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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · 2017 AA State Champions


Dynasty. That’s the adjective that is being used after the Abbeville Panthers won their third consecutive AA State Championship, and rightfully so. The boys from A-Town endured a physical, knock down, drag out slobberknocker of a game Friday night at Charlie W Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College in Columbia. Head C

Athletic Director and defensive coordinator Tad Dubose celebrates a 3rd straight state title
Athletic Director and defensive coordinator Tad Dubose celebrates a 3rd straight state title.

oach Jamie Nickles, choking back tears with five or six television cameras in his face, described his team as having a “heart of a champion”. No truer words have been said. Staring at a 7-0 deficit, after giving up a punt return for a touchdown, late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers decided that their season was not over, and they were not going out in any other way, than a champion. The Panthers found a way to get speedster Ja’Bryan “Dooley” Sanders the ball on a reverse and flipped the field position, on their way to the first offensive touchdown of the game. A fumbled kickoff recovery on the ensuing kickoff, followed by a 26 yard sprint by Junior Rapley for a touchdown, put the game away. The Bamberg defense grabbed all of the headlines leading into the game. Only allowing 79 points for the entire season, they were without a doubt the best defense the Panthers had to play all season. However, the Panther defense overshadowed the Red Raider defenders in Friday’s Championship bout. The Panther defense allowed only 89 total yards and pitched a shutout. By a 14-7 score, the seniors on this 100th season of Panther football etched their name in the history books by becoming the first class at AHS to ever win three straight State Championships. The numbers that this class has put together is staggering.

 

Through their three year state championship run, the Panthers have collected a 40-3-1 overall record. The Panthers have not lost to another AA team since a loss to Strom Thurmond in 2015. This group of Panthers have also won 15 straight playoff games, again another school record. They have defended their home field as well. The last time that the scoreboard in Hite Stadium didn’t reflect a Panther win was October 17th 2014. That’s a streak of 26 consecutive home games without a loss.

As a program, the Panthers won their 5th State Championship in the last 7 years. The Panthers are tied for 2nd place with Dillon for all-time playoff wins (82). The Panth

 

The front page of the Index Journal from Saturday Dec. 2, 2017
The front page of the Index Journal from Saturday Dec. 2, 2017

ers now have NINE Football State Championships which ranks them 3rd all-time in the state regardless of classification. Only Byrnes(11) and Lake View (10) have more championships. The Panthers won their 25th Region Championship this season, which ranks them 5th all-time in the state and the Panthers finished with a 14-1 overall record giving them their 28th 10+ win season, which is good enough for 2nd most all-time in the state. Head Coach Jamie Nickles won his 5th State Championship as head coach of the Panthers. The win ties Nickles with Hall of Famer, the late Dennis Botts with 147 wins, the most in school history. The win also moved Nickles into a 4th place tie in all-time state title wins in the history of South Carolina High School Football. One word can sum up the state of the Panther program.

 

Elite.

The Panthers, as you can see have been rich in history and tradition for many years. 100 to be exact. This group of seniors upheld the winning tradition of Abbeville football, and raised the bar to a new level of expectation. It’s been a pleasure covering this fine group of young men and coaches all season long. It’s sad to see this journey come to an end, but what a way to go out. Back to Back to Back State Champions has a nice ring to it. We are only 256 days until we kickoff the 2018 season, Week Zero at Lincoln County and begin the march for that pinky ring.

Stay tuned for more AHS sports coverage all year long. Also, a big thank you for reading our coverage. Since the beginning of football season atownpanthers.com has received over 12,000 reads. We appreciate all of the dedicated readers and fans near and far. Until next time…

God Bless and Go Panthers!


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · State Championship Game Preview


Here we are. The 15th and final game of the season. The game we’ve all hoped for. The game the players have worked their tails off for. The ultimate prize in high school football awaits the winner. The 2017 AA State Championship Game will be played Friday December 1st at 5pm between the Bamberg-Ehrhardt Red Raiders and your Abbeville Panthers.

