The Abington Galloping Ghost defeated the Cheltenham Panthers 35-20 in their annual rivalry game after a wild start sparked a dominant first half.
On the opening kickoff, Cheltenham senior wide receiver Jordan Green-Hinson fumbled and Abington recovered the ball at the Panthers’ 30-yard line. Two plays later, Abington running back Antonio Ditri scored on a 19-yard touchdown. Early in the game, it was 6-0 Abington.
Before Abington could attempt a PAT, tempers flared and a shoving match took place between the two teams. After running out of the back corner of the end zone, Ditri was thrown to the ground and tempers boiled over. When the referees finally regained control, six players were ejected, five from Cheltenham and one from Abington. Finally Abington’s PAT was good and they went up 7-0.
That was just the beginning of Abington’s dominant first half. On the next possession, Cheltenham senior quarterback Jordan Gyabaah’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by junior linebacker KJ Drummond.
Now down 14-0, Cheltenham continued to struggle to regain their composure, while Abington continued to feed on turnovers. With just under a minute remaining in the opening quarter, Gyabaah was intercepted again, this time at midfield by junior safety Keith Hudoka.
Following the interception, Abington senior fullback Jackson Taylor broke through the line for a 37-yard gain. One play later he would punch it in from the 1-yard line to make it 21-0 Abington.
The scoring wasn’t only done through the air though as Abington freshman quarterback Billy Griffenburg hit Hudoka for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Later, Griffienburg connected with senior receiver Cameron Mitchell for a 50-yard completion that would give Abington first and goal from the 1-yard line.
On the next play, Taylor found the end zone for the second time. Taylor proved to be Abington’s biggest weapon offensively. He overpowered the Cheltenham defense all-night and finished with 179 yards and two touchdowns.
Up 35-0, it looked like Abington had already put the game out of reach. Throughout the first half, Cheltenham’s offense had not been able to get anything going. However, in the final seconds before halftime, their offense finally put points on the board. Gyabaah hit junior wide receiver Mason Jones for a 29-yard touchdown to give the Panthers something to build on.
Abington would not score again for the rest of the game and Cheltenham began to chip away at the lead.
Junior running back Frank Sullen scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the closing seconds of the third quarter to make it 35-14.
Less than a minute later, Abington sophomore quarterback Tamir Berthau was sacked and fumbled on his own 18-yard line. On the very next play, sophomore running back Jamir Barnes sprinted to the outside, turned the corner, and blew past everyone for a touchdown. After failing to convert on a two-point conversion, Cheltenham now trailed 35-20.
Cheltenham then recovered an onside kick and marched down to the red zone. Abington forced a turnover on downs on a goal line stand. The defense stood tall again on Cheltenham’s next possession, forcing the Panthers to go for it on fourth down again.
This time there was no turnover on downs as Abington junior cornerback Angelo Pearson intercepted the ball with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter. From there the Ghosts rode Taylor and ran the clock out as Cheltenham could not overcome Abington’s big first half.
Cheltenham will try for its first win again next week when they host Upper Dublin. Abington moves to 2-1 on the young season and will travel to undefeated Bensalem next week.
Photo Credit: Jack Kapp