By: Sarah K Spencer, Index Journal
ABBEVILLE— In the midst of a season jam-packed with blowout wins, the Abbeville Panthers had a modest seven-point lead over the Liberty Red Devils in the second quarter. With seven minutes before halftime, the Panthers lined up about a foot away from their own end zone, too close for comfort to a safety, or handing the ball back to the Red Devils on a silver platter of good field position.
Instead, running back Jermaine Blackwell found a gap and lunged through it — fast. He ran the ball 99 yards for a touchdown, headed toward breathing room and an eventual 31-0 win against Liberty.
Quarterback Jamie Gray connected with Bryce Jackson on a 34-yard touchdown, tallying a 21-0 lead just before halftime. Kicker Dylan Beauford knocked through a 24-yard field goal in the third and Malik Leach tore 45 yards down the sideline for a touchdown in fourth quarter, with Abbeville’s defense finding some to stop Liberty each possession. Whether it was Sadarrian Terry jumping a route to snag an interception or a collective effort by linemen to stuff a fake field goal attempt, the Panthers’ defense smothered any scoring attempt.
“I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage, and that’s always important,” Abbeville coach Jamie Nickles said. “We gave up some plays, but in the end I though we played pretty solid defense all night long.”
The Panthers played balanced as usual, yielding 65 yards of total offense to the Red Devils while racking up 438 yards of total offense themselves. Liberty lost quarterback Nick Reeves to a shoulder injury in the first quarter and his replacement, Austin Huey, to a knee injury in the second.
Kevin Tabron and Austin Kemp rotated in and out in the second half, but the backups to the backup could not find a rhythm with the rest of the offense.
Abbeville missed a few big tackle-for-a-loss opportunities by sliding off Liberty ball carriers, which Nickles said will be a focus in practice next week, as well as other missed assignments or mental errors.
“We’ve got a lot to of work to do, and that’ll start on Monday,” Nickles said. “Fundamentals, I didn’t think we were as fundamentally sound as we had been during our seven week, non-region schedule… More missed blocks than anything.”
Liberty 0 0 0 0 – 0
Abbeville 0 21 3 7 – 31
A — T.J. Rogers 3 run (Dylan Beauford kick)
A — Jermaine Blackwell run (Beauford kick)
A — Bryce Johnson 34 pass from Jamie Gray (Beauford kick)
A — Beauford 24-yard field goal
A — Malik Leach 45 run
Rushing — Abbeville: Blackwell 21-190, Cortney Jackson 7-44, Malik Leach 2-42, Jamie Gray 7-34, Bryce Johnson 1-31, TJ Rogers 12-26, Lamar Oakley 1-3. Liberty: Kevon Tabron 11-43, Austin Huey 4-7, Shaun Karr 2-2, Seth Dover 1-0, Clay Lollis 3-2, Nick Reeves 2-0, Cavaugio Butler 7-2
Passing — Abbeville: Jamie Gray 3-7-70. Liberty: Austin Kemp 3-11-44-2, Austin Huey 0-3-1, Nick Reeves 0-2
Receiving — Abbeville: Bryce Johnson 1-34, Cortney Jackson 1-31, T.J. Rogers 1-5. Liberty: Michael Spruill 1-23, Cavaugio Butler 1-16, Cole Murphy 1-5.