The letters “GWP” are emblazoned everywhere in the town of Abington.
It’s painted all over the varsity locker room, it’s sewn into the pants and jerseys of the football team, and it’s even painted on Memorial Field.
“Green Wave Pride” has become a defining motto for the Abington football program that has spanned generations and has become ingrained in family tradition throughout the town.
For families like the Reillys, that tradition doesn’t graduate and has stretched into its third generation.
Offensive coordinator Ed Reilly Sr. has held his position since the 2001 season under 46-year coach Jim Kelliher. It’s the same position held by his father, the late Jack Reilly, in the early 1960s when Kelliher was a tight end for the Green Wave.
Jack and Ed Sr. both played quarterback for Abington, with the latter under center from 1987-89. Now, Eddie Jr., a backup quarterback on this year’s Super Bowl-bound team, is set to continue that legacy.
“It’s a cool feeling to make my own memories and carry on my grandfather’s legacy having my dad there with me,” said Eddie Jr.
The football program itself has taken on a family-like atmosphere as well and has invited siblings to practice and games over the years. And with success comes commitment from younger generations to buy into that tradition.
“It’s a neat thing because Abington is a small town but we’re one big family,” said Reilly Sr. “Obviously, having some success is a great draw to our program, but our Pop Warner teams have won Super Bowls and we have a great relationship with the youth coaches.”
Players often opt to follow the lead of parents, like the Reilly family, or even older siblings who once starred for Abington.
Team captain Sean Landers is the fourth and final brother in his family to play for Abington and he’s looking to finish his career with a Super Bowl. His older brothers, James and Ryan, were a part of Abington’s 2014 championship team.
Now, Sean is looking to help the Green Wave win its third title in eight years against Leicester in the Division 7 Super Bowl at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at Gillette Stadium.
“I watched my brothers play and I knew it was something I wanted to do,” said Landers. “This town has so much football tradition and it’s great to be a part of it.”
Kelliher has coached all the Landers brothers and many other football families in the town as well. He also realizes that his team’s success encourages younger brothers to come out for the varsity team when they get to high school.
“When brothers go through it, it’s a strength for any program and creates a positive attitude for the future,” said Kelliher. “Kids watch the older groups get deep into the playoffs and understand how much attention to detail it requires.”
From a young age, players get a glimpse of how it feels to wear the Green Wave uniform and play for a town that has shown its support for its varsity football team. In Abington’s state semifinal win against Greater Lawrence in Woburn, nearly 40 miles away, the team had one of its largest contingents make the trek for the game.
“You look up at the crowd and see families coming to games who had kids play 20 years ago,” said Landers. “Once you become a part of the football community, you keep coming back and it’s a great feeling to see that as a player.”
For Reilly Jr., who was a water boy as a child and attended Abington games during its championship run early in the decade, it has given him a unique perspective as to how meaningful it is to wear the Abington uniform.
“When you’re little, there’s nothing bigger than going to those games on Friday night,” said Reilly Jr. “You want to be like the older players, and once you grow up you realize how much of a role you have in the community.”
Abington’s success starts from the top with the varsity coaches, who attend junior varsity contests and work with players on the sidelines just like they do at the varsity level — creating that family atmosphere throughout the entire football program.
From an early stage, Abington players gain familiarity and a comfort level dealing with top-tier coaching, something that has helped siblings stay connected with the team. The strong work ethic that pervades Abington’s football program has been a basic building block of Kelliher’s small-town success.
For decades, players have responded to Kelliher’s coaching. Reilly Jr. and Landers said they could not imagine playing for anyone else at Abington.
“The fact that we, as coaches, take things seriously helps our players become the best they can be,” said Kelliher. “You have 22 spots to fill and you have to have talented players, but you need guys who also want to work hard in order to be successful.”
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.