MILTON, Mass. -- In his more than 40 years of coaching at Abington High, it would be reasonable to think Jim Kelliher has seen it all on the football.
In winning the EMass. Div. 4 Super Bowl, 14-8, over St. Mary’s of Lynn on Saturday, Kelliher was witness to two things he’d never before seen: An undefeated Green Wave season and a playoff performance like that of Matt Kilmain.
Even Kelliher’s Super Bowl teams in 2002 couldn’t boast an unbeaten season from beginning to end.
“We did something no team in school history has ever done – we went 13-0,” said captain Jack Malafronte. “At Abington, with the history of football we have, to be able say we did something no one has ever done is a good feeling.”
Kilmain helped guarantee the Green Wave would finish undefeated with a pair of all-time performances in the playoffs this week.
After rushing for 272 yards on 12 carries and scoring three times in the opening round win over Millis/Hopedale on Tuesday night, Kilmain delivered a 15-carry, 166 yard performance that included what proved to be the game-winning touchdown against St. Mary’s.
“He’s really done a yeoman’s job for us,” said coach Jim Kelliher, who coached his third Super Bowl champion this year. “He truly, truly has – especially in the second half of the season. People didn’t know too much about him.
As coaches, we knew what kind of potential he had and he just worked at it. With the help of his teammates, he started to show his skills, and he has some really great running back skills.”
Even his teammates and fellow Super Bowl champions were impressed by his showing this week.
“It didn’t surprise me,” said senior captain Jack Malafronte, who shares running back duties with Kilmain and has scored in six straight games. “I knew he was capable of that all season. We’ve talked about it all year – it’s only a matter of time before someone breaks one or does something special. He was special this playoffs.”
Added QB Brandon Cawley: ““He was the whole offense for us this playoffs,” said senior . “He just took over during the playoffs. He’s going to have a great year next and I can’t wait to watch him.”
Before he was able to take over in the Super Bowl, St. Mary’s received the game’s opening kick. John Gaeta set up a short field with a 52-yard run, which Jordan Collier followed with a 1-yard dive into the end zone. A two-point conversion made it 8-0.
Abington’s defense didn’t allow another point.
“We haven’t really ever been all year a team who is going to get a whole bunch of one, two three and outs,” said Kelliher.
“People have driven on us but we always professed the fact that if we give them the ball in tough position, that they’ll have to go a long way and not make any mistakes to get back in our endzone.
We just try to make sure we do everything we can to make sure they don’t get in the end zone, and wherever we get it back, we don’t care.”
After Collier gave the Spartans a lead, Malafronte made sure it was brief and punched in a score on the next drive. He finished off a lengthy drive with a 14-yard score in which he shook off a pair of tacklers and dragged a third into the end zone.
After forcing a turnover on downs, Abington extended their lead in the second quarter when Kilmain took a sweep left around the edge. His lead blockers made sure the gain would go for at least a first a down, but Kilmain breaking a pair of tackles made he’d go 80-yards all the way for a score. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 14-8.
From there the team’s traded defensive blows, finishing the half with that same score.
On their first drive of the second half, St. Mary’s threatened to score again, putting together an impressive 17-play drive that spanned more than seven minutes but stalled out at the Abington 29 when junior Steve Manning sacked quarterback Jake Cassidy.
After forcing a punt, the Spartans start marching toward the end zone again, moving the ball all the way down to Abington’s 15.
Joe Brady ended their chance to score with an interception in the end zone with 4:22 remaining in the contest.
Babila Fonkem, Kilmain and Malafronte – who combined for 303 rushing yard in the win – all picked up rushing first downs on the final drive, allowing Abington to take knees and win their third Super Bowl title since 2002.
MORE GOOD NEWS
It was rumored prior to the season that this year would be the last for Kelliher, a head coach of 39 years whose been on the Green Wave staff for more than 40.
He put that notion to bed following the win yesterday.
“I still enjoy myself, and the other coaches and the players,” Kelliher said. “Maybe, hopefully, the players would say the same thing about me. I still enjoy the game and I still think I can add a little something to it.
I do think about it possibly being my last year – at my age you have to. I have to think about, I’m not going to lie about that but I still enjoy coaching football.”
Even the graduating players are happy Kelliher decided to return.
“He is Abington football,” said Malafronte. “For him to be back, means everything to this program. I knew once we started going on a roll that he would be back. He can’t get away from it. Coming off a 13-0 season, how can you get away from that?”