This season has been a blur. It seems like yesterday it was August 17th and Panther Nation was swelling with excitement about making a trip to Lincoln County for the season opener. Fast forward 10 weeks later and Panther Nation is again swelling with excitement about the possibility of a 27th Region Championship, a #1 seed, and homefield advantage in the playoffs. The Panthers have held on to their #1 pre-season ranking in AA for the entire duration of the regular season. Now the Panthers are ready to begin the third and final phase of their year. Championship Season. It all starts this Friday night, on Homecoming, as the boys from A-Town will welcome into Hite Stadium their region rival. The Ninety Six Wildcats. Dating back to 1951 the Panthers are 44-13-1 versus Ninety Six. Abbeville currently holds a five game win streak over the Wildcats. The longest win streak in the rivalry was when the Panthers reeled off 10 straight from 1970-1981. Ninety Six’s longest win streak in the series started in 2012 when they won 4 in a row (12,13 and twice in 14). Abbeville and Ninety Six have played against each other seven times since 2014. They faced each other twice last season with Panthers taking both games (54-16 & 42-7). Two teams, in close proximity, who are very familiar with each other, usually makes for a fun spirited game.
The Wildcats are 8-1 on the season, 3-1 in region play and ranked 6th in AA. They were undefeated until last week when they dropped a headscratcher to Silver Bluff 17-0. The Wildcats have shown no mercy this season. Regularly dropping 40, 50, 60+ points on its opponents. Over the course of the season the Wildcats are scoring 36.5 points per game on average while allowing 23.4 points per game on defense. Offensively the Wildcats are led by dynamic dual threat quarterback Kentavius Williams. When he’s in the game, Ninety Six is a different team. Explosive, dynamic, thrilling. Insert any adjective you’d like to insert. He does it all. Runs, throws, returns kicks, plays defense. There were two occasions this season when Williams didn’t play the majority of the snaps, a 12-0 win versus Dixie (suspension) and pieces of the game versus Silver Bluff last week (injury). Word out of Ninety Six is that Williams is healthy and expected to play in Friday nights game. You wouldn’t expect any less from that caliber of an athlete in a game of this magnitude.
The Panthers are sitting in the drivers seat. Undefeated on the season, and protecting a 29 game home winning streak, and a 16 game overall win streak. Wire to wire unanimously ranked #1 in AA, the Panthers are the definition of an elite program whose performances have matched their accolades. On the season the Panthers are out scoring their opponents 373-72. Which is an average score of 46.6 to 9. Abbeville has the #1 ranked scoring offense in AA and the 3rd ranked scoring defense. The Panthers are +18 in turnover margin this year, giving up just three turnovers on the season while creating 22 takeaways. The stingy Panther defense has allowed their opponents to convert 15 of 91 third downs (16.5%) and gives up just over 200 yards per game. Tyreke Campbell is your new leading tackler with 57 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Carson Smith (54tk-9tfl-3.5sk) Luke Evans (52-3tfl) David Cobb (46-4-2 ints) and Nate Temple (46-8-5.5) are also key contributors on a defense that could go down as one of the best to wear the A.
On the other side of the ball, most nights it’s like watching a garnet and gold blur reminiscent of a NASCAR race. Ball carriers zipping up and down the field with ease. Ask any of the numerous backs on the team and they’ll immediately give credit to the Panther offensive line. The big uglies up front have dominated the line of scrimmage in every game so far this season. Trai Jones, Jake Hill, Connor Nickles, DaDa Bowie and DeMichael Johnson have paved the way for the Abbeville offense to average 346.9 rushing yards per game. That’s 8.8 yards per carry. JD Moore is still the clubhouse leader with 81 carries for 741 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s complimented by a bevy of running backs. Courtney Jackson(62-627-11) Dominick Washington(55-498-3) and Ja’Bryan Sanders(36-383-7) get the honor of leading the top ranked offense in AA football.
It’s been a fun season to this point. There’s still a lot of football to be played and a few championships on the table, just waiting for someone to earn them. It’s homecoming, it’s a region championship, a top ten match-up, versus rivals. This is what football is all about. Let’s pack out Hite Stadium Friday night. Gates open at 6:30. As always…
God Bless and Go Panthers!
A big congratulations are in order for our very own Nate Temple and Courtney Jackson. Both have been invited to play in the Shine Bowl on December 15th. These are two great young men who will #ReptheA on and off the field with class, dignity and Panther pride. Congrats to you two from all of Panther Nation.