I realize that I am one of the handful of folks that never really lets football season die. It’s a constant with me, I mean, it kind of has to be, as it’s part of my job. My thoughts are never too far away from rosters, starting line-ups, players leaving, players returning, road trips and schedules. This time of year usually gives me just enough of a football fix to tie me over through a grueling hot, and boring sports summer. Spring football practice started last Monday and as I watched a few practices stretched out over the last week or so I could feel the excitement and anticipation of the 2018 Panther football season brewing in my blood. I also had an opportunity to sit and talk with Abbeville head football coach Jamie Nickles and Panther Athletic Director and defensive coordinator Tad Dubose. I sat for about an hour, picking their brain and asking questions about the upcoming season and their thoughts on most everything.
“Spring practice is a really good time to evaluate some younger players. I gotta give Coach Nickels some credit, some
people go hog-wild during spring practice, but you’re not going to win a state championship in the spring. You get 10 days of contact, so however you wanna turn it. Rain got us one day last week and it ran us off the field one day too. We get to look at some players in some positions and places on the field and see how they take to that role. We try to develop some good depth. If we have a slot to fill in, let’s say the…nickleback role, well we can try some people in that area. Spring is really good for evaluations and gives the kids a little shot of confidence to ride into summer 7 on 7’s and weight lifting and all that.” Coach Dubose said.
Coach Nickels said “Ya know, I really like where we are right now. The kids have been energetic and hungry to get back out on the field. They’d play a game tomorrow, but we’re nowhere near ready to play yet. It’s fun to see the growth between spring and summer practice. Some kids really grow up in a couple of months when they know their are going to be counted on this fall. I really love our team this year. We’ve got some new pieces that I’m excited to get
plugged in and we’ve got some veterans that are going to be the leaders on this team.”
I asked the coaches what position group did they think would be the strength of this years team and both agreed that both offensive and defensive lines should be solid this season.
“We’ve got depth and good leadership across both lines. It all starts up front, so we’re excited to have guys like Jake (Hill) and Tre’ (Jones), Connor (Nickels) and (DeMichael) Johnson. Nate (Temple) and Carson (Smith) are back on the D-Line too.” Nickels continued. “We’ve got college scouts at every practice now watching these guys, and others too. We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.”
Another scenario that still has to play out is this years actual football schedule. Yes, I know it’s been done and posted and set in stone for a few months now. Not so fast my friend. Remember the whole uproar about re-alignment last summer? Well, the schools that got denied their appeal to stay put or move elsewhere in the re-alignment process has now embarked on what’s called an “Injunction”. That’s basically a fancy legal word meaning that they are still appealing the process and a whole new group of people will decide if things stay like they are now, or if we’ll revert back to the Regions that we played in for the last two years. So, by June 1st we will officially know the fate of our schedule. If things stay put, the Panthers will be in the Region with Batesburg, Fox Creek, Silver Bluff, Saluda and Ninety Six. If they decide to go back to the last re-alignment, the Panthers are again in a four team Region with Liberty, Southside Christian, and Ninety Six.
Spring is a time for figuring things out and getting organized. A lot of info will come out between now and kickoff in August. Keep an eye out for more summer schedules and football tid-bits as we near the start of the 2018 Football season. The Spring Game is scheduled for Thursday May 24th, at 6pm. The game is held at Hite Stadium and is free to the public. Coach Nickels will have a parent meeting before the game to get paper work filled out as well.
God Bless and Go Panthers!