The Red Raiders are making their 10th State Championship game appearance. They have two state championship wins. The first coming in 1963 and the last was in 1990. The Red Raiders have went to, and lost the title game in 64′,73′,74′,75′,89′,10′ and most B-Erecently in 2014. The owner of 10 AA Lowerstate Championships the Red Raiders are no stranger to success. Head Coach Kevin “Butch” Crosby has been at the helm of the Red Raiders for 10 seasons and has collected a 105-24 record. Coach Crosby has taken his Bamberg team to at least the Lowerstate Championship game in 6 of his 10 seasons. This season the Red Raiders are 13-1 on the season. A lone 12-0 loss to Scott’s Branch is the only smear on an otherwise stellar season. B-E has also played in a couple squeakers this season. A 7-0 overtime win in week zero versus Woodland and another overtime win, 27-21 versus Batesburg-Leesville shows that this B-E team knows how to find a way to win. After all, they wouldn’t still be playing this time of year if they didn’t know how to win. The Red Raiders hang their hat on their defense. They’ve pitched six shutouts this season, holding Woodland, Edisto, Silver Bluff, Barnwell, Allendale-Fairfax, and Carver’s Bay all scoreless. The real eye opener was the shutout of Carver’s Bay, who at the time had the state’s #1 scoring offense. The Red Raiders defense has given up on average 5.6 points per game. That’s a total of 79 points, over 14 games, all season. Impressive. The B-E offense scores an average of 27.1 points per game. They mix in the run with the pass, a balanced attack, mostly all out of a spread, shotgun formation.

The back to back defending AA State Champs are chasing history. This senior class has played in more games already (57) than any other class in school history. The Panthers players and coaches are trying to become the first team ever at AHS to win three State Championships in a row. The Panthers are 8-3 all-time in State Championship games. The wins, which are on display inside Hite Stadium came in 71′,81′,91′,96′,10′,11′,15′ &

Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles leads the Panthers to victory. Pic by Shawn Knox Images
Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles leads the Panthers to victory. Pic by Shawn Knox Images

16′.  The Panthers fell short in 2000 to Silver Bluff, 2002 to Carver’s Bay, and a three-peat fell short in 2012 to Bishop England. The Panthers, like their opponents are 13-1 on the season. The lone loss was a 28-21 game to Hartsville, who is playing for the AAAA State Championship on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Panthers are led by head coach Jamie Nickles, who in his 14th season has amassed a 146-39-1 overall record. A win would tie him with Hall of Fame coach, the late Dennis Botts for the all-time wins record at Abbeville High. Coach Nickles has coached his alma mater to a 35-7 playoff record, including a 4-1 State Championship game record. The Panthers have won 14 consecutive playoff games dating back to 2014. In fact, AHS is the 3rd winningest team, in the entire state, regardless of classification when it comes to playoff wins (81-31). Only Lake View and Dillon have won more playoff games than the Panthers. Friday marks the 12th State Championship game appearance for the Panthers, as they close out their 100th season of football.

The Panthers offense has grabbed most of the headlines this season. Senior Quarterback Bryce Jackson, a College of Charleston baseball commit, has been efficient rushing and passing this season. Jackson has passed and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards each this season. The real stat that matters is turnovers. Jackson has only thrown 2 interceptions this season, both versus Hartsville, and he hasn’t lost a fumble. A sign of a good quarterback is one that keeps possession of the ball, and Jackson does that very well. Jr. Rapley has been a man on a mission. His drive and determination to be the best of the best has been a blessing to this team. With over 1,500 yards of total offense and 18 total touchdowns, Rapley has been the focus of opposing defenses as of late. Using Rapley as a decoy has been as beneficial to the Panther offense as when he carries the ball. The Panthers are much more than just Jackson and Rapley however. The entire offensive line has been solid all season. Nickles, Hill, Stone, Jones and Lewis have the mainstays on the offensive line this season and a big reason to the overall success of this team. The Panthers offense has averaged 37.7 points per game this season. Defensively the Panthers are giving up 15 points per game. Speed and tenacity have been the calling card of the A-Town defense. A speedy linebacker corps and defensive backs that can run with anybody have led to some big hits, big turnovers and key stops throughout the season. Malik Leach and Dee Graham have been trading the leading tackler title most of the season. Both have administered over 130 tackles on the season. Nate Temple, and Gang TackleCarson Smith have been key defensive line contributors, with Tay Rayford and Tyrese Paul providing the aforementioned speed on the back end. David Cobb leads the team with 3 of their total 11 interceptions. The Panther defense has faced a number of different offenses all season, and stood toe to toe with the best of them. If speed kills, this A-Town team is a group of assassins.

