Throwback Thursday: The 1989 Abington Galloping Ghosts
I first saw Abington in 1978 at Pennsbury in an afternoon non-league game won by Pennsbury 28-14. I did not pick the Ghosts up for my records until 1988 when I added most of the teams I now follow; in addition to the Lower Bucks County League schools I began with in 1951. I did not get to an Abington home game until 1990. Of course that was the day field at Susquehanna Road and Huntingdon Road then; not the beautiful edifice currently used.
The Lower Bucks County League closed for business after the 1981 season and its teams were welcomed into the Suburban One where the five old LBCL teams would rejoin William Tennent and add Abington and Norristown as league opponents for 1982. I could not see much of the Ghosts though, as I had a job-related low period of high school participation 1980 through 1984.
My understanding of the unusual Abington school nickname was that the original “Galloping Ghost”, Red Grange, had appeared at the school and the nickname was adopted. After Grange retired from professional football in 1934 he was at times a motivational speaker, and this could indeed be the legendary source.
The Ghosts apparently began playing with some other mascot, or none, in 1912; and for the first six seasons played 7 or fewer games a season, as was the case for most schools with early historical starts. An 8-1 season in 1921 was the first major successful season.(a)
The 1928 edition may have been the best ever; 9-0 – undefeated, untied, and un-scored upon; 9 shut outs. It’s hard to get any better than that. The 1953 team matched the 9-0 record, but the defense yielded 6 touchdowns (most likely – there could have been two FGs equaling 6).
The 1968 and 1969 Ghosts went 11-0 back-to-back, the greatest number of wins in a season and certainly at least a 22-game win streak in the process. There were other 1-loss and 2-loss seasons among so-so seasons as all schools travel through, but I had seen none of these fine Ghosts’ editions.
The best Ghosts squad I was happy to witness was in 1989. I saw that squad four times, the most I have ever seen Abington in one season.
The 1989 Ghosts opened at home against Bishop McDevitt of District 12 and narrowly won the game 15-14.
On Friday night September 15 I was at Neshaminy to see the Redskins’ host the Ghosts. This turned out to be a battle royal.
With four minutes left in the game the score was 28-27 Neshaminy. I only started to write individual notes on the games I attended in 1988, and in 1989 was still developing the process and do not have a lot on the game. But Neshaminy led from the start and, listing their score first, the game went 7-0; 7-7; 14-7; 14-14; 21-14; 28-14; 28-21; and 28-27 with four minutes remaining. It was 14-7 Neshaminy at the half. The Ghosts received the second half kickoff and Jason Hughes returned it 90+ yards for the tying TD with the PAT. The Redskins’ answered on the first play from scrimmage after receiving the ensuing kickoff with a 60+ yard burst by Rob Latronica. In addition, the Skins added the icing TD within the last four minutes to win it 35-27.
This was only the second year of the state championships, and the field was very narrow without district playoffs until 1992. Unfortunately, this single loss would cost the Ghosts a chance for the playoffs.
Home again the next week the Ghosts defeated the Pennridge Rams 34-0.
Due to the Jewish Holiday schedule changes an attractive slate of games beckoned me for Thursday September 28. I indicated in my notes that I chose the Abington at Bensalem game because, “I wanted to see that Ghost running game which is awesome.” This was something because the Bensalem Owls were coming in to the game 4-0, an attraction in itself. The Ghosts prevailed 28-8 and I noted that FB Gaskins and TB Wooden were very good, along with QB Tinker Harris and WR/return man Jason Hughes. I also mentioned that what I perceived as a “good defensive back”, Taz Orlina, was injured and didn’t play this night.
I plead totally guilty to being a “ball-watcher” and as a result, the offense and backs get the mention in my notes primarily. But I know for sure that one offensive lineman on this team is now the Ghosts’ present coach; Tim Sorber, who was an All-state offensive lineman, then at 6’3”, 275, and a senior in 1989.
Abington was home for the next three contests, and I did not get to Abington until the next season for the first time. Here they beat Truman 29-0; Pennsbury 30-29; and Norristown 14-6.
Now, the Abington-C B West game was in Doylestown the next week, and normally would have been a regular game for me. But 1989 was not a “typical” year for CB West. The Bucks’ were 4-3 coming in to the game, and I had seen two of their three losses earlier in the season. I figured it was the Ghosts’ time this year, and it was: 31-13. I believe this might have been the Bucks’ biggest loss margin in the 1987-1999 Pettine era that I followed them. Most times when the Bucks lost; it was by a narrow margin.
I opted for Council Rock at Neshaminy that night, won by Rock 10-7 with a 46-yard FG by Haag with about 6:40 remaining in the game. Defensive, not much scoring, but a good, even game.
Abington, at 7-1 would visit Crawford Stadium and a date with North Penn (1-7) for Friday night November 3. North Penn had been snake-bitten this season. Among their 7 losses were three one-point losses, 22-21, 13-12 and 8-7. I dined at my Hatfield buddy’s house and we went over to the field, mainly to see the Ghosts. I made no notes except that the Knights were up, and led for three-quarters of the game. Only in the fourth quarter did the Ghosts rise and eventually won the game 29-22. But my buddy and I did marvel at the great team the Ghosts had fielded this season.
I changed my original game intention for November 10 to see the Ghosts one more time. They were in Doylestown for C B East 6-3, and we thought this might be a good one. In a rare bit of nonsense my two buddies and I decided to predict the outcome of this one. We all picked Abington; I said 21-20, Buddy One said 35-14, and Buddy Two said 21-14. I made no further notes, but we decided to depart early with the score 21-7 Abington in the mid-fourth quarter. Incredibly CB East used two successful onsides kickoffs in the last 6 minutes for two scores. As I was not there at the end I do not know the dramatics of the final score which was Abington 21-19. But I had been only 1-point off on my predicted score!
The Cheltenham game was on Saturday November 18 and was won by Abington 21-6.
The Ghosts finished 10-1, but no playoffs due to the narrow parameters of the playoffs in the early days. Coatesville represented District One in 1989.
Additionally, the fact C B West had a non-typical year was another factor that would have allowed for the Ghosts to represent District 1. The Bucks’ finished 7-4, their lowest win season in the same 1987-1999 era I earlier mentioned. Neshaminy also was 7-4 in 1989 after they were the first-ever state 4A, District One representative in 1988.
Doug Moister was Abington Head Coach in 1989, in his 14th season as Head Coach. He would be there for 23 seasons, through the 1998 campaign. In addition to Sorber, Steve Gaskins and Tinker Harris also made All-state on the defensive side of the ball for this Abington team. And Junior Shawn Wooden, who would be All-state in his senior year in 1990, later went on to careers at Notre Dame and the Miami Dolphins 1996-2003.
The Ghosts have never reached the 10-1 pinnacle since 1989. In fact, after a 7-3-1 1990 tour, the Ghosts vaporized into 13 losing seasons out of the next 14. And the one winning season was only 6-5 in 1996. But, Tim Sorber and staff, with perhaps an uplift with the new stadium in 2005, revitalized the Ghosts to 9 consecutive winning seasons since then. And, the last six have been outstanding at 10-3; 8-3; 10-3; 10-2; 8-4; and 10-4; and have included six consecutive playoff appearances.
All history stats are courtesy of the fine Don Black high school football history publications or his fine website ePASports.com.
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