ABBEVILLE — You know a school and community loves its local high school football program as not only do the stands start filing up a good hour before the game, but it seems the prime spots to set up your lawn chairs around the stadium are grabbed a day or two before the game even starts!
Such was the case Friday night at Abbeville High School as the top-ranked Panthers in AA handed the ninth-ranked Newberry High Bulldogs its third loss of the season with a 38-27 defeat.
This was Newberry’s first regular season trip to Abbeville since 1968.
With what seemed to be a vast majority of the Abbeville faithful wearing pink in the Panthers awareness night to breast cancer, the seemingly three deep standing up crowd saw the Bulldogs win the coin toss, electing to receive.
The Bulldogs went on their second three-and-out in their first offensive possession of a game this season as Abbeville became the first opponent to score first in 2012 with a 57 yard, 10 play drive which ended with a nine-yard run by C.J. Martin.
Newberry was held to another three-and-out but Abbeville would fumble over to the Bulldogs’ Jemerio Gary two plays later just 37 yards from the end zone.
Keeping the ball on the ground three straight plays, Tyon Williams scored from seven yards out as he has scored at least one touchdown in 18 of the last 19 games, including all seven games this season,
The Jose Lozano PAT was good as the score was tied at 7-apiece with 2:42 left in the first stanza.
With a quarterback being the only non-senior of its starting offense, the Panthers took over five minutes off the clock as Martin scored his second touchdown of the evening with a two-yard run, which ended a 90 yard, 12 play drive.
Like the colleges and pros, high schools have also adopted the rule that if a player loses their helmet, they must come out for one play.
After a pick-up of five yards, quarterback Khalil Sheppard had to come out after his helmet came off.
Chad Davis came in but his interception was returned 17 yards, putting Abbeville 43 yards from the end zone with eight minutes until the break.
Deshaun Harris scored four plays later from 15 yards out as the Panthers stayed on the ground this entire drive.
Seeing the Panthers on a 14 point run this quarter, the Bulldogs were forced to punt from their 45 with 85 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers worked their way up seven yards to their 32 before quarterback Kelly Byrant seemed to be stopped after just a one yard pick-up.
Instead, the sophomore broke away as he scampered 62 yards to the Newberry five with 24.3 seconds.
O’Bryan Wilson scored two plays later as the Panthers took a 28-7 advantage into the locker rooms, as they would also be getting the ball to start the second half.
“We were very, very flat in the first half,” said Newberry head coach Phil Strickland. “Abbeville just took it to us on both sides of the ball.”
After a half-time show which included over 100 young ladies dancing a routine to breast cancer awareness whose synchronicity would put proud smiles on even the Rockettes, it was back to business as Newberry took over after the Panthers were forced to punt from their 40, thirteen yards from the first down.
Moving 15 yards in three plays, a simple handoff from Sheppard to Williams as the church bells were chiming the nine o’clock hour, moved the senior to the 1000 yard mark for the year with his nine yard carry with 8:02 left in the quarter
With 6:28 left in the quarter, Sheppard sprinted out to his right looking for Tovaris Cureton.
In double coverage, Cureton was the first one of the three to turn 180 degrees as his 30 yard reception put the Bulldogs in a first-and-goal situation from the 10.
Sheppard scored one play later on the keeper but Lozano’s PAT was blocked.
Abbeville ran out the final 6:21 of the third quarter as they would punt the ball, giving Newberry possession to start the final 12 minutes of play.
On the first play of the final quarter, Sheppard was able to get off a pass while in the grasp of some Abbeville players in the end zone.
After some discussion, the officials ruled it an incomplete pass instead of a safety.
Newberry punted from its nine three plays later.
Abbeville kept the ball on the ground seven straight plays with Wilson scoring on a two-yard run with 8:09 left in the game and the 35-16 lead.
Newberry would fumble the kickoff six seconds later.
Running over five minutes off the scoreboard, the Panthers sent out White as along with converting all five of his PAT kicks, he was also perfect on the 37-yard field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Williams was never touched as he went 97 yards for the touchdown with 2:42 left in the game.
Sheppard’s two-point pass play was intercepted in the end zone by the Panthers.
Omar Sims recovered an Abbeville fumble two plays later which resulted in a 40 yard touchdown pass from Sheppard to Cureton as Newberry had scored 12 points in 1:13.
Going for the two point play, Sheppard’s pass to Tysheen Nance was good as the scoring ended for both teams with 89 seconds left in the game.
“I knew we were playing better at that point,” noted Strickland of his team’s quick 14 points, “but it just wasn’t good enough at the end.”
Abbeville ended the evening with 409 yards of offense, including garnering 355 on the ground from 60 carries.
The Panthers had a 21-eight advantage in first downs on the evening.
Newberry finished with 227 yards of offense, with 120 coming through the air.
Williams was the leading Newberry rusher with 54 yards on 10 carries while Sheppard got 34 yards on eight keepers.
Eric Gallman rushed the ball two times for 19 yards.
Cureton caught three passes for 79 yards while Jalin Alexander had four receptions for 41 yards.
Newberry will have its senior night on Friday with the hosting of Ninety Six.
This will be the Bulldogs’ third annual “Pink-out” night with T-shirts being available from BJ Graphix on Wilson Road as well as from the front office of Newberry High for $10 or $12, depending on size.
Heading into their final three games of the regular season, Strickland notes that the Bulldogs still have a few wrinkles.
“We have to get to work on ourselves and iron out some problems,” he stated.