So what will happen when the Panthers and Red Raiders square off at Charlie W Johnson Stadium Friday night? Your guess is as good as mine. I do feel like Abbeville’s offense vs. Bamberg’s defense will be the major storyline. Can the Panthers put up points on the best defense in the state? Has B-E seen the speed that A-Town will roll out onto the field? This one is hard to call. I do know this. The players are well aware of what is at stake. A three peat and etching their names in the history books forever, is all they are focused on. It should be a real hard hitting, slobber knocker. See ya in Columbia!

Get your tickets at the front office of Abbeville High until 3pm on Thursday and until 10am on Friday. Tickets are $10 and they only accept cash. No parking passes are available this year. The parking lots open at 12 noon Friday, and the gates to the stadium will open at 4pm. If you can’t make the game, WZLA radio 92.9fm will have the play by play action for you. Coverage starts at 4pm.

God Bless and Go Panthers.

 


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Upperstate Championship Preview


Abbeville is rich in history and tradition. That’s not exactly a bold statement or a new revelation. Just as sure as you’ll eat turkey and dressing on Thanksgiving, it’s become almost a safe bet that on the morning before you stuff your face, the Panther coaching staff will be orchestrating their yearly walk through inside Hite Stadium. That is good news for Panther players and fans alike, because that means that you’re playing for an Upperstate Championship. That is the case again this season, as the 12-1 Abbeville Panthers will host the 12-1 Saluda Tigers for the chance to play for the State Championship.

That last sentence should sound familiar. This will mark the 3rd consecutive season that the Upperstate Championship game will come down to a battle between the Panthers and the Tigers. Abbeville has won the previous two meetings 36-14 in 2015, and 21-16 last season. It’s a remarkable feat, the same two teams meeting for a chance to play for it all, for three straight years. It’s so rare that it’s never happened in the 100 year history of Abbeville football. This will be the 19th Upperstate Championship appearance for the Panthers since 1950 and the 7th for the Tigers in the same time frame.

Saluda has won 12 straight games this season after dropping their opener in Week Zero to Strom Thurmond 35-6. The Tigers cruised to a perfect 5-0 region record and captured the Region 3-AA championship and a #1 seed in the playoffs. The Tigers, led by head coach Stewart Young (36-14 overall record) in his 4th season has become a mainstay in the playoff conversation as of late. The Tigers are averaging 33.3 points per game while giving up 16.5 points per game defensively. Sophomore quarterback Noah Bell, a lefty, gets a lot of the attention with his dual threat skill set. However, the Saluda defense is the calling card of this team. Big, fast and physical are the words that Abbeville head coach Jamie Nickles used to describe the Tiger defense. The Tigers found their way to the Upperstate Championship game by defeating Pageland-Central 24-21 in round one. They beat rival Ninety Six 28-14 in the second round and knocked off Lee Central 30-26 last week in the Quarterfinals. They are now tasked with stopping the vaunted A-Bone offense and a Panther defense that is playing it’s best ball of the season.

The Panthers and Tigers are no strangers, not only in the playoffs, but they were once

Jermaine Blackwell out runs defenders on his way to a touchdown. Pic by Shawn Knox Images.
Jermaine Blackwell out runs defenders on his way to a touchdown. Pic by Shawn Knox Images.

region foes, and will be again next season after realignment. The Panthers hold a 29-15 all-time record vs. Saluda. Ten of Saluda’s 15 wins came before the 1970 season however and the Panthers have owned the series of late. The last Saluda win versus the Panthers came in the 2003 season, in a regular season matchup. The Panthers injuries have been well documented and slowly but surely, the Panthers should be getting most of their starters back in some capacity this week. Quarterback Bryce Jackson, who did not play last week, will be a game time decision. Sophomore JD Moore filled in nicely for the injured Jackson in last weeks 14-7 Quarterfinal win versus Cheraw. Moore carried the ball 22 times for 84 yards and commanded the offense well. It’ll take another complete team effort to make it back to Benedict College.

Hite Stadium will be rocking Friday night. The gates will open at 6pm and kickoff is at 7:30. The weather should be clear and chilly with temps dipping into the low 40’s. Parking will be available at Grace United Methodist for a donation. Get there early and be loud.

