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Fourth quarter rally fuels Abbeville to third straight AA title

COLUMBIA—In a heavyweight fight, the counterpunch is always more important than the initial punch.  After Abbeville gave up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers responded with two scores in the final five minutes to defeat Bamberg-Ehrhardt, 14-7, in the Class AA state championship Friday night at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.

It was the third consecutive title for Abbeville and ninth overall in school history.

“Hats off to Bamberg-Ehrhardt,” said Abbeville head coach Jamie Nickles.  “Coach (Butch) Crosby does things the right way and their kids play the game the right way.  What a heck of a battle.  I was just so proud of our kids.  They had a chance to quit.  A lot of teams in that situation would have folded the tent up, but the heart of a champion came out.  It’s just incredible to win.”

Tied at 0-0 to start the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders forced Abbeville to punt from its own 39-yard line.  Jerrald Manigault collected the high spiral at his own 21-yard line and took off to his right.  He got a huge block from Jonathan Williams that sprung him the rest of the way for the 79-yard touchdown.  Hunter Bridges added the extra point to give Bamberg-Ehrhardt the seven-point lead.

However, the Panthers answered with an 11-play, 69-yard drive.  Wide receiver JaBryan Sanders opened the possession with a 23-yard gain on a reverse, and was in the right place at the right time on the final play when he recovered Junior Rapley’s fumble in the end zone with 4:33 to play.

“I tried to get us back together,” Crosby said.  “We were so excited about the score on the punt return that we never got ourselves back emotionally to be able to play defense.”

Special teams became a factor once again on the ensuing kickoff.  The Red Raiders fumbled the return, and after the ball ricocheted like a pinball, David Cobb picked it up for the Panthers and returned it to the Bamberg-Ehrhardt 30-yard line.  Two plays later, Rapley hurdled a defender on his way to a 26-yard touchdown run with 3:32 remaining.

“Once they got the momentum, it was a little tough stopping them,” Crosby said of Abbeville.  “They’ve been here three years in a row.  That experience took over.  I just commend our guys for not giving up and playing hard.”

The Red Raiders had one final chance to tie the score, but Abbeville’s J.D. Moore intercepted a halfback pass to set the final margin.

“I told our guys, ‘No Regrets.’  Leave it all out on field,” Nickles said.  “Play with good fundamentals and live with the outcome.  Leave it all on the line.”

The opening half was a battle of field position.  Bamberg-Ehrhardt’s first drive stalled near midfield, but punter Blaze Bunch pinned Abbeville at its own 1-yard line.  After limiting the Panthers to just one first down, the Red Raiders got the ball back at their own 42-yard line, but went three-and-out and had to punt again.

Moore blocked Bunch’s attempt, and Cobb returned the loose ball to the Red Raiders 21-yard line.  Quarterback Bryce Jackson picked up four yards on fourth-and-one to keep the possession alive, but a crucial holding penalty two plays later, forced a 40-yard field goal attempt by Dylan Beauford that came up just short.

The Red Raider offense had its best scoring opportunity right after the intermission.  Abbeville’s Cruz Temple fumbled the kickoff to begin the third quarter, and Dahlil Wilkins was there to scoop it up for Bamberg-Ehrhardt.  A facemask penalty was tacked on at the end of the play to put the Lower State champions in business at the Panthers 14-yard line.

Neither team had much going offensively all night.  Abbeville ended the game with 201 yards of total offense (115 in the fourth quarter) on 50 plays while Bamberg-Ehrhardt was held to 89 yards on 33 snaps. 

Charles Holback had nine tackles and two stops for loss for the Panthers, and Nick Hughes led the Red Raiders with 10 total tackles.

“Our defense got better and better as the year went on,” said Nickles.  “I thought defensively, in the playoffs, we’ve been lights out.  Even though we’ve given up some points, we played some really good offenses.”



Bam-Ehr.              0              0              0              7—7

Abbeville               0              0              0              14—14

BE – Jerrald Manigault 79-yard punt return (Hunter Bridges kick)

A – JaBryan Sanders 0-yard fumble recovery (Dylan Beauford kick)

A – Junior Rapley 26-yard run (Beauford kick)

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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