The 2018 season kicked off Week Zero on August 17th. Rain, hurricanes, flooding. It’s been a tumultuous season, schedule-wise. Bye weeks, Thursday night games, cancelled games, extra weeks added. Weeks where practices were limited, or non-existent altogether. Through all of the ups and downs, the extreme heat, the relentless rain, and now the cold November nights. Here we are. The Upper State Championship game. Forty-three teams in AA began this season with hopes of playing this coming Friday night, yet only two remain in the Upstate. One, the grizzled veteran who has seen it all, withstood it all and overcame all obstacles time and time again. The other, a well oiled machine, filled with talent, desire and dreams of upending the defending champs. Who will prevail? Will it be the vets with experience, savvy and tenaciousness on their side? Or will it be the newcomers, who want to stake their claim as the perennial powerhouse program in the Upstate?
The Southside Christian Sabres (11-2) are no stranger to big games. They won the Class A-Division 1 State Championship in 2015. The next season they were moved into the AA classification. This season is the deepest playoff run they’ve made since joining AA. Their first three playoff opponents all came from Region 2, the Region that Abbeville plays in, and won in the regular season. The Sabres defeated Silver Bluff (35-7) in round one, Ninety Six (33-15) in round two, and last week SSC beat Saluda (34-21) to punch their ticket to the Upper State title game. The Panthers and Sabres have already met once this season. A 43-28 Abbeville win in Week 3 of the season was a back and fourth contest until late in the game. SSC outgained Abbeville in that contest 482-480. Mostly behind the arm of stud QB JW Hertzberg. In the previous contest Hertzberg threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns. The junior signal caller has tossed the ball for 2,153 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. The balanced offensive attack of SSC is one of the big reasons they have been so successful this season. Running back #44 Mallory Pickney (6’0″ 215lb) could start on 95% of the teams in the state. He runs behind a massive offensive line that opens run -lanes and protects Hertzberg very well. This will sound like a broken record, but defensively, the Sabres are big, fast and physical. They are everything they’re advertised to be. The leader is still four year starter #42 JR Schroeder (6’1″ 215lbs). This team will hit you all night and try to dictate the tempo of the game. Their defensive line is big and fast, their defensive backfield is solid and plays aggressively. This is a team that is really good at every level on both sides of the ball. You don’t make it this far on luck. If you are playing football this week, you deserve to be there because you are a very good football team. And SSC is all of that and then some.
The Abbeville Panthers (12-0) have hammered their way through the playoffs thus far. Physicality has been the name of the game and they’ve flexed their muscle all season. The numbers are staggering. The win streaks are well documented. The rushing numbers, the sacks, the wins, it all paints a nice picture of how they’ve reached this point in the season. But, how have they really got this far. Ask any senior on the team and they’ll tell you. Brotherhood. Community. Love. That’s what it all boils down to. This senior class is 52-3-1 since they stepped foot on Abbeville High campus. The three year starters are 40-1-1 over their career and they have three big shiny rings to applaud
their efforts. A big majority of the guys on this team have played together for nearly 10 years already. While playing in the rec league playoffs, or the Rotary Bowl, these guys dreamed of one day wearing the A, suiting up in Garnet and Gold and walking down the aisle at The Hite. This Senior class never lost a game at Hite Stadium. They’ve never lost a playoff game either. This is a team of brothers with one goal, one mission and one destination in mind. From day one, minute one of this season, these Seniors have had one mindset, and winning wasn’t enough for them. They want to be remembered as the best…ever. This Senior class has history, and a legacy that they want to leave behind. Some laughed at the notion, saying it was just another lofty, unattainable goal. But within the walls of AHS athletic building, they believe it. They want it, and they know what they’ll have to do to achieve it. They also know that ten plus years of playing together is almost over. There are only eight quarters left in this season and the 2018 Abbeville Panthers want to finish it out like they started. Playing for their brothers.
Kickoff is set for 7:30pm at Sabre Stadium – 2211 Woodruff Rd. Simpsonville, SC.
And to the last folks leaving town Friday night, cut off the lights.
God Bless and Go Panthers!