WHITMAN — With the Division 5 Super Bowl on the horizon, it would have been easy for Abington to overlook its Thanksgiving Day game.
But with 104 years of history involved in the Green Wave’s rivalry with Whitman-Hanson, Abington coach Jim Kelliher would not let his team stray from the task at hand.
The Green Wave’s focus paid off to the tune of a 48-28 Thanksgiving Day victory over the Panthers.
“I tried to tell them at the beginning to get off your high horse and understand this is a Thanksgiving Day game and one of the biggest in the state,” said Kelliher. “Talk to your friends and family, and the people who played in the game, it’s a big one.”
The message was received loud and clear from the start.
Abington’s defense forced a three-and-out on the opening possession and senior Aidan Cawley blocked the ensuing punt, giving Abington the ball at the Panther 7-yard line.
“We were happy with the special teams, we wanted to get that [punt block] in today and it worked that time,” Kelliher said.
Three plays later, junior Donnell Leon scored from a yard out to give the Green Wave a 7-0 lead.
“That blocked punt put us in a hole early,” said Whitman-Hanson coach Mike Driscoll.
The Panthers answered with a 21-yard TD run by Nick Smith. But Abington’s special teams blocked the extra point to preserve a 7-6 lead.
After adding a touchdown on their next drive, the Green Wave defense forced another three-and-out. The Green Wave wasted no time adding to the lead as quarterback Bryan Dwyer found Shawn Donovan over the middle for a 46-yard touchdown.
The teams traded scores in the second quarter, with Donovan scampering in from 14 yards.
Abington’s defense quashed any momentum Whitman-Hanson tried to build going into the half, stopping the Panthers on fourth down at the Green Wave’s 5-yard line.
“I knew we weren’t going keep them down if we didn’t smarten up, but we were able to hold them down there,” said Kelliher, whose team entered the break with a 27-12 lead.
Abington put the game away on the opening drive of the third. Leon’s 18-yard jaunt capped a three-play drive.
“Donnell Leon came up big today, and if we get that next week we are going to be pretty happy,” said Kelliher.
As the game progressed, the dominance of the Abington offensive line became evident.
“They opened up some nice holes, their movement getting into and staying blocks was good,” said Kelliher.
Abington has eight days to prepare for its date with Northbridge in the Division 5 Super Bowl on Dec. 6 at Gillette Stadium.
“I feel good, we are healthy, which is a big key,” said Kelliher “I think with Donnell on one side and Donovan on the other, that’s something to contend with.”