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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Southside Christian Preview

This is one of my favorite times of the year. Games that matter. Games that have a purpose. Games that lead you in a certain direction. Games that add to the trophy case. And that is exactly what we have in front of us tonight at Hite Stadium – Dennis Botts Field. The undefeated and 5th ranked Southside Christian Sabers (8-0) make the trek down from Greenville County to take on our #1 ranked, back to back defending state champion Abbeville Panthers. Call it what you want, but the Region 2 AA championship is on the line tonight in a winner take all showdown. Let’s see how the teams stack up against each other.

Southside Christian has historically been a 1A team. The last round of realignments bumped them into the 2A ranks and landed them in the region shared by Abbeville, Ninety Six and Liberty. Since there are only four football playing schools, it only takes a couple of weeks to find out how the region seeding’s will unfold. Abbeville defeated Liberty (26-13) last week, and Southside Christian defeated Ninety Six (31-6). That sets up tonight’s match-up, the only two undefeated region opponents left. Call it a winner take all, call it the fight for first, call it what you will, but tonight’s game has huge playoff implications.

SSC runs a spread offense and they like to throw it around the park. Quarterback JW Hertzberg has 1,307 yards passing and 17 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. The 6’3″ sophomore QB has some help in the run game as well. Anthony McFadden and Mallory Pickney are both fast and effective ball carriers. McFadden is a transfer from 5A HillcrestSSC High in Simpsonville. Both running backs have over 400 yards and they have combined for 21 rushing touchdowns on the season. You won’t see SSC under center on the night. Three, four or five wide receivers will be their base offense and they will try to test the A-Town secondary. SSC’s average score for the season is 43.6 while giving up 9.5 points per game.

The boys in Garnet are ready to go trophy chasing again. The Panthers could secure their 26th region championship with a win tonight and a Ninety Six loss. The Panthers defeated Liberty last week in a very business like fashion. There was not a lot of glitz and glamor within that game. Some spectators even suggested that the Panthers were flat, or looked as if they were just going through the motions. It’s going to take more than just going through the motions to get a win tonight. A championship is on the line, and the players and the crowd should be at full throttle come game time. The Panthers will do what they do. A steady dose of the run game, and some play action will stretch the SSC defense. Does SSC have the athletes to hang with A-Town? They think they do. SSC is coming into the game with a  “disrespect” chip on their shoulder. Social media posts even suggest that SSC is calling tonight’s trip into Hite Stadium a “#statementgame”. So who will make the statement tonight? Will SSC bring more energy and just want it more? Or will the Panthers prove once again that the road to the state championship runs through A-Town? We’ll find out soon. Kickoff is at 7:30.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Liberty Wrap-Up

I think many of us had a preconceived notion that the Liberty game was going to be a cake walk. That was not the case at all. Liberty is a much improved team, with a big, strong, physical defense. They will make a run in the playoffs this season, mark my words on that one. In fact, Liberty is a couple skill players away from being a real threat in the Upperstate brackets. And how about those facilities? I can’t say enough good things about their stadium, concessions, bathrooms, press boxes. Maybe one day Panther fans…Maybe one day. Now on to the game.

There was not a lot of running room for the Panthers in the interior. The Panthers had to take their game to the edges. Junior Rapley (74-529-7) had an ESPN Top 10 type run early in the 2nd quarter. He zigged and zagged his way to the end zone for the Panthers first score of the night. Bryce Jackson also connected with Rapley on a 50 yard TD pass in the 2nd quarter to extend the Panthers lead to 20-3. Other than a 30 yard Jermaine Blackwell (45-347-5) touchdown run in the 4th quarter, that was about all of the offensive highlights on the night. The Panthers were held to a season low 131 yards rushing on 33 rushes. However, 9 completions on 15 attempts for 171 yards and touchdown pass off the arm of Bryce Jackson was just what the doctor ordered for a stifled A-Town offense.

