Ghosts look to get on right side of close games in 2019
ABINGTON >> Last season, it became an all-too-familiar refrain for the Galloping Ghosts.
A mistake here or there led to another and then another and before they knew it, the Ghosts were watching a game slip away. It might have been a penalty flag or a fumble but there were just far too many of them either leading to an agonizing close loss or a competitive game getting out of reach.
Abington knows it can’t afford that type of season again and the Ghosts are determined to do something about it.
“We’re really working a lot on discipline, staying onsides, all the little things that help win games in the end,” Ghosts coach Kevin Conlin said. “It’s really being a lot tougher and playing a lot harder. That’s really it, we have to be a lot tougher because we just didn’t do those little things well enough to win games.”
Abington went 4-6 last season, yet was in contention for a playoff spot late in the year only to be derailed by back-to-back one-score losses in the final two weeks. The Ghosts were 3-1 after four weeks last fall, but a couple key injuries and an inability to finish off games put a damper on the second half of the year.
One of those injuries claimed center/defensive tackle Billy Beck in the third week of the season. Now a senior, Beck is eager to get back on the field and so far, has provided plenty of the toughness Conlin has been looking for from all his players.
“We dropped off a lot at the end of last year, so it starts with being more disciplined,” Beck said. “We’ve been working on it all summer, so I think we’re ready. It’s a matter of being smart and being disciplined. I can’t wait, it was tough going down last year, I felt like we were doing well as a team and then it all dropped off.”
The Ghosts have some work to do reloading on the line but there’s plenty of potential if they can come out of camp with things in order.
Abington also struggled to replace workhorse back Darryl Davis-McNeil last fall and that’s another major point of emphasis for Conlin this preseason. The fourth-year head coach has options at the position, but he’s looking for one of those players to step up and seize the lead back role.
Senior quarterback Tamir Berthau returns for his second season as a starter off an honorable mention SOL National nod. Last year, Conlin felt the quarterback showed his inexperience early, but really made strides over the last five games.
“Our chemistry is good now,” Berthau said. “We were working out on the weekends all summer. All our guys want to make a long run in the playoffs and I think we have the team to do it.”
Conlin called this camp a “fresh start” for the defense. By the end of the season, the unit was beat-up and frustrated but with a good group of experienced players back, Conlin is looking for the defense to carry the team early.
He cited the linebackers as a particularly strong unit, with inside linebackers Marc Macione and Blaise Zucaro and SAM linebacker Nasir Jones all bringing back multiple years of starting experience. Against the athletes of the SOL National, a robust linebacker group is imperative and Conlin thinks his group can be that foundation.
“Our group as a whole, we’re trying to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Macione said. “We want to move sideline-to-sideline and just be playmakers.”
Conlin cited Caleb Baker, a 6-foot-3 receiver, as someone who’s played well both blocking and going up to get passes. With a steady-handed target in Keith Hudoka graduated, Baker could be a prime candidate to be a go-to target for Berthau.
Beck feels it more than anyone, but there’s a lot of motivation in Abington’s camp this summer. Watching the game from the sideline, Beck saw the game a different way and he’s ready to make sure his senior season has a different feel to it.
“We didn’t bounce off losses real well, we kind of took them and let them slow us down,” Beck said. “We have to keep working the same way, loss or win. Coming off a 4-6 season, we want to turn that around and hopefully make the playoffs.”
Abington 2019 Schedule
OFFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Tamir Berthau, Quarterback >> The multi-threat quarterback enters his second year under center eager to improve on an All-SOL honorable mention selection. With a season of experience, the senior is looking to be a more vocal presence while also making quicker and smarter decisions with the ball.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER TO WATCH
Marc Macione, Linebacker >> A second team All-SOL pick last year, the senior is looking to assert himself as a first-team pick this fall. Macione has put a lot of work into shedding blockers faster and reacting to plays to be someone who can impact the game all over the field defensively.
By Kev Hunter; email@example.com