Hite Stadium will be open for business on Friday night. It’s the home opener for your Abbeville Panthers as they welcome in the 3A Newberry Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are coached by legendary Head Coach Phil Strickland. He’s been around the block and has produced great team after great team for the last 31 years. Strickland has coached at Ridge Springs-Monetta, Brooklyn Cayce, Batesburg-Leesville, Gaffney and now Newberry. His 319-99 overall career record speaks for itself. His teams have played for eight state championships and won five of those. In 31 years his teams have only posted two losing seasons. Newberry is coming off of a 10-2 record last year. They did not play in Week Zero, so this is their first regular season game of the year.
The Panthers and Bulldogs have not met since 2013. That game ended with the Panthers losing 14-0. This is the seventh meeting all time between the Panthers and Bulldogs. In fact, the Panthers have a 2-4 overall record against Newberry. One of the few teams that the Panthers have an all-time losing record against. The last Panther win in the series was a 38-27 win in October of 2012.
Newberry is a big, physical team. They want to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball. In the preseason they were playing a lot of “I-Formation” sets on offense. They can also line up with four wide receivers and throw the ball if they have to. With nearly 900 students, they have a good pool of players to choose from. #1 Josh Mathis is a Senior Wide Receiver that gets a lot of attention. The same can be said for #2 Zymere Epps. It will be an interesting match-up watching the Panthers defensive backs and the Newberry wide outs Friday night. #20 KT Robinson is the work horse at running back for the Bulldogs. A senior heavy offensive and defensive line will be a good test for the Panthers.
As for the Panthers, they are going to do what they do. And that’s a heavy dose of the run game. Last week versus Lincoln Co the Panthers ran up and down the field at will. They rushed for 348 yards on 41 carries. That’s an 8.5 yard per rush average. JD Moore led all rushers with 10 carries for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dominick “The Bus” Washington averaged 15.8 yards per carry. He had 95 yards on 6 carries and a touchdown. Courtney Jackson added 50 yards on 9 carries and two touchdowns as well. The talent is evident and plentiful for the Panthers. The Panthers will also be protecting a 26 game home win streak. They have not lost at home since October 17th 2014 to Batesburg-Leesville. This particular game will be won or lost on the line of scrimmage. Newberry will put much bigger, faster and stronger athletes on the field than what the Panthers saw last week. That means that the offensive and defensive lines are going to have their hands full. Can the Panthers dominate the line of scrimmage versus a much bigger team? Friday’s game should be a good one.
Kickoff is at 7:30, and Abbeville School District has implemented a ‘Clear Bag Policy’ for all events in the district. Get there a little earlier than usual in case there are delays at the gates with the new security policies in place. And as always….
God Bless and Go Panthers.