The defensive player of the game with out a shadow of a doubt was Charles Holback. He flew to the ball carriers and played with a reckless physicality that was unmatched on the field. #5 showed up and showed out. He had 18 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in this game alone. On the season Holback has 32 tackles, 27 assists, 2 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. The Panthers defense as a whole held Liberty to 47 yards rushing on 40 attempts, and caused 3 turnovers. That Panther D is only giving up 16 points per game so far this season and a total of 282.75 yards per game.

The Panther defense will have to play their best game of the season this coming Friday night as the Southside Christian Sabers come to Hite Stadium for a top 5 matchup. You’ll never get a coach to admit it, but folks, this is the Region Championship game. Your #1 ranked Abbeville Panthers vs the #5 ranked, undefeated, Southside Christian Sabers. You don’t want to miss this game. We’ll have a full Southside preview in a couple days, right here on

God Bless and Go Panthers!

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Week 8 Preview: A-Town @ Liberty

The bye week came at a great time. The Panthers were battered and bruised and honestly, just tired. Tonight the A-Train rolls into Liberty with renewed enthusiasm and for the first time this season, something to play for. Liberty marks the first region game of the season. Kudos to the Panther coaching staff for getting the team prepared to show up week in and week out, playing seven non-conference games. Games that honestly mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. The region games decide playoff seeding, and let’s be honest. The playoffs and the road to the state championship is ultimate goal every season. Lets look at Liberty, the third set of Red Devils that the Panthers will face this season.

Liberty Head Coach Kyle Stewart has the Red Devils sitting at 5-2 on the season. Like most teams these days they will run a balanced spread offense. Balanced, meaning they will run out of the spread, and try to throw using play action. That is, if the run is working for them. But offense isn’t what Coach Stewart hangs his hat on. The Red Devils have used a stingy defense over the last couple of seasons to impose their will on their libertyopponents. Liberty averages 27.2 points per game offensively, while giving up 12.8 points per game on defense. Last season, that defense led them to a quarter finals appearance versus Saluda. Who ultimately won, and faced Abbeville in the Upper State Championship game. Can the Red Devils slow down the speedy A-Town offense? That’s a tall task.

Liberty got some help slowing down the Panthers, by way of Hartsville. Sounds weird I know, but hang with me here. In the Hartsville game, the Panthers leading rusher Courtney Jackson (43car-525yds-9tds-12.2ypc) left the game after just one carry. He was examined on the sideline. Jogged up and down the sideline a few times and went back in the game briefly before coming right back out. What we didn’t know then, is that Jackson had suffered a season ending knee injury that will require surgery. That’s a tough break for a really outstanding football player and an even better kid. Best of wishes and a quick recovery for #22. So, what now? Well, to say that the cupboard is full of running backs would be an understatement. The Panthers will have a starting backfield that looks like this; The wingbacks will be Junior Rapley (69-498-6-7.22) and Jermaine Blackwell (38-284-4-7.47) and Dominick Washington (45-245-3-5.44) will start in the fullback positon. And of course the Panther quarterback Bryce Jackson (63-503-7-7.98) is a big run threat as well. He’s currently the Panthers leading rusher. The Panthers have had a handful of near misses in the passing game. Literal finger tip misses that could have blown games wide open and padded the passing stats for the season. Even still, Jackson has connected with Dooley Sanders (11 catches 246yds 5tds) on a regular basis. Robin Crawford (16-143-1) and Cruz Temple, who has been moved up from the JV team will bring added depth to the running back position.

Here’s the storyline, or the questions in the air about tonight’s game at Liberty. Did the loss take some pressure off of this Panther team? Did the loss light a fire and create a sense of urgency? Have the Panthers completely flushed the loss vs. Hartsville and moved on? Everything this team wanted to accomplish this season is still in front of them. They have a chance tonight to make a statement and prove that the road to the Region 2 2A championship still squarely runs through Abbeville.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Phase Two Begins

A well deserved bye week has the Panthers licking their wounds and trying to heal, after Coach Nickles described the health of the team as, “Beat to smithereens” entering their bye week. Summer workouts, 7 on 7 camps, summer practice, numerous scrimmages, jamborees and seven consecutive games have the Panthers tired, yet still hungry.

