Wilson Pickett sings a song called “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool Ya” and that’s exactly what comes to mind when thinking about Friday nights contest between the #1 ranked, back to back 2A State Champion Abbeville Panthers (4-0) and the Clinton Red Devils (1-2). Why that song? Well, looking at Clinton’s record this season, and looking at their record over the last decade, one could draw a conclusion that the Panthers could merely just go through the motions and take home a victory this coming Friday night. But, as the Sunshine Scooter Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend”. Don’t let the records fool ya. The Clinton High Red Devils are a big, physical, smashmouth football team who is out to prove a point and to, dare I say, shock the world. Last week Clinton won their first game of the season and they did it behind a stout defense who collected 3 interceptions in the game and turned them all into points. #5 Mark Wise is a senior running back and linebacker for the Red Devils and against Aiken, Wise rushed for 255 yards and 5 touchdowns. A very big offensive line leads the way for the Red Devils who will try to grind out the clock, and keep the speedy, ultra talented Abbeville offense off of the field. With both teams using the running game as their bread and butter, this game may not take two whole hours to complete.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are rolling along as expected. A state best, regardless of classification, 27 game unbeaten streak is on the line. The Panthers are wrapping up a three game home stand before taking the show on the road next week. In fact, if you want to see the Panthers at home, you might want to come Friday night as it will be the last home game for the Panthers until October 20th. There is some history between these two teams. Clinton is one of the few teams that hold a win advantage over the Panthers. Abbeville is 8-11 all time versus the Red Devils. Abbeville has won the last three meetings, and last years game was a nail-biting 34-31 win for the Panthers. The average score of all 19 contests is 20.1 – 10.8 in favor of Clinton. The Panthers and Red Devils played 12 times between 1956 and 1971 and did not play again until 2002. This is the 20th all-time meeting between the two schools.
The Panthers are led on the ground by a committee of running backs. Rapley (42car-329yds-4td) C.Jackson (33-299-5) B. Jackson (34-258-3) are all averaging over 6 yards per carry. The Panthers have found success through the air this season as well. Bryce Jackson is completing over 65% of his passes for 231yds and 4 touchdowns. JaBryan “Dooley” Sanders caught all of Jackson’s touchdown tosses and is averaging 21 yards per catch this season. The Panther offensive line has been dominate and this group has “clicked” since jamboree season. The Panther defense has taken a bend but don’t break approach this season. Led by Malik Leach (33 tackles – 13 assisted tackles) Dee Graham (19 tackles – 18 assists – 1 sack) Tay Rayford (16 tackles – 6 assists – 6 passes broken up) and Nate Temple (15 tkls – 12 assists – 5 TFL and 2 sacks). This group will look to stop the Clinton ground game and exert their dominance over the bigger 3A school. The Panthers are +5 in the turnover margin this season. They’ve collected 7 turnovers while only turning it over twice.
The gates will open at 6:30pm Friday night at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field with kickoff at 7:30. Get there early, and cheer on these Panthers as they continue their march toward greatness.
God Bless and Go Panthers.