The A-train rolled through Newberry last Friday night and steamed rolled their way to a 35-6 victory. This week, county line rival Emerald (1-1) comes to Hite Stadium in a continuation of a series that has been played uninterrupted since 1996.
The Panthers hold a 17-7 all-time record versus the Vikings. Abbeville is currently enjoying a four game win streak against EHS. The Vikings have not found Hite Stadium to be very generous in years past. EHS has only won twice in the series history at ‘The Hite’, once in 2013 and prior to that in 2002. Last season AHS zipped and dashed all over the field and strolled their way to a 52-17 win at Frank Hill Stadium in Greenwood. A 3-8 record in 2018 led Emerald head coach Tim McMahon (11th season-63-57 overall) to go back to his roots and adopt a double wing, option style offense. Emerald has the make up to successfully execute the run heavy offense. A big athletic offensive line and speedy running backs are the key and EHS has both. #14 Zacoyeis Elmore is the junior quarterback that leads the offensive charge for the purple clad Vikings. #2 Zion Williams and #4 Demaris Morton, both also juniors get their fair share of carries. In fact, Emerald only has 10 seniors on this years team. The 3A Vikings handled 2A Ninety Six in their opener 23-0, but fell hard to a very talented 5A TL Hanna squad last week by a 40-7 score. Can the Vikings walk into Hite Stadium and beat the Panthers at their own game? The Panthers might have something to say about that.
The #1 ranked 2A Abbeville Panthers (1-0) had a topsy turvy start to the season. A lightning storm cancelled the opening game of the season in the 2nd quarter while leading Lincoln County 10-7. With the offense still trying to find the right formula, a road trip to Newberry last week answered some questions. A big move for the Panther coaching staff was sliding State Championship winning quarterback, senior JD Moore to wing back, and inserting junior Thomas Beauford into the QB spot. The dividends paid off almost immediately as JD Moore rushed for two touchdowns in his first start at RB. Coach Nickles said “We really just wanted to put a jolt into the offense. The way JD runs, and blocks and knows the offense, as good as he is in space, and he throws good too. But we wanted to get him more opportunities, more touches in space. It really did give us a spark. And JD is such a great leader on this team, he’s a team first guy and it really showed last Friday.”
Panthers offense looked to have found their stride. Part of that stride was the debut of #35 Martico Jackson. The junior running back burst through the Newberry defense twice for 68 yard touchdowns. Jackson ended up with 11 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns. The Panther offensive line, #72 Trai Jones, #61 Davis Sutherland, #62 Connor Nickles, #64 Davon Bowie, #56 De’Michael Johnson, along with tight end #84 Ean Laughlin opened up gaping holes for the Panther runners to the tune of 306 yards rushing at clip of 6.7 yards per carry.
Defensively the Panthers are quite stingy. They’ve given up 2 touchdown total on the year, they only allow opponents to rush for 63 yards per game and are holding offenses to a 12.5% third down conversion rate. The A-Town D is led by #15 Luke Evans at linebacker (15 tackles-1 tfl – 2 sacks-1 fumble recovery) #52 Carson Smith (14 tk – 2 tfl – 1 fr) and #17 Jhalyn Shuler (10 tk – 3 tfl). Along with monstrous defensive line contributors, #78 Ar’Darius ‘Bone’ Burton, #74 Demairis Hill, #75 Kedorian Howland and #50 Ami’Leon Mattison, the Panthers are primed and ready to put another dominate defensive performance together. #2 Titus Paul, #23 Coleton Grounsell and #24 Tatlain Brown will be used primarily in run support this week, although their pass coverage skills are improving week to week. Senior kicker #41 Dylan Beauford is perfect so far in field goals and extra points on the season and is averaging nearly 40 yards per punt. Beauford is also a weapon for the defense. Nearly every kickoff flies out of the back of the endzone, leaving Panther opponents having to drive 80 yards to score on almost every possession.
How will Friday play out? My guess is, quickly. With both teams concentrating on the run, the game clock will rarely stop. It will also be a game of strength versus strength. Run game versus run game. Big O-Lines versus Big D-Lines. Looks for a physical, knock down-drag out, bloody knuckle type of game. Kickoff is at 7:30pm, the weather should be perfect and remember there is a clear bag policy at Hite Stadium with no exceptions. As always….
God Bless and Go Panthers!