The Panthers lost their first game in nearly two seasons versus Hartsville (28-21) on September 29th. That game seems like it was played two months ago, not two weeks ago. The Panthers who nearly overcame a ‘perfect storm’ and stuck around with the #3 ranked 4A Red Foxes. Three turnovers, costly penalties, a special teams touchdown and losing their leading rusher to injury after just one carry, would be a recipe for disaster for the top ranked 2A Panthers. So what was actually lost in that game on the pristine field at Newberry College? In one word…


Everything this team set out to achieve is firmly in front of them. I for one, am eager to see how the Panthers will respond coming off of the bye week. Did the loss alleviate any pressure that the team may have felt? Pressure to be perfect, pressure to not only win, but win by way of blowouts? Will the Panthers experience a hangover game, on the road versus Liberty? Will the loss ignite a fire in the team and Liberty is standing in the way of a 26th Region Championship?

The Panthers enter now Phase two of the season. Region play. Phase one is the non-region, and subsequently, Phase three, is the championship phase. The non-region schedule is behind them and the boys from A-Town boast a 6-1 record. There are three good teams left on the schedule. The last road game of the season is this coming Friday night versus Liberty High School. Liberty is 5-2 on the season. We will post a full Liberty game preview later in the week. Here are some cumulative stats thus far this season.


The Panther offense is averaging 38.5 points per game. That includes 350.7 yards rushing per game and 62.7 yards per game passing. They total 413.4 total yards per game and have out scored their opponents 291-116 this season.


The Panther defense is giving up 16.5 points per game while allowing 185.5 rushing yards per game and 148.8 yards per game through the air, for a total of 334.3 yards per game average.


The Panthers also come out of the gate running. They have outscored their opponents 84 – 30 in the first quarter of games this season. The Panthers are +3 in the turnover margin for the season. They have 10 takeaways and have turned it over 7 times. The Panthers have not attempted a field goal yet this season, but are 33-39 on extra point attempts.

Check back later in the week for a full game preview of AHS vs. Liberty.

God Bless and Go Panthers

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Hartsville Game Preview

Most Panther fans had two games circled with a big red marker when the schedule was announced in the spring. The first game was versus Lincoln Co. The second game was Hartsville. That game is upon us and you can feel the excitement building in the air as we inch ever so close to kickoff this coming Friday night.

Last season the Panthers came into the neutral site game at Newberry College as a 27 point underdog to the 4A Red Foxes. The Panthers trailed 21-7 in the first half before unleashing an offensive explosion and ultimately whipping the Red Foxes by a final of 32-21. This season, the odds makers have the Panthers as a 4 point favorite heading into this non-region matchup. The Panthers and the Red Foxes are two of the most decorated high school football teams in the state. Hartsville is led by head coach Jeff Calabrese, who holds a career record of 124-36 over his 12 years at the helm. Hartsville is 4-1 on the hartsvilleseason. The lone loss was a 35-21 defeat at Conway. Hartsville has won in a lot of different ways this season. A touchdown as time expired propelled them over South Florence. They’ve blown out a couple teams and been in a couple of closer games as well. Hartsville is very similar to Abbeville in that they like to run the ball. They will line up under center 99% of the time and employ their version of the double wing option. Big, fast and physical are the only three adjectives that come to mind when describing the Red Foxes. Their offensive line averages 6’2″ 250lbs. Playing in 4A-Region 6 with the likes of Crestwood, Lugoff-Elgin, Lakewood and Darlington, this game is their last non-region contest of the season. Hartsville has four state championships in their trophy case (81′-87′-88′-12′) and they have played for three more since 2010. Most recently, last season. This season they average 30 points per game offensively while giving up 17.4 on defense. If there was ever a David vs Goliath narrative in a football game, this is the one. Hartsville has an enrollment just a shade over 1,400 students, while Abbeville’s enrollment is 487.

