The Abington football team found themselves down 23-0 early in the 2nd quarter to rival Whitman-Hanson and staged a furious comeback to take the lead in the 4th.
However a 50-yard touchdown run by Whitman-Hanson senior fullback Evan Casey with less than two minutes remaining gave the Panthers the lead for good and a 35-30 victory at Memorial Field.
“It’s as good a game as you’d like to be in on Thanksgiving Day,” Coach Jim Kelliher said. “It was phenomenal the effort both teams put in… I’m pretty happy to say I was involved in this game.”
Casey had 4 touchdowns on 11 carries for 130 yards for Whitman Hanson.
Abington junior AJ Nash scored two touchdowns including a 90 yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Senior Isaiah Ricketson returned from injury to run for 122 yards and a touchdown.
It was the 111th time Abington and Whitman-Hanson played on Thanksgiving. The Panthers now lead the series 62-46-3.
The Green Wave had to overcome four first half turnovers as well as Casey, the Panthers big, bruising back.
Whitman- Hanson pounced on a fumbled Abington snap on 4th and 1 to take over on the Green Wave 25. On the very next play, Casey found a hole in the line, cut back to the left and outran the Abington defense for his first touchdown with 5:23 left in the first quarter. Lineman Noah Hopkins ran in the two point try to give Whitman-Hanson an 8-0 lead.
Patrick Dolan then intercepted Abington quarterback Mike Reilly at the 37. Eight plays later Casey ran it in from seven yards out for his second touchdown. Lineman Maddox Colclough found Patrick Dolan for the two- point conversion giving the Panthers a 16-0 lead with 11:16 left in the half.
On their next series, Whitman-Hanson senior fullback Nick Beauregard ran down the right sideline for a 68-yard touchdown. The point after try was good and the Panthers lead grew to 23-0.
Kelliher said the team’s strategy and approach didn’t change with the early deficit.
“We said ‘We can get this,'” he said. “If we stop them and we’re proficient on offense, and we avoid penalties and turnovers, we can do this.”
Ricketson helped get things started. He carried the ball 6 times during the next series picking up nearly 40 yards, highlighted by a 20-yard run and a 2-yard touchdown dash. A successful two point try cut the deficit to 23-8.
Whitman-Hanson started the second half on their 39, but a team of Green Wave tacklers ripped the ball away from Casey. Two plays later Nash ran through the Panther defense for a 44-yard touchdown. A successful two point conversion made it a one possession game, 23-16, with just under 11 minutes in the third quarter.
Whitman-Hanson responded with a 10 play drive powered by a strong running attack. Casey punched it in from the 1, and the Panthers went back up 29-16.
Nash erased any Whitman- Hanson momentum, collecting the kickoff at the 10 and taking it 90 yards for the touchdown, and cutting the lead again to 29-23.
Midway through the 4th quarter, Reilly found senior wide receiver Darrin Zenus alone in the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown reception. The successful extra point gave Abington its first lead of the game, 30-29, with 8:33 left in the game.
Abington assistant coach Ed Reilly said the Green Wave just needed a jump start, and Ricketson’s touchdown did just that.
“Once they scored the kids realized they could do it,” he said.
The two teams traded possessions when a big Abington punt, combined with two Panther penalties on the return, pinned Whitman-Hanson back on their own 10 yard line. The Panthers did a good job getting out of bounds to stop the clock in between plays. On 2nd and 14 from the 50, Casey took a handoff down the visiting sideline and in to the end zone, vaulting the Panthers back on top for good.
Kelliher told his seniors they can be proud of how they played in their last game wearing the green and white.
“I know it’s got to be memorable and it’s not going to always put a smile on your face and at the same time be so proud about what you did to get yourself out of that hole,” he said.
“I haven’t seen that from one of my Thanksgiving teams in I don’t know how long. We have, I just can’t remember it. But I’ll remember this because it was phenomenal.”