Abington High football coach Jim Kelliher has heard all about Bishop Fenwick's speed, he's seen it on film, and he has a pretty good idea how to neutralize it.
The Crusaders' ability to get the pigskin out in space to playmakers like Charlie Maistrellis, Eric Razney and Nick Bona could be one of the major keys to the game when Fenwick and Abington meet tonight (7 p.m.) in the Division 5 state semifinals at Woburn High School's Connolly Memorial Stadium.
The winner of this contest moves on to the Division 5 Super Bowl against the Central/Western Mass. champion on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Bishop Fenwick (10-0), which has played without star running back Rufus Rushins for the last two-and-a-half games, has made its opponent pay by making big plays, especially in the postseason.
"It's one thing to see their team speed on film ... and another to see it right there live. Other coaches, that's what they mention (about Fenwick) all the time. Speed kills and that's gotta be a factor," Kelliher said. "It's something we can neutralize and the easiest way is to not let them have the ball. That's going to be difficult, we have to be aware of that."
In three playoff contests, Fenwick is averaging more than 34 points per game and only surrendering just 10.
Simply keeping the ball away from the Crusaders will only work, however, if the Green Wave can put points on the board and stop Fenwick from scoring.
In the second round, Austin Prep came in with a similar game plan and did pretty well keeping the ball out of the Crusaders' hands. Bishop Fenwick only had six possessions and 41 plays in that outing, but scored touchdowns on four of their six possessions and made the Cougars work for every yard.
Fenwick coach Dave Woods expects this game to be the toughest challenge his team has faced all year.
"We talked to our kids about bringing our best effort on every single play. If we can sell out and give 100 percent effort, we have a chance. If we don't, I'm not so sure we have a chance," Woods said.
"We have to swarm to the ball. They have a lot of backs (who) can break tackles and run through them. Their O-line gets off the ball and they're big. We have to get 11 guys to the ball every play. The kicking game is a huge part. Hopefully, we can make something happen with our returns and limit them in theirs."
Abington (9-1) is a big, physical team that runs a Wing-T offense, capable of attacking from all angles.
Seniors Al Freeman and Jason Halpin and sophomore Shawn Donovan are the Green Waves' primary ballcarriers. Donovan has scored 14 touchdowns this season and is a threat in the kick return game.
Kelliher admits that his team is run-first, but it can change the pace of the game and will keep defenses honest.
"I think that we've evolved, like other teams," Kelliher said. "We're going to look to rush the ball as much as we can, but we'll also keep you off guard and not keying on the running game by putting the ball up sometimes."
Junior quarterback Bryan Dwyer is a capable passer for the Green Wave with a couple of good targets in tight end Jake Quinlan and receiver Vin Picardi.
Woods knows the Green Wave will be tough to stop offensively and also difficult on the other side of the ball as well.
"We've watched a ton of film on them and they're the best team we've faced all year. That's how it should be when you get to this game," Woods said. "They have great goal line and short yardage defense. We have to get more creative in those situations because we can't depend on Rufus or Nick breaking tackles."
Woods is unsure if Rushins will be ready to go for this game after suffering a dislocated elbow in the Crusaders' first-round playoff win over St. Mary's.
These teams also share one common opponent — Cardinal Spellman. Fenwick traveled to Brockton to beat its Catholic Central League Large rivals, 42-20, in Week 4. Abington, meanwhile, defeated the Cardinals, 13-8, in the second round of the playoffs.
Fenwick's goal since last year was to reach the Super Bowl and play at Gillette Stadium. Now, only Abington stands in its way.
"I think we'll get the effort," Woods said. "We looked back at the Cardinal Spellman game, and I'm sure they have that film. That's the kind of effort we need and have to play with."
STARTING LINEUPS BISHOP FENWICK (10-0) Defense No. Name Year Position 2 Kevin Hannon Sr. DE 64 Tyler Kaufman Sr. DT 52 Dustin McCauley Sr. DT 75 Josh Niconchuk Jr. DE 5 Nick Bona Sr. OLB 56 David Burley Jr. MLB 44 James Traversey Sr. OLB 1 Matt Renzulli Jr. CB 10 Tommy Parsons Sr. SS 23 Charlie Maistrellis Sr. FS 13 Eric Razney Sr. CB Offense No. Name Year Position 10 Tommy Parsons Sr. WR 13 Eric Razney Sr. WR 56 David Hurley Jr. LT 77 Brandon DeBerardinis Jr. LG 54 Justice Andrade So. C 72 Charlie St. Pierre Sr. RG 64 Tyler Kaufman Sr. RT 44 James Traversey Sr. WR 23 Charlie Maistrellis Sr. WR 5 Nick Bona Sr. QB 33 Robert Carrillo Jr. TB ABINGTON (9-1) Defense No. Name Year Position 85 Jake Quinlan Sr. DE 74 John Aprile Sr. DT 5 Steve Manning Sr. DT 56 Luca Cerasani Jr. DE 52 Scotty Jansen Sr. LB 26 Brian DiCarli Sr. LB 9 Aidan Cawley Jr. LB 51 Matt Whalen Sr. LB 2 Vin Picardi Sr. DB 10 James Landers Jr. DB 19 Josh Riordan Jr. DB Offense No. Name Year Position 85 Jake Quinlan Sr. TE 74 John Aprile Sr. T 51 Matt Whalen Sr. G 77 Joe Posone Sr. C 56 Luca Cerasani Jr. G 78 Brian O'Donovan Jr. T 2 Vin Picardi Sr. WR 3 Bryan Dwyer Jr. QB 32 Al Freeman Sr. RB 36 Shawn Donovan So. RB 33 Jason Halpin Sr. RB