The Panthers, well, they don’t buy into the David and Goliath storyline. They stood toe to toe with the 4A powerhouse last season and came away victorious. This season, riding a wave of confidence, and a 29 game unbeaten streak, the Panthers are no longer the hunters. They are the hunted. The Panther offense led by quarterback Bryce Jackson and a pick your poison group of skill players, has shown that they can hang with anybody this season. Leading rusher Courtney Jackson has 512 yards rushing this season, complimented by 9 touchdowns. He sports an unbelievable 12.19 yards per carry. Nipping at the leading rushers heels is Junior Rapley with 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Panthers offense is averaging 45 points per game while only giving up 14.6. Defensively the Panthers have answered the bell each and every game. Leading tackler Malik Leach has 66 total tackles on the season, he’s recovered 2 fumbles and also has an interception. The A-Town defense will need to play fundamentally sound against a big, strong, option oriented Hartsville offense. The Panthers will be playing without budding sophomore star defensive end Carson Smith. He broke his hand last week versus Mid Carolina and is having surgery Thursday morning. The defensive line and linebackers will have to play a very smart, fast and physical game to limit the Red Fox offense, who can grind out first down after first down on the ground, while milking the game clock.

This is a big one. Can the Panthers do the impossible, again? Will the revenge card come into play? Can the Panthers keep the state’s longest unbeaten streak alive? You’ll find out Friday night at Newberry College. Kickoff is 7:30, with a donnybrook to follow.

Panther fans heading to Newberry; The Panther are the home team this time around, so sit on the home side, and get ready for an electric, playoff type atmosphere.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

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Panthers News · Where Are the Toughest Places to Play? Nominate Now:

We here at VNN are doing a feature for our national media site highlighting the toughest places to play in all of high school sports and we want to hear from YOU what Stadium/Field/Gym/Course/Venue is the toughest to play and why?

Be on the lookout for the final feature coming soon on!


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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Magic Shoes

Surely everyone has watched the movie Forrest Gump. In one scene, while sitting on a park bench, Forrest is telling the story of his childhood. He had to have braces on his legs. His mama called them his “Magic Shoes”, she said they’d take him anywhere. After Forrest’s legs strengthened, he ran right out of those braces. And from then on he was “Run-ning”. That seems to be the theme for this years edition of our A-Town Panthers. They are “Run-ning”.

This past Friday night at Lon Armstrong Stadium, the Panthers ran around, through, and right by the Mid Carolina Rebels. How much so? The Panthers put up 597 yards rushing. That’s an insane amount of rushing yards. Some teams may not rush for that many yards in an entire season. The Panthers did it on 61 carries. Big gaping holes created by a big physical offensive line and selfless running backs, have allowed these gaudy numbers to jump off of the sports page at you. As a team the Panthers are averaging 373.17 yards rushing per game. That’s an average of 8.81 yards per rush. To put that in perspective, the Panthers are averaging a first down, every other play when they hand the ball off. Of their six opponents so far this season, the Panthers have played four 3A schools, one 2A school and Lincoln County, the winningest team in Georgia high school football history. It’s not like the Panthers are running up and down the field on Sallie Mae Catholic School for Orphaned Girls. Through six games the Panthers are averaging 45 points per game while giving up 14 points per game.

The Panther defense seems to have found their stride as well. The Panthers have allowed 88 points this season. They have faced spread teams who throw it every play. They’ve faced balanced teams who can mix the run with the pass. They’ve faced running teams who like to line up and test your manhood. They’ve passed every test with flying colors. With only four regular season games remaining, can the Panthers maintain their elite level of play? The next test is a big one.

Check back later this week for a full preview of your #1 2A Panthers vs. #3 4A Hartsville Red Foxes.

God Bless and Go Panthers!

