QUINCY — No extra motivation was needed for the Abington football team with a trip to Gillette Stadium on the line, but the stakes managed to be even higher for the Green Wave in Friday night’s Division 6 state semifinal matchup against St. Mary’s.
Abington was playing without its coach, Jim Kelliher — who is fully vaccinated — because of COVID-19 protocols as he sat on 299 career victories.
Kelliher may not have been on the sideline, but he managed to become the sixth coach in Massachusetts history to reach 300 wins after the second-seeded Green Wave outlasted the third-seeded Spartans in a frantic fourth quarter with a 26-21 victory at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We all love him so much,” acting coach Ed Reilly said. “It just kills me that he wasn’t here. We played so hard for him.”
After Abington’s thrilling 26-21 win in D6 Semi, @AbingtonPDMass escorted the team to Coach Jim Kelliher’s house to present him with the ball to celebrate his 300th career win! Kelliher was home in quarantine & the team wanted to hand deliver the ball to their beloved coach! pic.twitter.com/bCAlOBicN6— Shawn Reilly (@GreenWave02351) November 20, 2021
Reilly’s son, Eddie, threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Drew Donovan to help the Green Wave (10-1) pull even with the Spartans (9-2) after a Kurtis Lucas-Summers conversion, 14-14, on the opening drive of the second half.
Donovan found the end zone again on Abington’s following possession, a 60-yard sprint for his team’s first lead of the night at 20-14 before the third quarter was out. After the teams traded three-and-out possessions, Ali Barry engineered one last scoring drive for the Spartans, capping it off with a 10-yard keeper to put St. Mary’s ahead 21-20 with 9:01 left in the fourth.
It was Barry’s second score of the night, after a 14-yard touchdown run on the St. Mary’s first offensive series of the contest.
Back came the Green Wave, who looked unstoppable on offense throughout the second half. After amassing just 60 yards of offense of the first 24 minutes, Abington compiled 247 yardsafter intermission, including a 4-yard touchdown run for Lucas-Summers with 4:50 left to give the Green Wave the lead for good.
“We went into the half saying that’s not the way we usually play,” Donovan said. “We came out and busted our butts for this.”
Jack Houghton recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, giving Abington the ball back at the St. Mary’s 42-yard line with a chance to supply the dagger. The Green Wave ultimately advanced to the 14, giving the ball back to the Spartans with 2:55 left.
St. Mary’s only went backward, however, as John LaRosa came up with a sack for a loss of 13 yards on third down, leading to an incompletion on fourth and 20 with the Spartans out of timeouts.
Following the game, Reilly said the team planned to bring the game ball by Kelliher’s house.
Isaiah Ricketson had the other Abington touchdown, a 2-yard rush on the first offensive set for the Green Wave which finished off a 14-play, 55-yard drive to make it 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion.
Abington will play either South Shore League foe Rockland or Blackstone Valley Tech in the state final. Rockland handed the Green Wave their lone loss of the regular season, 17-7 on Oct. 8 in Abington, in the 500th game Kelliher coached at his alma mater.