By: By DAVID ROBERTS, Index Journal
Abbeville’s defense gave Ninety Six all it could handle and then some Saturday night in a 26-7 win to open the season.
Quarterback Jamie Gray tossed two touchdowns, Cortney Jackson ran for one and the Panthers limited the Wildcats to 90 yards on 53 plays. Ninety Six’s lone score came on a 72-yard interception return by Kentavious Williams who–playing both offense and defense–accounted for nearly half of Ninety Six’s offensive production.
“I felt like I was in an NFL divisional matchup?the New York Giants versus the Dallas Cowboys,” Abbeville coach Jamie Nickles said. “Two foes that know each other really well. And that’s what I saw on the field. I think both teams played hard, and I feel very fortunate to come away with a victory.”
Abbeville opened up the game with a 23-play drive that spanned 55 yards but came away with nothing. The Panthers faced three fourth downs but could not convert on the final fourth-down attempt and turned the ball over on downs.
Ninety Six’s ensuing drive stalled and Abbeville capitalized on a shanked punt, scoring on a 25-yard touchdown run by Cortney Jackson.
The Wildcats couldn’t get out of their own way the next series and had to punt again.
Abbeville started its next drive with favorable field position, but Gray was forced to watch as Williams stepped in front of the receiver for a 72-yard pick-six.
Abbeville and Ninety Six traded chances before halftime, but the Wildcats kept Abbeville’s offense in check for most of the first half. The Panthers also had what appeared to be a sure touchdown reception bounce off a receiver and a long touchdown pass called back on a false start in the first half.
“I think we surprised them defensively,” Ninety Six coach Mike Doolittle said. “We got after them; we had a plan. We got after the running backs and the quarterback. We had opportunities but we didn’t capitalize.”
Two touchdown receptions in the third quarter by Bryce Jackson gave the Panthers some separation, putting Abbeville up 20-7. Jackson finished the night with 118 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions.
Knowing Ninety Six defensive lineman Saquon Garner would be lurking between the tackles all game, Nickles was forced to look elsewhere for offensive production than up front.
“They have the Garner kid and he’s all-world?he’s outstanding,” Nickles said. “But their other defensive linemen are good as well. And I think their defense played outstanding. We’ve got some work to do offensively but that’s normal this time of year.”
The Panthers found it through the air and outside the tackles, as Gray finished 12-for-18 with 142 yards passing.
Abbeville tacked on a 30-yard interception return by Sterlin Agnew in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to ice the cake.
Though this game did not count toward either team’s region record, Ninety Six will host Abbeville Oct. 29 in a region matchup to end the regular season.
ABBEVILLE–Jamie Gray 12-18-1, 142;
NINETY SIX–Evan Keller 7-23, 56;
ABBEVILLE–Cortney Jackson 14-55-1;
TJ Rogers 16-43
JR Rapley 13-41
Jamie Gray 8-9
NINETY SIX–Kentavius Williams 13-22
Even Keller 8-10
Rytavis Brown 2-0
SCORE BY QUARTER
Abbeville 26, Ninety Six 7
A — Jackson 25 run (kick)
N — Williams 72 interception return (kick)
A — Jackson 6 pass from Gray (kick)
A — Jackson 45 pass from Gray (kick no good)
A — Agnew 30 interception return (kick no good)