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Mid Carolina Preview

The back to back 2A State Champs have extended their unbeaten streak to a state best, regardless of classification, 28 games. The Panthers rolled Clinton 49-12 last week, and the A-Train rolls into Prosperity, SC this coming Friday night to take on the Mid Carolina Rebels.

Rebel head coach Louie Alexander has his hands full getting the Rebs ready to take on a Panther team that is clicking on all cylinders. The Rebels are winless this season. They were winless last season. In fact, the last game that Mid Carolina won was on OMid%20Carolinactober 23rd of 2015 versus Eau Claire High in Columbia. That’s 17 in a row. So, Friday night is a game of two streaks, a team on the top of the mountain, and a team looking up from the cellar. There’s plenty of history between these two schools however. The Panthers are 20-10 all time versus Mid Carolina. The Panthers have won 8 in a row in the series, with the last Panther loss coming in 1997. Last season the Panthers beat Mid Carolina at Hite Stadium, 37-7. The Rebels participate in class 3A Region 3 with the likes of Chapman, Newberry, Broome, Woodruff, and Clinton. Friday’s game versus A-town is the last non-region game on the schedule for the Rebels this season.

The Panthers found some success through the air versus Clinton. Quarterback Bryce Jackson had touchdown passes to Dominick “The Bus” Washington and a 66 yarder to Jr. Rapley. At the halfway point in the season the Panther signal caller has 16 completions on 26 attempts for 309 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The Panther running backs have had quite a season as well. Here are the mid season stats for the Panther offense.

#22 Courtney Jackson 38 rushes 383 yards 7 touchdowns 10.08 yards per carry

#8 Junior Rapley 46car – 362yds – 4tds – 7.87ypc

#3 Bryce Jackson 44car – 340yds – 4tds – 7.73ypc

#23 Jermaine Blackwell 27car – 213yds – 4tds – 7.89ypc

#21 Dominick Washington 29car – 166yds – 3tds – 5.72ypc

As you can see there are five players on offense, with a minimum of 20 carries who average over 5 yards per carry. That’s just short of amazing. A ton of credit goes to the Panther offensive line for blocking and grinding out those tough yards with the running backs. Connor Nickles, Jake Hill, Griffin Lewis, Jacob Stone and Trai Jones have been consistent, tough and overwhelming to opposing defenses this season.

Defensively the Panthers may have played their best game of the season in game number 5 last week versus Clinton. Malik Leach caused two turnovers, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Which, by the way, he just basically took the ball out of the Clinton ball carriers hands and started running the other way with it. Clinton rushed 51 times in that game and averaged less than 3 yards per carry. Defensive leaders at this point in the season look like this…

#4 Malik Leach 40 tackles – 16 assisted tackles  – 2 tackles for loss – 2 recovered fumbles and 1 interception.

#34 Dee Graham 30tkl – 24ast – 1 sack – 1int

#6 Nate Temple 18tkl – 16ast – 5 TFL – 2 sacks

#5 Charles Holback 18tkl – 13ast – 1 TFL

While it would be easy to do, the Panthers must not overlook Mid Carolina. The most important game of the season, is the next game. That’s the mentality that the Panthers must take into Friday nights matchup. Everyone not on staff or not wearing a helmet on Friday night is already giddy with excitement about he matchup on September 29th at Newberry College when the Panthers will take on a revenge minded Hartsville team. See ya in Prosperity this Friday night. God Bless and Go Panthers!



