left tackle Matt Perry, Sean Asnes ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run for a 12-0 cushion at Bentley College in Waltham.
“That was huge,” said Morse. “That really sealed the deal.”
Unsung Hero: After taking SATs in the morning, fullback/outside linebacker Toby Modebelu showed up at Bentley with his eyes on the prize. “He made many, many crucial tackles and averaged 10 yards per carry,” said Morse. “He ran really well.” The Modebelu-anchored defense yielded just three points.
Stat check: Middle linebacker Brad Schiff, the Defensive MVP in the Hockomock League, racked up 174 tackles in 13 games. After forcing three fumbles and registering one sack during the season, he recorded his first career interception with three minutes left in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
Coach Dave Morse: “This is where we expected to be and this was our goal,” he said of the Super Bowl win. “We went through so much adversity. It just showed how truly tough and determined they were. At many times they could have packed it in. They persevered. They believe in each other. They believe in themselves and they believe in the task at hand.”
The future: The Eagles will graduate 19 seniors, but Morse is prepared. “We are a program,” he said. “We don’t make excuses. The next lineup of guys are expected to execute at the high level that these guys graduating did.” Defensive end Erik Kushner will play tight end next year and quarterback Sean O’Neill will return as well.
Abington 14, St. Mary’s 8
Defining moment of the season: The 13-0 Green Wave was stellar from week 1 (a 43-20 win over Hanover) to Saturday’s finale. But in its week 9 matchup against East Bridgewater for the South Shore League title, and the game tied 16-16 with 3:37 left to play, senior captain Jack Malafronte scored on a 1-yard plunge for the go-ahead score in a 22-16 win.
Key play of Super Bowl: With St. Mary’s inside the Abington 10 in the final minute at Curry College in Milton, the Green Wave forced QB Jake Cassidy to toss a desperation pass into the end zone on third down. The ball landed in the arms of d-back Joe Brady.
“You don’t expect that kind of stuff to happen,” said Abington coach Jim Kelliher. “To be at the 5-yard line, don’t back down, which is kind of our motto, and we came through.”
Unsung Hero: Junior halfback Matt Kilmain rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries Saturday and racked up 417 yards rushing in the two playoff wins. In the second quarter, he took a flip 80 yards for a score.
“He’s really done a yeoman’s job for us,” said Kelliher. “He truly, truly has — especially in the second half of the season. People didn’t know too much about him. As coaches, we knew what kind of potential he had and he just worked at it. . . . He started to show his skills, and he has some really great running back skills.”
Stat check: Senior Babila Fonkem ended the season with 13 touchdowns, 7 two-point conversions, and 92 points. He teamed up with Kilmain and Malafronte for 303 yards rushing vs. Saint Mary’s.
Coach Jim Kelliher: “It has been an emotional season, it really has. Of course, I think about calling it a career, but I feel like I still have something to give. This is a great town, with great support and everyone has helped this year. It’s just great to say 13-0. Thirteen is a good number to me.”
The Green Wave dedicated the season to Kelliher’s late wife, Elaine, who died April 18. They donned yellow patches with her initials, “EFK,” on their uniform tops all season.
The future: Kilmain, the Green Wave’s most powerful weapon, will return; and most importantly, Kelliher intends to be back for his 43d season.
Blue Hills 26, Minuteman 8
Defining moment of the season: The 10-2 Warriors fell short in their bid for the Mayflower Large title with a 28-26 defeat to Bristol-Plymouth, but coach Ed Catabia points to a 22-16 win over Greater Lawrence on Nov. 9.
“They’re a division up for us,” said Catabia. “The kids really came into their own during a tough, tough game.”
Key play of Bowl: The Mustangs recovered a fumble in the end zone to cut the deficit to six, 14-8, early in the second half, but Blue Hills responded with a 6-yard score from Michael Kelly to widen the lead to 20-8.
Unsung hero: Star Vincent Burton was able to contribute a touchdown, 2-point conversion and 34 rushing yards in his final game before injuring his Achilles tendon and sitting out the second half. Kelly took over, scoring two touchdowns, a 13-yard in the third quarter and a 6-yard score in the fourth.
“Michael Kelly did a superb job, especially in the second half,” said Catabia. “Michael took control and had a great game.”
Stat check: Vincent Burton ended his impeccable career with 650 total points, 90 touchdowns, 55 two-point conversions, and 5,527 rushing yards. This season, he rushed for a school-record 2,193 yards and scored 36 touchdowns. He ends his career No. 3 on the state’s all-time career point total list.
Coach Ed Catabia: “It was a complete readjustment year for us,” he said. “We had kids that virtually had no varsity experience. To do what those kids did this year, to go 10-2 was just unbelievable. It’s easy to coach when you have everybody back, when you have all these kids that have all this experience, but when you have kids that have very little experience with a completely new offensive line to go 10-2, that’s a pretty darn good job that those kids did this year.”
The future: The Warriors will graduate 19 seniors, but Catabia is not worried; he is used to dealing with turnover. This year’s squad only had three returning starters.
“These kids come from nine different towns,” said Catabia. “They don’t know each other when they come here. They’ve never played together. I’ve had kids that never put on a football uniform. This was the first time they ever put a football uniform on and we beat some good caliber teams, so it’s pretty remarkable and as coaches we knew we had to take baby steps and teach the kids first.”