Happy Thanksgiving…

God Bless and Go Panthers!


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Round 3 Preview


The Panthers breezed through the first two rounds of the South Carolina 2A State Playoffs by a combined score of 103-41. We are down to the Upperstate’s final four teams. So basically, the best of the best is what is left. Saluda and Lee Central will play in Saluda Friday night for a chance at an Upperstate Championship game appearance, against the winner of the Abbeville – Cheraw game. This is a rematch of last years quarterfinal game, that was played in Cheraw. A game that Abbeville dominated 42-14. This season, the Braves will make the four hour ride to Hite Stadium for a chance to keep their season

Charles Hollback returns a fumble. Pic by Shawn Knox Images
Charles Hollback returns a fumble. Pic by Shawn Knox Images

alive.

The Cheraw Braves are 9-3 on the season. The finished tied for 3rd place with  Chesterfield in Region 4-AA. Because of their finish, they picked up a #3 seed in the playoffs. Cheraw beat Gray Collegiate 28-18 in the first round and they whipped Blacksburg 40-6 last week. The three losses on their record came by way of a AAAA Marlboro County team, who finished with a 3-8 record. They also lost two region games. The first to Lee Central, who won their region, by a 14-7 score and they also lost to Chesterfield 38-21. In his 2nd year at the helm of the Braves, head coach Andy Poole has a 19-6 overall record. Now that you are a little more familiar with Cheraw’s season, let’s look at the players that will be on the field Friday night.

Bradley Holliman is the senior quarterback and catalyst of the team. His numbers don’t wow you, but he’s a good game manager that doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s thrown for 1,493 yards with 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on the season. He’s completed 54% of his passes. Most of those have went to #7, sophomore wide receiver Jalen Coit. He has 46 catches for 858 yards and 9 touchdowns on the season. The Braves offense is very balanced and very multiple. You may see them with 4 wide outs one play, and in the wishbone the next play. The bell cow for the Braves is 5’11 170lb junior running back Quan Pittman. He has 256 carries for 1,542 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns on the season. He has 10 – 100 yard rushing games so far this season. Cheraw likes to feed Pittman the ball, draw your defense in tight, and then hit Coit on a play action pass. That’s their bread and butter offensively. The real calling card for the Cheraw Braves however is their defense. Allowing 16.6 points per game, they are a tackle for loss machine. The Braves have a big, physical defensive line that usually eats up the offensive blocking and allows their linebackers to roam freely. #5 Nick Dozier has 48 tackles and 21 tackles for loss this season. Starting linebacker #44 Tallon Campbell has an amazing 145 tackles on the season so far with 11 tackles for loss.

The Panthers have faced nearly every possible type of offense this season, so Cheraw won’t do anything they haven’t seen before. The biggest question for the Panthers is if they will have enough players to fill the roster. Nate Temple broke his arm in last weeks game. The junior starting defensive end has 79 tackles, 9TFL and 2.5 sacks on the season. His status is doubtful this week. The Panthers offensive line is banged up, Dooley Sanders is a game time decision and so is starting quarterback Bryce Jackson who is dealing with a leg injury. JD Moore will get the start at quarterback should Jackson not be able to play. Moore is a very capable athlete when given the opportunity. Coach Nickles stated that this is the most injury plagued season that he can recall since his first season as an assistant in 1993. The game of football isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. The Panthers will have to match the physicality of this Cheraw team, and just do what they do best. Run the ball, control the clock and try to get out of this game without any new injuries. It should be a great game, and a great atmosphere with an Upperstate Championship game appearance on the line.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

 


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Panthers News · Panthers Run Away with Round 2 Win


There are very few games that are played when everything just clicks. Offense, defense, special teams. Everything synced up perfectly, just the way you would practice it. This past Friday night was one of those games. The Panthers literally ran the football with ease against a hapless Chesterfield defense. When you average over 15 yards per rush and drop 622 rushing yards on the stat sheet; it was good night. The Panthers improved to 11-1 on the season and advanced to the 3rd round playoffs with their 61-35 win over the Golden Rams.

