TONIGHT: Run defense faces a test
Abbeville brings its running show to Clinton with a win streak intact. The Panthers preserved their 11-game win streak with a 7-7 tie Friday against Lincoln County, Georgia.
The Lincoln County Red Devils came in 3-0 on the season. Abbeville came into the contest 3-0, having given up just 7 points on the season (on an interception return) and the undisputed No. 1 team in Class 2A. The Abbeville-Calhoun County game was intense.
“There was blood everywhere,” one coach said. Coaches for both teams ended the game after regulation. Abbeville’s bid for a game-winning field goal was blocked with 4 seconds on the game clock.
It was Abbeville’s first real test of the season. The Panthers defeated Ninety Six, 24-7; Woodruff, 28-0; and Emerald, 34-0. Sophomore running back Courtney Jackson is an emerging star, rushing for 192 yards against Emerald.
Abbeville needed a quarterback and found senior athlete Jamie Gray, who complemented the run game against Emerald with 140 yards passing. Stacking the box to stop the run almost guarantees that at some point, Abbeville is going to spring an open receiver. Gray scored Abbeville’s lone touchdown in the tie against Lincoln County.
In the pre-season, Friday Night Football Carolinas said of Abbeville, “Head coach Jamie Nickles needs another dual-threat quarterback to run his patented A-Bone offense that averaged 35 points per game last season.” Abbeville is the defending Class 2A Division II state champion, and this season will contend with a fellow Region 2 opponent, Southside Christian, to return to the state title game. Former 2A powerhouse Dillon has moved to Class 3A, and Dillon’s opponent in last season’s 2A Division I title game, Newberry, has transitioned into Clinton’s 3A region.
Abbeville is on an 11-game winning streak. The last time the Panthers lost was Oct. 2, 2015, to Strom Thurmond.
According to FNFC, Abbeville players to watch in addition to Jackson and Gray are TJ Rogers, senior running back and linebacker; Trevor Chupp, junior defensive lineman; Tyrese Paul, junior linebacker; Sterling Agnew and Lamar Oakley, senior defensive backs; Bryce Jackson, junior defensive back; Whoodie Goodwin, junior defensive lineman; and Nigel Coleman, senior linebacker.
Clinton had not yet found its rhythm running the ball. The Red Devil mustered just 31 yards rushing against Aiken, in what football head coach Andrew Webb called “bad football.” Quarterback Charlie Craven passing to Donte Reeder has become Clinton’s most consistent weapon. Craven threw for 99 yards against Aiken, and Reeder got 57 yards of that, added to 52 yards receiving against Greer.
The Clinton defense has played well. Without a defensive touchdown against Aiken, the Red Devil defense this season has scored on a Sincere Hunt fumble scoop and run against Laurens and a Twon Roberson short pic six against Greer. Roberson also is developing into an effective kick returner for Clinton.
The defense has kept Clinton in its last two losses until near the end. It was a one-score margin against Greer until the 2:35 mark left to play. Aiken scored its go-ahead touchdown with 5:59 left in the 4th quarter. Against the Green Hornets, Clinton had a chance to tie (or go ahead with a two-point conversion) until the 2:09 mark, when the Red Devils mishandled a punt.
In week four, Abbeville has had a week to rest from the bone-jarring game against Lincoln County, and Clinton for a second week has had a chance to work on “us” before turning a coach’s eye on “them” as action will unfold Friday at Wilder Stadium.