For football junkies, July is one terribly awful month. Sure the weather calls for lake days, pool parties and beach trips, but the thought of football season being so close, yet so far away is brutal. The magazine racks are full of pre-season college and NFL football previews. The sports networks are beginning their annual “media days” and the “Talking Season” has officially begun. So to bridge the gap between now and August 3rd, which is the date of the WCTEL Kickoff Classic at Hite Stadium, we’ll begin our pre-season previews. Over the course of the next three weeks I’ll break down each game on the Panthers schedule, and give a hypothetical preview or prognostication as to how I see the games playing out. Let’s get started…
Week Zero at Lincoln County
Has there been a more physical match-up over the course of the last few years? The history, tradition and pride that these two teams take with them onto the field is evident from the opening kickoff. It’s like watching the Steelers and the Ravens just pound on each other. It’s big boy football at it’s best. The last time the Panthers traveled to historic Buddy Bufford Field, the Panthers and Red Devils played to a 7-7 tie. Coach Nickles described the game as a “blood bath” and a “physical beating”. Last season the Panthers won at home by a score of 28-14. Will we see the same kind of contest this year? Two sledge hammers pounding on one another until the other breaks, or gives up? You bet you will. Will Lincoln Co. be out for revenge? You bet they will. Can the Panthers match the physicality of old fashion smash-mouth football? You bet they can. In another slobber knocker, I’m taking the team with a big experienced offensive and defensive line. That team wears the A on their helmet. A little extra motivation might help spark the Panthers as well. A win will make Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles the winningest coach in school history.
Panthers 20 – Red Devils 17
Week One versus Newberry
Other than a couple jamborees and maybe a 7 on 7 tournament, Abbeville and Newberry have been somewhat strangers on football field. Newberry’s move to 3A in the last few re-alignments have taken them away from the A-Town schedule, yet this year they will meet for only the 7th time in school history. It’s the home opener for the Panthers in a non-region match-up that should provide some fireworks. Newberry finished 11-2 last season behind Head Coach Tyon Williams. I think the interesting match-up in this game will come down to the speed of the Panthers offense, and the size of the Newberry defense. Can the Panthers run around the Bulldogs, stretch them from sideline to sideline and wear them out as the game drags on? That’s my guess. The Panther defense won’t be seeing anything they won’t be prepared for and I can envision A-Town getting off to a 2-0 start.
Panthers 42 – Newberry 20
Week Two at Emerald
The Vikings are coming off of a season in which they won their region championship and played for the 3A Upperstate Championship. They are also coming off of a season in which they lost to Abbeville 56-21 inside historic Hite Stadium. It’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings handle losing so much of their offensive production from a year ago. Running backs Chamberlain and Settles are gone from a team that lined it up and ran it straight down the throats of most of their opponents. Tight End, Auburn commit Luke Deal grabs all of the head lines, but this Emerald team has more questions than answers. Can they be consistent offensively, and can they match the speed and physicality of the A-Town squad. Unfortunately for the Viking faithful, the answer to both questions is more than likely, NO. Abbeville’s personnel matches up very well against Emerald’s. Speed kills and when you can control the line of scrimmage as the Panthers can, that doesn’t bode well for the opponent. The Panthers move to 3-0 on the season after this one.
Panthers 40 Vikings 14
Check back next week as we preview the Southside Christian, Hartsville and Batesburg-Leesville games.
God Bless and Go Panthers!