The turf at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field was nearly set ablaze as the Panthers zipped up and down the field. The storyline coming into the 2nd round contest was the huge skill set of the opposing QB. Savion Watson had been terrorizing defenses all over the state, and he still got his numbers, throwing for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns. Yet the Panthers defense bent, but didn’t break. The boys from A-Town caused three turnovers inside the redzone, including a 79 yard interception return for a touchdown by Panther defensive back David Cobb. With 54 total tackles and now three picks on the season, Cobb has quietly had a big hand the success of the Panther defense in 2017. The Panther defensive line applied pressure all night while only rushing three for a good majority of the game. Unique blitz packages dialed up by the Abbeville defensive coaching staff kept Watson and the Golden Rams off balance and confused for most of the night.

The Panthers offense looks unstoppable right now. Chesterfield was 9-2 on the season. You don’t accidentally win 9 games. That was a good team that Abbeville took to the woodshed. Junior Rapley had a career high 274 yards rushing against the Golden Rams. If there is a player, anywhere in the state playing with more conviction, more drive and determination, I have yet to find him. Rapley also went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season during Friday’s game. In fact, three Panther rushers eclipsed the century mark. Along with Rapley, quarterback Bryce Jackson had 106 yards rushing and two scores, and Jermaine Blackwell had 129 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Dominick Washington wasn’t far behind with 72 yards on the ground and a touchd

Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles leads the Panthers to victory. Pic by Shawn Knox Images
Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles leads the Panthers to victory. Pic by Shawn Knox Images

own of his own. Of course you have to have great blocking to put up those type of numbers. The offensive line, who still isn’t playing with all of their original starters, hasn’t missed a beat.

 

You could routinely find offensive linemen 10, 15, 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, finishing their blocks. That kind of effort will take you a long way.

Let’s not forget that Abbeville Head Coach Jamie Nickles won his 144th game at the helm of the Panthers. He is now one game shy of tying the legendary Tommy Hite for 2nd place in all time wins at AHS. Dennis Botts holds the all time wins record with 147 wins. The Panthers have advanced to the 3rd round of the Playoffs and will host the Cheraw Braves, this coming Friday at 7:30, at Hite Stadium. Cheraw defeated #1 seed Blacksburg 40-6 this past Friday night. Check back later this week for a full Round 3 preview.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

 


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Round 2 Preview


There is one thing that you can count on this time of year. Everybody left in the playoffs is a good football team. The field of 32 was cut in half last week. The 2nd round of the AA State Playoffs will continue this Friday night and the Panthers will face an outstanding Chesterfield team led by maybe the best overall athlete that the Panthers have faced yet this season.

Savion Watson is the name you’ll hear Panther PA announcer Craig Gagnon announce into the chilly night air, from the historic press box in Hite Stadium. #15 Watson, a 6’1″ 205lb senior, is the definition of a dual threat quarterback. He’s thrown for 3,215 yards this season. He’s also tossed 38 touchdown passes against only 9 interceptions. Watson is a running threat as well with 474 rushing yards and 11 touchdown runs. If you haven’t done the math yet, he’s accounted for 49 total touchdowns so far this season. The cast around him his good too. Ricky Lockhart is a 6’0″ 200lb wide receiver and he’s hauled in 43 of Watson’s passes for 1,028 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The main receiving target on the Golden Rams offense is Shyhiem Rivers. He has 60 catches for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Golden Rams, as you can see likes to throw it around the park. Yet, they are still balanced offensively. James McBride is small in stature, but the 5’3″ running back has amassed 915 rushing yards and punched it in the end zone twice this season. The Rams average 39.3 points per game while giving up 20.9 points on defense.

Abbeville head coach Jamie Nickles said “If you want to see a basketball game on grass,

Panther defenders gang tackle a St Joes ball carrier
Panther defenders gang tackle a St Joes ball carrier

come out to Hite Stadium Friday night. These two teams are going to be ripping up and down the field.” That tells you about all you need to know. The Panthers attack defenses a little differently than their 2nd round counterparts. Panther fans near and far know that the boys from A-Town like to run it left, right and up the middle. They run it at you, around you and if need be, through you. The Panthers have four ball carriers averaging 6.5 yards per carry or better. All with over 70 carries on the season. The Panthers are averaging 39.4 points per game while giving up 14.1 points per game on defense.

