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Abbeville High School

Offensive line the key for Abbeville this fall

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Abbeville—After winning back-to-back Class AA state championships, Abbeville will aim for a three-peat in 2017. However, the road may be a bit more difficult this fall as many of the key players from last year have departed.

The Panthers scrimmaged Newberry, Lexington and McCormick during fall camp, and head coach Jamie Nickles is ready to see if this group can take what they’ve worked on in practice over to the game field.

“That’s a question that will have to be answered (against Ninety Six). We did okay in the preseason, but it’s a little different when you play a full game versus a scrimmage,” Nickles said.

Running back Junior Rapley is primed for a strong senior season after numerous highlights a year ago. He and Cortney Jackson will get most of the carries out of the backfield.

“He’s always been dynamic, but he seems mentally focused and has matured so much. Barring injury, I can see him having a big year for us,” Nickles said of Rapley.

For the third straight season, Abbeville will begin the year with a new starting quarterback, but Bryce Jackson is more advanced in the running game than the previous two.

“It’s been good so far. Bryce is a different animal in that he runs the ball so well. He is progressing nicely as a passer, but his threat as a runner is something that adds to the A-bone,” Nickles said.

None of that matters if the Panthers can’t open up holes. The offensive line is a young group, with junior Jake Hill the lone returning starter. Jacob Stone saw time as a back last fall, but Trey Jones, Tyrell Harrison, Connor Nickles and Jamichael Johnson have no varsity experience.

“It’s going to be a process replacing four starters on the offensive line. It will really show when they’re out on the field by themselves,” Nickles said. “They’ve got some potential but they’re young. We’ll have to see how they progress.”

Defensively, end Nate Temple has been the leader of that unit early on. Also rotating on the defensive line is Malek Blackwell, Carson Smith, Jihad Washington and CJ Rayford.

The linebackers are a veteran group that includes Whoodie Goodwin, Charles Holback, Tyrese Paul and Dee Graham. Tay Rayford and Sa’Darrian Terry return in the secondary with Malik Leach and David Cobb added to the fray.

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