WHITMAN — Hand-warmers might be in order as holiday gifts for both sides after yesterday, when the team with the fewest fumbles was destined to prevail.
Consider a moment midway through the second quarter, with Abington on the Whitman-Hanson 1-yard line on first down. Green Wave quarterback Christian Labossier lunged into the scrum chasing a bad snap, and as player upon player followed, the ball squirted out the side of the pile. Two referees stood by as the ball sat there, for roughly five seconds, until three Panthers finally pounced on it.
It took the Panthers a while, but they were the first team to adjust to the 17-degree conditions and began punching the ball in, eventually walking off with a 16-0 win against Abington. Both teams finished 8-3.
Abington alone lost five fumbles, with Whitman-Hanson losing two others.
“We’re used to playing in this kind of stuff,” Panthers running back Ethan Phelps said. “We played Marshfield last year in this kind of temperature, so we’re prepared for it.”
On a day dominated by ground-and-pound football, Phelps adapted best to the conditions, rushing 14 times for 135 yards, catching one pass for 12 yards, and lobbing a 23-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Rian Schwede on a pitch-and-pass play.
The Panthers first broke ground with a 7-yard TD run by Nate Beath with 3:41 left in the first half, and came back with a 28-yard field goal by Jake O’Brien for a 10-0 lead with 28.3 seconds left. Phelps’ 69-yard run set up the score.
Mason Gorman recovered an Abington fumble on the ensuing kickoff, giving Whitman-Hanson the ball on the Green Wave 23. On the first play, Schwede pitched right to Phelps before looping down the left side to catch his pass. The Panthers defense took care of the rest.
“We wanted to have clock management, and we wanted to control the football, and that’s what we’ve been the last four weeks,” Panthers coach Mike Driscoll said. “We kind of became a nasty team with our defense. It’s fitting into our flavor.”