That yards per carry average will be a big stat to watch Friday night. With Chesterfield having such an explosive, quick strike kind of offense, the Panthers will use their pound and ground to chew up the clock and control the tempo of the game. The Hogmollies will be counted on heavily in this game. The Panther offensive line should be back to full strength Friday night.  Trai Jones and Jake Hill should return from injury, joining their Hogmollie brothers Connor Nickles, Griffin Lewis and Jacob Stone. The Panther defense will face a big challenge as well. Maintaining their pass rush lanes, and keeping the Golden Rams QB in the pocket will be a key to victory. Watson is dangerous when he escapes the pocket and still has a run/pass option.

Pack the Hite Panther fans. Chesterfield is travelling over 3 hours to be here. That tells me they won’t bring a huge crowd. Let’s give our Panthers the best home field advantage possible, as they continue their march to their third straight State Championship and 9th overall. But, you can’t win State without winning Round 2.

God Bless and Go Panthers.

 


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Panthers Pound St. Joes


The first round of the 2A playoffs have come and gone and the Panthers took care of a pesky St. Josephs Catholic Knights squad by a score of 42-6. St Joe’s didn’t just lay down and accept their fate though. They came out swinging and in typical fashion, the Panthers had to answer the bell and establish themselves after the first couple of series. If you’ve paid attention to the ebbs and flows of the Panthers games this season you’ve noticed that the Panthers are almost like a boxer that has to get hit a couple times before he wakes up. It’s worked for them thus far, as the Panthers now sit at 10-1 on the season and are squarely in the drivers seat, determining their own fate for the rest of this season. It’s playoff time, win or go home, and the Panther’s want to keep playing awhile longer.

A-Town got on the board first with a Junior Rapley 51 yard touchdown run with 10:24 to go in the first quarter. Jermaine Blackwell followed that up on the next drive with a 23 yard TD run to put the Panthers up 14-0. St. Joes responded in the 2nd quarter with a touchdown run of their own. But that was the first and last time the Knights would visit the endzone as a stingy Panther defense dug their claws in and shut out the Knights for the rest of the game. The Panthers had three different backs go over 100 yards on the night. QB Bryce Jackson had 145 yds and touchdown, Rapley had 125 yds and two scores and Dominick “The Bus” Washington had 133 yards on just 12 carries. Collectively the Panthers had 557 yards on the ground.

It’s been well documented just how banged up the Panthers are right now. Trai Jones and Jake Hill, offensive line starters did not play. Neither did wide receiver JaBryan “Dooley” Sanders, the fastest player on the team. Courtney Jackson hasn’t played since week 6 of the regular season and that’s just on the offensive side of the ball. Defensive starters are banged up and missing reps as well. So, what do ya do? Well, you call up some JV players and give them a shot. Folks, we’ve got some very young, but very

D.Washington carries the ball vs. Ninety Six. Pic by Shawn Knox Images
D.Washington carries the ball vs. Ninety Six. Pic by Shawn Knox Images

talented players just waiting to get their shot at the Friday night lights. Offensively we saw Cruz Temple get 5 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown. The freshman found an opening, sprinted down the sideline, gave a head fake, did a juke and rumbled for 59 yards before he was finally caught. That play set up a Quadarius Guillebeaux 28 yard

 

touchdown run on the very next play. Not bad for a freshman and a sophomore. Guillebeaux’s first varsity carry resulted in his first varsity touchdown. These guys, if they remained focused and hungry, will be stars on the gridiron very soon.

Defensively the Panthers saw the usual cast of characters impose their will. You also saw a first time varsity player jump off the field at you. That player is freshman #43 Luke Evans. Some people are just football players. He’s that guy. Still very young and has a lot to learn but the natural Linebacker instinct is there. He collected five tackles, five assisted tackles and one tackle for loss in limited defensive snaps and on the kickoff coverage team. Again, with focus and the time in the weight room, the upside of Mr. Evans is tremendous.

The Panthers will host the #2 seed Golden Rams of Chesterfield (9-2) this coming Friday night at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field. I’ll have a full round 2 game preview later in the week.

God Bless and Go Panthers!


