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Abbeville High School

Abbeville coaches take pride in community

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Abbeville—When one thinks of Abbeville football, tradition may be the first word that comes to mind.  The Panthers have been a consistent force in the South Carolina prep ranks for generations.

The football coaching staff is filled with guys that have played at Abbeville or grew up in the community.  They are constantly drawn to that family atmosphere and want to continue to make an impact for years to come.

“I think it’s just the Panther pride, the pride that has been instilled in us from various coaches.  Several guys played on state championship teams and it’s just a family tradition,” said head coach Jamie Nickles, who is heading into his 15th season in charge.

Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Mark Smith is the elder of the group, coaching 35 years in Abbeville.  He also mentors the running backs.

“He’s been here through the good years and the bad years.  He’s got a very calm personality, but he’s kind of the backbone of our coaching staff,” Nickles said.

Joining Smith on offense is Tony Temple, who handles the quarterbacks, wide receivers and passing game.  Wayne Botts heads up the offensive line.

Defensively, Nickles focuses on the ends while Eddie Ford works with the tackles.  Rex Pelfrey and Doug Belcher have the inside and outside linebackers, respectively, and defensive coordinator Tad Dubose also deals with the secondary.

With so many veteran coaches, there is plenty to go back and forth about.  They have a brotherly love among them, and even if they disagree, there are no egos.  Each of them is excited to come to work every day.

“I think it’s the kids and the enthusiasm they bring into the program.  It’s just kind of what we do,” said Nickles.  “Coaching is a big part of our lives.  Abbeville is such a big part of who we are.

“We always tell stories.  Was the ’91 team better than the ’96?  Was the ’81 better than the ’71?  With the run we’ve had lately, it’s hard to compare.  Those are good arguments to have.”

Nickles won a title as a player before helping guide the Panthers to five state championships in the last eight seasons, including three straight in Class AA.  However, he doesn’t feel any pressure from the outside.

“I don’t know if I’d call it pressure, but there are obviously expectations.  Even if we aren’t very good, our fans are smart.  They understand because they’ve seen so much football.  The biggest thing we hear from them is why don’t we throw the ball more?  We’re trying to coach to our kids’ strengths.  If our quarterback is a good thrower, then we’ll throw it more,” Nickles said.

As far as the rest of the athletic department goes, most of the varsity head coaches are back for another season at the helm.  Dubose, who is the school’s athletic director, will double as the golf coach. 

Krystal Brown returns to the volleyball court while Tim Hall handles the girls’ and boys’ cross-country squads.  Kaylor Arand leads girls’ tennis.

In the winter, Belcher will continue his role as the boys’ basketball coach, and Sonya Turman is a constant on the girls’ basketball team.  Bill Glace is back in charge of wrestling.

Hall and Rebecca Holland were tabbed to take over the boys’ and girls’ track programs, respectively.  Tim Collins (softball) and Nick Milford (baseball) also return, with the lone remaining opening on the staff coming in boys’ soccer.

“We’re very blessed to have great people that are good coaches.  Almost all of our varsity coaches have an Abbeville tie – either they went here or had kids who went here,” Dubose said.  “The stability we’ve had with our program is something you don’t see a lot of anymore.  Thank goodness we’ve got people that are tied to this community that care about it and want to stay here.  Along with that and the good athletes we have, that’s a recipe for success.”

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