New game, better effort, but same result.
Abington came in to Friday’s Division 6 tournament game against Rockland looking for redemption after a lopsided 34-7 loss back in October. And for large stretches the Green Wave defense was up to the task, racking up nine tackles that went for a loss or no gain.
But in the end, it was Abington’s inability to stop the big play that undermined its hope to extend the season. Rockland senior quarterback Michael Moriarty completed passes of 69 and 39 yards in the first half as the Bulldogs opened up an early lead and cruised to a 28-0 victory at rainy Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“There were some things without a doubt we did pretty well and there were a heck of alot of things we didn’t do well at all. And that’s why they got 28 points on us and we couldn’t get anything into the end zone,” Abington coach Jim Kelliher said after the game.
“If that’s what’s going to happen, you’re going to see that result every single time.”
The #2-ranked Bulldogs (7-2) advance in the tournament and will play #3-ranked St. Mary’s of Lynn next week in the Division 6 semifinals. The Green Wave will regroup ahead of their traditional Thanksgiving Day game against longtime rival Whitman-Hanson.
Rockland’s Jacob Coulstring had four first-half touchdowns the last time the two teams met in October. He had two first half touchdowns on Friday night as Rockland jumped out to a 22-0 first-half lead.
But it was Leander who got the scoring started in the first quarter, taking a Moriarty pass 69 yards down the right sideline on the Bulldogs second offensive play of the game.
Abington appeared to have Rockland pinned back on their next possession, after three consecutive plays went for a loss. But on 4th and 17 from the 44, Moriarty found Leander again, this time for 39-yard reception. Coulstring then ran it up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown run.
Later in the second quarter, while on their own 37 yard line, the Abington center snapped the ball over Reilly’s head. The wet grass made chasing it down difficult and Reilly was sacked back in the 10 yard line for a loss of 27 on the play. The Green Wave was able to gain back five yards on the next play, but still faced 4th and 32 from their own 15.
Leander received the point at midfield and returned it back to the 27, giving Rockland a short field worth less than three minutes left in the half. The Bulldogs just needed three plays – an 11-yard run by Leander, and runs of 9 and 8 yards by Coulstring – to find the end zone. A successful two- point conversion gave Rockland a 22-0 half time lead.
After moving the ball steadily to start the game, Abington’s offense stalled, failing to earn a first down in their next four possessions. They netted just 8 yards of offense in the first half.
With the rain picking up at the start of the second half, the Bulldogs handed the ball to Coulstring (18 carries, 87 yards) seven times on their opening drive. However, the Green Wave defense was up to the task, holding the senior league all-star to just 16 yards on those carries, including two carries of no gain.
They sacked Moriarty on 4th and 4 to take over on their own 28 yard line. But the offense could only muster a pair of scrambles by Reilly that netted 8 yards, giving Rockland the ball back on the 36-yard line.
Five plays later Moriarty found Leander (three receptions, 116 yards) again in the left corner of the endzone for an 8-yard touchdown pass with 59 seconds left in the third quarter and took a 28-0 lead.
The Green Wave offense finally found a groove, moving the ball 44 yards down to the Bulldogs 10 yard line. The big play was a 22-yard catch-and-run by tight end Connor Pease. However on 4th and 1, Mason Nash was met hard at the line and stopped, giving Rockland the ball back with 7:21 remaining. Abington would get one more chance to put points on the board, but three straight passing plays by Reilly fell incomplete.
Abington now has a week off to prepare for its 111th Thanksgiving Day game against Whitman-Hanson.
“If this was the last game we’d be picking up the jerseys and picking up the pants, and closing it up, and having a banquet, but it isn’t,” said Kelliher. “We’ve got Thanksgiving. And we’re going to give it our best shot.”
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