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Round One Preview


It’s time to turn the page to Phase 3 of the season. It’s playoff time. All of those February days in the weight room. Those spring conditioning drills. The hot summer days at practice, melting away under the sweltering sun. All of those days matter. They matter because they lead you to this time, this place, this phase. The Playoffs. Win or go home. Sudden death each and every week. Who has the will to continue? Who has the will to push through bumps and bruises? Who can handle adversity and pressure packed situations? 32 teams start their march tonight. But only one can hoist that State Championship trophy on December 1st. Only one team can have their names written forever in the history books. That march starts tonight at Hite Stadium – Dennis Botts Field as the back to back defending State Champ, #1 seed Abbeville Panthers will host the #4 seed St. Joseph Catholic Knights at 7:30pm.

St. Joe’s will come into The Hite tonight with a first year head coach Brandon Bennett. Some of you will recognize that name. Bennett was a running back for the University of South Carolina. He also played in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Carolina Panthers. His Knights will be bringing a 4-6 record with them. They finished 3rd in Region 1 AA. The Knights will spread the field offensively, meaning they will line up with four and five wide receivers. Yet their main goal will be to run the football. Their feature back is a 6’1″ 210lbs running back by the name of, Brandon Bennett Jr. The coaches son wears #2 and he will get the bulk of the carries. The Panthers and the Knights have two common opponents on the season. Both squads have played Southside Christian and Woodruff. The Panthers defeated both SSC and Woodruff, while St Joes dropped both contests 51-13 to SSC and 49-13 to Woodruff. St. Joe’s is limping in the playoffs. They have had some injuries, like most teams this time of year. A depleted roster and a lack of

Panther defender Tyrese Paul makes a big hit on a Ninety Six ball carrier
Panther defender Tyrese Paul makes a big hit on a Ninety Six ball carrier

depth have caused them to lose their last three. The Knights have averaged 22.1 points per game this season and given up 29.3 points per game. The Knights will have to bring their A++ game tonight to deal with the speed, size and physicality of the Panthers.

A-Town is beat up. Point blank period. There will be a handful of starters that miss tonight’s game due to injury. Some more serious than others, however, a true test of quality depth will be on display tonight. Trai Jones and Jake Hill will be game time decisions. Both are college quality offensive linemen. Dooley Sanders, the lightning quick wide receiver and kick returner, who did not dress out last week will also be a game time decision. The Panther defense will be counted on tonight to stop the St. Joe’s attack and put the offense in good field position. On the flip side, the Panthers will try to control the line of scrimmage and methodically chew up game clock by running the football and imposing their will physically.

The winner of tonight’s game will get to play the winner of the Chesterfield/Fox Creek game played tonight in Chesterfield.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

 


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Region Champs!


The Abbeville Panthers secured their 26th Region Championship this past Friday night with a dominate 42-7 victory over region rival Ninety Six. The Panthers left no doubt as they scored early and often. Bryce Jackson saved his best passing game of the season for the Homecoming showdown with the Wildcats. Jackson finished the night 8-10 for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. Running back, Junior Rapley caught two of those touchdown tosses which covered 101 yards collectively. Rapley also moved ahead of Dooley Sanders for the leading receiving spot on the stat sheet. Rapley has rushed for 607 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. He has caught 15 passes for 389 yards and 4 touchdowns. Also, Rapley has added 239 punt return yards and 79 kickoff return yards on the season. His grand total yards from scrimmage is 1,314 total yards and 12 total

Jermaine Blackwell outraces the opposing defense on his way to the endzone. Pic by Shawn Knox Images.
Jermaine Blackwell outraces the opposing defense on his way to the endzone. Pic by Shawn Knox Images.

touchdowns. The numbers and accolades are a testament to the scrappy, never-quit, fighting for every inch, tenacity that Rapley plays with on every down. Touchdown runs were added by Jermaine Blackwell, who has stepped in very well for the injured Courtney Jackson, and another touchdown run was added by budding star Dominick “The Bus” Washington. Congrats to Malik Washington on his first touchdown reception of the year as well.