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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Clinton Game Preview

Wilson Pickett sings a song called “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool Ya” and that’s exactly what comes to mind when thinking about Friday nights contest between the #1 ranked, back to back 2A State Champion Abbeville Panthers (4-0) and the Clinton Red Devils (1-2). Why that song? Well, looking at Clinton’s record this season, and looking at their record over the last decade, one could draw a conclusion that the Panthers could merely just go through the motions and take home a victory this coming Friday night. But, as the Sunshine Scooter Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend”. Don’t let the records fool ya. The Clinton High Red Devils are a big, physical, smashmouth football team who is out to prove a point and to, dare I say, shock the world. Last week Clinton won their first gClintoname of the season and they did it behind a stout defense who collected 3 interceptions in the game and turned them all into points. #5 Mark Wise is a senior running back and linebacker for the Red Devils and against Aiken, Wise rushed for 255 yards and 5 touchdowns. A very big offensive line leads the way for the Red Devils who will try to grind out the clock, and keep the speedy, ultra talented Abbeville offense off of the field. With both teams using the running game as their bread and butter, this game may not take two whole hours to complete.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are rolling along as expected. A state best, regardless of classification, 27 game unbeaten streak is on the line. The Panthers are wrapping up a three game home stand before taking the show on the road next week. In fact, if you want to see the Panthers at home, you might want to come Friday night as it will be the last home game for the Panthers until October 20th. There is some history between these two teams. Clinton is one of the few teams that hold a win advantage over the Panthers. Abbeville is 8-11 all time versus the Red Devils. Abbeville has won the last three meetings, and last years game was a nail-biting 34-31 win for the Panthers. The average score of all 19 contests is 20.1 – 10.8 in favor of Clinton. The Panthers and Red Devils played 12 times between 1956 and 1971 and did not play again until 2002. This is the 20th all-time meeting between the two schools.

The Panthers are led on the ground by a committee of running backs. Rapley (42car-329yds-4td) C.Jackson (33-299-5) B. Jackson (34-258-3) are all averaging over 6 yards per carry. The Panthers have found success through the air this season as well. Bryce Jackson is completing over 65% of his passes for 231yds and 4 touchdowns. JaBryan “Dooley” Sanders caught all of Jackson’s touchdown tosses and is averaging 21 yards per catch this season. The Panther offensive line has been dominate and this group has “clicked” since jamboree season. The Panther defense has taken a bend but don’t break approach this season. Led by Malik Leach (33 tackles – 13 assisted tackles) Dee Graham (19 tackles – 18 assists – 1 sack) Tay Rayford (16 tackles – 6 assists – 6 passes broken up) and Nate Temple (15 tkls – 12 assists – 5 TFL and 2 sacks). This group will look to stop the Clinton ground game and exert their dominance over the bigger 3A school. The Panthers are +5 in the turnover margin this season. They’ve collected 7 turnovers while only turning it over twice.

The gates will open at 6:30pm Friday night at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field with kickoff at 7:30. Get there early, and cheer on these Panthers as they continue their march toward greatness.

God Bless and Go Panthers.

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Boys Junior Varsity Football, Boys Varsity Football · Panthers Extend Streak

What Happened: Two elite football programs clashed at Hite Stadium-Dennis Botts Field in a game that produced a State Championship type atmosphere. The Panthers and Red Devils traded blows and showcased the athletes that make each program special. Lincoln County received the opening kickoff, and the fourth play of the drive saw the very athletic LC quarterback Javon Reid scamper 59 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers, sporting their yella’ britches for the first time this season, answered the bell with a Junior Rapley touchdown run on the very next possession.

The Turning Point: The Panther defense stiffened and shut out the Red Devils the rest of the first half. Two 2nd quarter Bryce Jackson touchdown runs extended the Panthers lead to 21-7 just before halftime.

When It Was Over: This one wasn’t over until late. The capacity Abbeville crowd definitely got their money’s worth. LC scored in the 3rd quarter to close the gap to 21-14. A 24 20170908_214202yard Courtney Jackson touchdown run and an ensuing defensive stand put the nail in the coffin mid way through the 4th quarter and the Panthers extended their unbeaten streak to a state best 27 games.

What’s Next: The #1 ranked, back to back State Champs will welcome the Clinton Red Devils to Hite Stadium this coming Friday night. Clinton got their first win of the season, defeating Aiken 47-33. This is the last game of the three game home stand before the Panthers hit the road again on Sept 22nd at Mid Carolina.