Well folks, this is one of the weeks that you look forward to the moment the schedule comes out every spring. This game has been circled on the calendar since the melee that ensued at Larry Campbell Stadium-Buddy Bufford Field last September. The Panthers and the Red Devils clashed in a 7-7 tie and to say it was a physically fought contest would be like saying that grandma’s biscuits and gravy are just “okay”. It was a war. The pride, the history and tradition of both heavily decorated programs shone through in the grit and viciousness in which both teams played. Are you ready for round two? You better be, because it’s happening at 7:30pm this coming Friday September 8th at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field.
The Lincoln County Red Devils are a Class A team situated just across the state line in Lincolnton, Georgia. That state line and the Savannah River are just about the only thing that separates the Panthers and the Red Devils. Both have overflowing trophy cases. The Red Devils have won 14 Georgia State Championships. Eleven of those have former head coach Larry Campbell’s name on them. The Red Devils are the winningest team in Class A in Georgia High School Football history. LC has done more with less, moreso than any other team, maybe in the history of high school football. The Red Devils are on a State Championship drought however. It’s been 10 seasons since they last hoisted a trophy (2006) but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been really really good. The respect between both schools are evident and it shows on the field.
This season the Red Devils are 1-1 on the season and ranked 7th in Georgia Class A. Head Coach Kevin Banks spent 19 years as an assistant under Larry Campbell and was handed the keys to the Ferrari before the 2014 season when Campbell retired. Banks is 24-10-1 as the head honcho at LC and he’s chomping at the bit to meet the lofty expectations of the Red Devil faithful. You’ll see some familiar faces from last season’s game as Javon Reid is the starting quarterback for the Red Devils again this season. Last year the dual threat Reid rushed and passed for over 1,000 yards each. Jamal Norman is back in the backfield for LC. He has 168 yards on 27 carries this season so far. And, one of, if not the most famous names in Lincoln Co. football history has reemerged on the LC sideline. Gerard Hearst, son of LC, UGA and San Francisco 49er great Garrison Hearst is a running back on this years team. He has 12 carries for 54 yards so far this season. Can the Panther defense shut down the physical, smashmouth Red Devil attack in front of their home crowd? Can the Panther offense keep clicking against an equally fast and physical LC defense?
The Panthers will start by doing what they do, and that’s running the football. Pick your poison. Whomever gets the carry out of the Panther backfield this season can take it to the house at any moment. #22 Courtney Jackson leads all Panther rushers with 26 carries for 271 yards and 5 touchdowns. #8 Junior Rapley has 29 carries for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns and quarterback Bryce Jackson has 25 carries for 172 yards and 1 score. Here is where the pick your poison part comes into play. Defenses that play Abbeville must choose whether to commit an extra defender to account for the run, or leave an extra defender to keep an eye on JaBryan “Dooley” Sanders who has been the absolute wow factor the Panthers this season. Sanders has been the fastest person the in stadium each of the first three weeks of the season. Evident in his 5 catches for 142 yards and 4 td’s. His 70 yard punt return for a touchdown versus Emerald had Hite Stadium on their feet as well. He also has had 3 carries for 49 yards and touchdown rushing the ball this year. The Panthers are big, fast and physical. How will they stack up against another elite team in Lincoln County? Game time can’t get here fast enough.