Jim Kelliher didn’t need to know that Rockland was ranked the state’s top Division 6 football team to predict the Green Wave was in for a tough fight Friday night. After 52 seasons as a player and coach for Abington, Kelliher knows records don’t matter when it comes to the annual border war game.
“Anytime it’s Abington, Rockland it’s going to be a slugfest,” he said. “That’s the way it’s always been.”
Unfortunately for Abington, after answering the bell strong, they were quickly slugged into submission by the reigning, defending Super Bowl champion Bulldogs and their star senior running back Jacob Coulstring, who scored four touchdowns in the second quarter alone, leading Rockland to a 27-0 halftime lead and a decisive 34-7 victory.
“We expected some more things out of our kids. We didn’t get it. I don’t know why. We’re going to go see why and how come,” Kelliher said. “Because we have the ability to perform a heck of a lot better than that.”
Friday marked the third time the rival teams played each other in 12 months, the last game being a 23-13 victory for Rockland in the D6 Super Bowl. While Abington graduated 16 seniors from that team, including many of their top skill position players, Rockland returned the core of their championship team: Coulstring, quarterback Michael Moriarty, and wide receiver Lucas Leander.
Playing at Rockland’s Veteran’s Memorial Stadium for the first time since 2018 – the 2020 contest was played in Hingham while Rockland’s high school campus was being renovated – the Green Wave played the Bulldogs to a standstill in the first quarter.
Abington controlled possession with an 8-minute, 14-play drive, powered by a ground-and-pound running attack and a key 9-yard pass from quarterback Michael Reilly to AJ Nash on fourth down. However, the Green Wave missed a 35-yard field goal try with 2 seconds left and the quarter ended scoreless.
The second quarter was all Rockland. Coulstring started to warm up with runs of 11, 10, and 9 yards to move the Bulldogs to the Abington side of the field. Moriarty then hit Derran Williams who slipped a tackle and turned a short catch into a 35-yard reception. Two plays later Coulstring walked into the endzone from one yard out.
On the next drive, Abington went three-and-out, and then tried a fake punt, which Rockland sniffed out and defended, taking over on the Green Wave 47-yard line. On second down, Coulstring went up the midde, cut right, and outraced the Green Wave defense for a 43-yard touchdown. A missed point after try gave Rockland a 13-0 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
Abington took six plays to move the ball 13 yards, 10 of which came on a Reilly pass to senior wide receiver Darrin Zenus. However, another muffed punt again gave Rockland good field position. After working the ball down the field, Moriarty went long to Leander on third down who had his defender beat down the sideline, but couldn’t make the catch. On fourth down, Moriarty ran the same play, and this time Leander outjumped the Abington defender to make the 26-yard reception, giving the Bulldogs a fresh set of downs on the 9. Coulstring then had runs of 6 yards and 3 yards for his third touchdown of the quarter and a 20-0 lead.
On the ensuring kickoff, the Bulldogs landed a knockout blow, bouncing the onsides kick off a Green Wave player and recovering the ball on its own 49 with 50 seconds to go. Moriarty quickly moved the ball down field connecting on passes of 9 yards and 10 yards. With six seconds left in the half, and the ball on the 36-yard line, Moriarty stepped up in the pocket and found Coulstring downfield, who split the defense and snuck into the endzone as time expired.
Abington went into halftime down 27-0. Coulstring rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter alone, on top of the 36-yard touchdown reception. He finished with 127 rushing yards after sitting for most of the second half.
The Bulldogs opened the second half moving the ball using a fresh assortment of running backs. Jordan DePina scored on a run from 2 yards out to help push the lead to 34-0.
The drive was interrupted for nearly 20 minutes following what appeared to be a serious injury to an Abington player. Following a 3-yard run by DePina up the middle, an Abington lineman struggled to get to his feet and had to be carried to the sidelines by teammates. Green Wave training staff had the player lay down and requested an ambulance. The player was transported to a local hospital still wearing his uniform. No update on his condition was immediately available after the game.
Abington was able to avoid the shutout by stringing together a 13-play, 66-yard drive in the fourth quarter that started on their own 34. Juior running back William LeBlanc (37 total rushing yards) picked up 19 yards on the drive, and freshman Ryan Solimini contributed runs of 6 and 8 yards, including a big first down. Lucas Foley carried the ball in from the 3-yard line for the only Abington touchdown of the game.
The Green Wave finished the game with just 132 yards of total offense. They play again next Friday against East Bridgewater at Memorial Field in Abington.
Kelliher said the message to his team will be come ready to play next week.
“You don’t have too many high school football games, to play, we nly play once a week. You gotta be ready,” he said. “Ask questions during the week so when you get into the game yoiu know eveyrthing…At this point five games in, we shouldn;t be asking any questions about what this play is, or what defense is this.”