|Abbeville Head Football Coach Jamie Nickles addresses his team after the Panthers' hard-fought 6-3 victory over Saluda Friday night in the second round of the Class AA (Division II) playoffs.|
|Abbeville defenders, from left, Quincy Agnew (55), Leroy Kelly (63), Keenan Gilchrist (85), Brieyon Brown (33) and Joshua Martin (4) as they line up in anticipation of Saluda's next offensive play during the Panthers' victory over the Tigers.|
|SALUDA 0 0 0 3 - 3|
ABBEVILLE 3 0 3 0 - 6
First Downs, Abbeville 9, Saluda 14
Rushes-Yds., Abbeville 36-130, Saluda 38-195
Passing, Abbeville 5-3-0, Saluda 17-6-1
Passing Yds., Abbeville 14, Saluda 38
Total Yds., Abbeville 144, Saluda 233
Fumbles-Lost, Abbeville 2-0, Saluda 0-0
Penalties-Yds., Abbeville 3-30, Saluda 8-67
Rushing, Abbeville, Tron Morton 10-40, O'Bryan Wilson 8-37, Kelly Bryant 10-29, DaShaun Harris 3-14, Joshua Martin 1-9, C.J. Martin 2-5, Sylvester Harris 1-(-7); Saluda, Maurice Howard 18-104, Dan Myers 17-84, Bubba Coleman 3-7.
Passing, Abbeville, Kelly Bryant 5-3-0 23 yards; Saluda, Maurice Howard 17-6-1 50 yards.
Receiving, Abbeville, DaShaun Harris 2-20, Joshua Martin 1-3; Saluda, Devonta Brown 2-19, Tra Norris 2-14, Kentavis McKinney 1-13, Dan Myers 1-4.
ABBEVILLE – A pair of field goals by Luke White proved to be the only scoring Abbeville could muster Friday night against a tough Saluda defense, but it was enough for the Panthers to defeat the Tigers, 6-3, and advance to the third round of the Class AA (Division II) playoffs.
Abbeville (9-2) will play host next week to Chesterfield, who eliminated Buford, 47-14.
The Panthers opened with a few new wrinkles on offense after receiving the opening kickoff. Quarterback Kelly Bryant completed two passes on the first drive, both to running back DaShaun Harris and one of the completed passes was good for 20 yards. Bryant also gained 21 yards on a scramble after attempting to throw a third time and O’Bryan Wilson carried twice for 20 yards on the opening drive.
All in all, Abbeville used almost half of the first quarter on its opening drive and settled for a 19-yard field goal by Luke White after driving down to the Saluda 2.
The Panthers moved 62 yards in 14 plays and White’s field goal gave Abbeville a 3-0 advantage with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter. That yardage on the opening drive accounted for the lion share of the Panthers’ offensive production on the night.
Saluda threatened to score early in the second quarter, driving to the Abbeville 15. Defensive end Keenan Gilchrist sacked Tiger quarterback Maurice Howard for a 12-yard loss, and then defensive back Joshua Martin intercepted a Howard pass in the end zone to end the Saluda threat.
Neither team mounted a significant scoring chance before the end of the half, and the Panthers took a 3-0 lead to the locker room.
Abbeville scored on its first possession of the second half after forcing Saluda to punt on its first possession. A 17-yard punt by the Tigers gave the Panthers excellent field position at the Saluda 43. A 7-yard run by Tron Morton, coupled with a facemasks penalty against the Tigers, moved the ball to the Saluda 20 and a 13-yard run by Morton gave Abbeville a first down inside the Tiger 10.
The drive stalled and the Panthers called upon Luke White again, and his 22-yard field goal split the uprights and gave Abbeville a 6-0 advantage with 6:34 remaining in the third quarter.
Saluda threatened to score on its next drive, but came up empty. Tiger quarterback Maurice Howard rushed 6 times for 54 yards during the drive and that was largely due to a formation that caused Abbeville to make some adjustments defensively.
The Tigers went for the first down on a fourth-down play from the Abbeville 10, but Howard was called for intentional grounding that not only caused Saluda to be penalized with a loss of down, but also turned the ball over to the Panthers.
Abbeville again could do nothing offensively and was forced to punt. Saluda took over at its own 35 after the punt and marched down to the Panther 3. The Tigers decided to go for another fourth-down play, but Abbeville defenders Joshua Martin, De’Andre Walton and Brieyon Brown pulled down Howard.
That left Saluda Head Football Coach Doug Painter with a decision to make, to go for it again on fourth down or attempt a 23-yard field goal. He opted for the latter and Tiger kicker Aldo Pineda booted a 23-yard field goal to narrow Abbeville’s margin to 6-3 with 5:06 remaining in the game.
Saluda got one more shot to either tie or go ahead in the contest, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize thanks to constant pressure by the Abbeville defense.
The Panthers got the ball back with 2:39 remaining and were able to run out the clock and end Saluda’s season.
“It was a hard-fought game – we beat a good football team,” Abbeville Head Football Coach Jamie Nickles said. “I’m proud of the kids and the coaches for being able to battle and handle some adversity that came our way.”
The coach remains concerned about the lack of offensive production. The Panthers totaled less than 150 yards and 9 first downs in the contest. Abbeville rushed for 130 yards, but managed less than 4 yards a carry.
“Injuries have plagued us from getting better on offense, but I’ll give them ‘A’ for effort,” Nickles said. “You don’t get style points this time of year.”
Both Nickles and Assistant Coach Tad DuBose tipped their caps to Saluda Head Football Coach Doug Painter for the wrinkles he threw at the Panthers.
“He made us scramble a little bit tonight,” DuBose said. “Everybody got their money’s worth that watched this game.”
Saluda finishes the season with a 6-6 record.