The Panther defense was just plain nasty Friday night as well. Big hits, constantly playing behind the line of scrimmage, tight coverage in the secondary, running in packs to the football. It’s a defense coordinator’s dream scenario. DC Tad Dubose put the Panthers in position to give up less than 200 total yards of offense and held the Wildcat quarterbacks to 3 of 14 passing for a miniscule 8 yards. That kind of defensive dominance is what will take you deep into the playoffs. The Panthers will be leaning on leading tacklers Malik Leach (99 total tackles), Dee Graham (98 total tackles), and Nate Temple (64 total tackles) to keep up the focused pressure on future playoff opponents. The Panther defense is only giving up 15 points per game. When you have an offense dropping 39.2 points per game, that spells wins. And let’s not fool our selves, Abbeville has played one of the toughest schedules in the state regardless of classification. The Panthers have played and beaten three 2A playoff teams, a #4 3A playoff team (Clinton) and beaten a #1 3A seed (Emerald). Lincoln Co will make the Georgia State playoffs and the only blemish on this this years record is a seven point loss to #1 seed 4A Hartsville. You’ve all heard the cliché, “Defense wins championships”. Well, this team has been tried and tested by fire and walked out smelling like a rose. Needless to say, I like our chances.

The Panther will host the St. Joseph’s Catholic Knights on Friday night. I’ll post a full round one preview later in the week. I’ve also attached a bracket for you to refer to has the playoffs progress.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say a big congratulations to Emily Anna Smith (Maid of Honor) and Meg Botts, our 2017 Homecoming Queen. What an honor to be crowned the Queen on a field that bares her grandfather’s name.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

 

2017 bracket


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Where has this season gone? It seems like Week Zero was yesterday and Panther Nation was gearing up to take on the Ninety Six Wildcats in the season opener. Friday night will mark the end of the regular season, but there is one common denominator. The Ninety Six Wildcats. The 2017 season has been polar opposites for the Panthers and Wildcats. Abbeville has lived up to it’s potential sporting a 8-1 overall record and a 2-0 region record, while Ninety Six is currently 3-6 in head coach Andre Woolcock’s inaugural season.

Last week, Ninety Six knocked off a very tough Liberty squad by a 24-17 score. Reid McKellar picked off two Liberty passes and Evan Keller, who recently was moved to quarterback threw for a touchdown to beat the Red Devils on Senior Night at Ninety Six. The Wildcats, who are starting their third QB of the season because of injuries, have collected two of their three wins during the month of October. Still tough defensively, theNinety%20Six injury bug has bitten the Wildcats and fielding a fresh eleven on offense and defense, just won’t happen. The Wildcats will be playing a number of players both ways and that has been an issue for the entire season. Ninety Six is scoring 18.5 points per game while giving up 31.1 defensively for the season. Yet the Wildcats have an upset on their mind and would love nothing more than to swipe a Region Championship from their rival Panthers.

The Panthers are far from healthy either. Aside from losing then leading rusher Courtney Jackson, the Panthers have been dinged up pretty good. Trai Jones, sophomore starting offensive tackle, who has started every game this season, has a lower leg injury and is questionable for the Homecoming contest this coming Friday night. A myriad of other small, nagging injuries are starting to test the depth of this Panthers squad. As Coach Nickles would say, “We’re beat to smithereens, but that’s football”

The Panthers answered some questions coming off of the bye week last week versus Southside Christian. The defense is still able to shut down what teams do best. And the Panther offense is still able to stress opponent’s defenses on the interior and on the edge. Gabe Calhoun intercepted a Southside Christian pass and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back because of a block in the back penalty. Nevertheless, that play swung momentum the Panthers direction and they never looked back, beating a really good SSC team 33-14. Quarterback Bryce Jackson had his best

Bryce Jackson drops back to pass for the Panthers.
Bryce Jackson drops back to pass for the Panthers.

rushing performance of the season vs SSC and he will prove to be a big weapon for the Panthers rushing attack as we move into the playoff portion of the season. Before we look ahead to the playoffs, there is a region championship to play for. That happens Friday night, at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field. How fitting is it that the Panthers get a chance to win their 26th Region Championship, at home, on homecoming versus one of their biggest rivals. The Panthers are 41-13 all-time vs. the Wildcats. These teams are very familiar with each other as this is the 7th meeting between the two schools on the gridiron in the last three years. Tons of playoff implications are at stake in this game. A Panther win clinches a #1 seed, a Region Championship and basically gives A-Town home field throughout the playoffs.

Will injuries and the pomp and circumstance of Homecoming distract the Panthers from their task at hand? Will Ninety Six have enough left in the tank to upset the #1 ranked Panthers? We’ll find out soon enough as kickoff is set for 7:30pm Friday Night at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field.

God Bless and Go Panthers!