ROCKLAND — Abington knew it controlled its own destiny, and the Green Wave didn’t leave much to luck on Saturday afternoon.
Led by its defense, which forced four turnovers, Abington (5-1, 3-0) ran past Rockland, 23-7, to create a logjam atop the South Shore League (Large) standings.
The Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1) entered the game with a chance to clinch the title, but they couldn’t establish the run early and the Green Wave took advantage.
“I tell the kids defensively, ‘If you can live for another defensive play, then something can happen,’ ” said Abington coach Jim Kelliher. “They drove on us a couple of times, but if we make them work for every single inch, something may happen.”
Rockland twice put together long drives to try to change the momentum of the game, but both ended in Green Wave takeaways.
Late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs were poised to make it a one-possession game when they entered the red zone with less than two minutes left. After Leshon Crawford took a carry for 3 yards, the ball was knocked loose and Aidan Cawley pounced on it.
Again in the third quarter, Rockland was in the midst of an 11-play, 84-yard drive when the ball came free on another Crawford carry. The ball laid loose by Crawford for a few seconds before Josh Riordan recovered it.
Meanwhile, Abington’s three-headed running attack was taking its toll on the ground. Seniors Jason Halpin and Al Freeman, and sophomore Shawn Donovan all gave the Bulldog defense something different to be concerned about.
Halpin bruised the defense for 66 yards on 10 carries, Freeman had 22 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns, and Donovan dashed for 110 yards on 11 carries.
“You got Halpin, who gives you the power with [tight end] Steve [Manning],” Kelliher said. “You got Al Freeman, who in his own right, can be a pretty good running back. He’s tough to bring down. And then you got Donovan. He’s an athlete. He’s not going to pound with it, but he has some great natural instincts.”
Manning lined up at fullback in the first quarter and punched in a 7-yard touchdown to put Abington ahead for good.
Freeman found the end zone on Abington’s next two drives.
The only time the Bulldogs scored was on a kickoff return in the second quarter, when junior Justin Nguyen buzzed 74 yards through the Green Wave for the touchdown.
Through the second half, though, Abington limited the Rockland run game and Cawley came down with two fourth-quarter interceptions.
“I thought our defense played very, very well today, I really did,” Kelliher said. “My thing was to say to them, right from the beginning last Monday, get [Rockland] to feel a little bit uncomfortable. Try to get them out of synch, try to get them to do something they’re not the best at.
“Don’t let them have their bread and butter right away. I thought we did a nice job defending that.”
The Bulldogs managed just 80 yards of offense in the first half and 96 in the second.
The Green Wave clinched at least a share of the league title with the victory.
Now, destiny waits again on Friday night. Abington can secure the title outright with a win over East Bridgewater.