The fastest two months of the year is with out a doubt high school football season. Here we are, two regular season games left on the schedule and the 2019 edition of the Abbeville Panthers have aced every test set before them to this point. All of the summer workouts, 7 on 7 camps, spring and fall practice, all of that work has led the garnet and gold clad brethren on the cusp of another region championship. But, there’s still a lot of work to do before they can taste the fruits of their labor. The biggest hurdles are still ahead, the toughest tests still await. Hite Stadium will be electric this Friday night as your #1 ranked Abbeville Panthers try to secure their 29th region championship against a very familiar, very formidable foe, the #5 ranked Saluda Tigers.
Saluda (7-1, 3-0) has been what everyone thought they would be this time of year. A real contender. Since the pre-season magazines, and newspaper articles began circulating in August, Saluda has been mentioned among the best in the state, regardless of classification. Their bread and butter is a high flying, air raid offense that has the capability to light up the scoreboard at any given time. And while no one has had a huge lead on them this year, because of their offense, they are never o
ut of a game no matter the score. Noah Bell is the name everyone knows, and for good reason. He’s the all-region, all-state, SC Mr. Football candidate quarterback with a cannon left arm and an array of speedy wide receivers at his disposal. Bell has completed 134 of 208 attempts for 2,007 yards and 29 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions this year. #7 Dallon Wright is his main target (45-819-13) while #5 Jervon Whitt (23-480-10) isn’t far behind. #16 Zane Bryant (27-372-2) and #3 Jabari Baker (18-172-3) are also complementary pieces to the air attack that averages 40.4 points per game. Bell has a quick release and it’s maximized with tons of fast screens, slants, check downs and swing passes to the running back #22 Montrevious Baker, who has 58 carries for 433 yards this year and 15 catches for 117 yards. The purple Tigers have made it to at least the 3rd round of the playoffs for the last 4 years. This will be the 47th meeting between the Panthers and Tigers. Abbeville holds a 31-15 all time record in the series.
Abbeville is accustomed to big games. They are put on upset alert week in and week out, yet they continue to do what they do best, and that’s play a physical brand of hardnosed football. The Panthers are protecting some impressive streaks. The states longest winning streak is at stake (29). The Panthers also have a program best home winning streak (38) and a program best region win streak up for grabs (18). They’ve done it all with a hardnosed, blue collar approach to the game. The A-Bone offense is producing 30 points per game, while the defense sports the #2 scoring
defense in all of AA football giving up just 7 points per game. In all games played this season, Abbeville has only allowed 8 touchdowns on defense. The Panthers will again try to keep control of the game by chewing up yards, and clock with a bruising ground game. The four headed monster of JD Moore, Martico Jackson, Tyrell Haddon and Cruz Temple have combined for 2,432 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns this year. They average 7.3 yards per rush and have helped a huge, yet athletic offensive line pound opponents into submission game after game. The Panther defense has put the offense in a good position numerous times this season as well. They are +9 in the turnover margin, meaning they have caused 9 more turnovers than they have given up throughout the year. The combo of Luke Evans, Jhalyn Shuler, and Carson Smith have totaled 168 tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 9 sacks collectively. The Panther secondary will have it’s biggest test of the year. Jeremiah Lomax, Coleton Grounsell, Titus Paul, James Haddon, Quadarius Guillebeaux and others average a little more than one interception per game. Their mixing of coverages, communication
on the field and fierce attacking of the ball is what they hang their hat on.
This game has huge playoff seeding implications. A win Friday night means the Panthers virtually have home field throughout the playoffs. There’s no love loss in this match up either. The Panthers have won a series best eight in a row versus the Tigers. Saluda has only scored 20 or more points versus the Panthers three times in the last 26 years. Can the Panthers grind out another win against another high flying spread team? Does Saluda have the recipe for an upset inside Hite Stadium? The gates open at 6:30. Better get there early, as seats and standing room will be at a premium. It’s championship season Panther fans. See you at the Hite! As always…
God Bless and Go Panthers!