Rivalry reaches 100 years
Abington seeks sixth straight win over W-H
Jim Kelliher has seen a lot of football. The Abington graduate has been coaching his alma mater since 1974, and earlier this year earned his 200th career victory.
Tomorrow, as for the past 37 years, the coach will put on the headset as the Green Wave travel to Whitman-Hanson in one of the country’s oldest high school football rivalries.
The contest will mark the 100th anniversary of the first showdown — the schools have played every year since except 1912.
The game has been played 95 times on Thanksgiving — a tradition started in 1915 — with Whitman-Hanson holding a 53-27-5 advantage.
Perhaps more astounding than the tradition, though, is Kelliher’s involvement in more than half the games.
The coach was exposed to the rivalry when his dad took him to games as a child. Then Kelliher was on the team for four games — getting playing time with the Green Wave as a sophomore, junior, and senior.
Abington split with the Panthers the two years Kelliher saw the most action — winning as a junior and losing as a senior.
Still, the coach’s most vivid memory from the rivalry was his initiation as a coach.
“At that time, the coach on the other side, Bob Peahan, was a legend in his own right, and was retiring that year,’’ Kelliher said. “I had gotten to know him a little bit in the coaching ranks. He was one of the premiere coaches around at the time. To me, it was a big day.’’
The Green Wave will be looking for their sixth straight Thanksgiving win, having blanked the Panthers, 20-0, last season. Abington has won seven of the last nine meetings since dropping 18 straight from 1984-2001.
If this year’s records are any indication, tomorrow’s showdown should unfold much like the last five. Kelliher’s Green Wave have been one of Division 3A’s best teams despite graduating all-everything running back Kristian LaPointe last spring.
Abington is 8-2, dropping a 21-12 decision to Rockland that left Rockland in the driver’s seat for the South Shore League title.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are 2-7, and 0-4 in the Patriot-Keenan division.
The schools certainly aren’t holding back in celebration of the rivalry. Whitman-Hanson athletic director Jim Daley has worked extensively with alumni to piece together a slew of festivities, kicked off by a banquet last Friday night at W-H.
Tomorrow, alumni from both schools will be invited onto the field for a ceremonial coin toss, and commemorative game tickets will be handed out to the first 5,000 fans.
“It should be a very, very good keepsake,’’ Daley said. “Everybody will be happy to put it in a scrapbook or a drawer or something. I’m very pleased with how it came out.’’
Daley, a 1971 Whitman-Hanson graduate who has been teaching there since 1975, is optimistic that all 5,000 tickets can be sold.
“I tend to think and hope big,’’ Daley said. “For a whole number of years, I’ve been watching the rivalry. Every game is fun. We’re in a down streak right now, but Thanksgiving brings out the best in everybody.’’