Abbeville Wins

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SPECTACULAR CATCH - Saluda junior wide receiver Tyleke Mathis made a tremendous catch in the first quarter of the Abbeville game. This led to Saluda’s first score of the game. (Photo by Candace Corley Rinehart)

Abbeville Does It Again

  For the fourth time in the last seven seasons, Abbeville ended Saluda’s quest to advance in the playoffs at Hite Field.
  The 2021 meeting of the Tigers and Panthers was another classic, as Abbeville hung on to take a 49-34 win in the scorefest Fri., Nov. 12.
  Fans got their money’s worth as the two teams combined for over 800 yards in offense.
  The number one ranked Panthers had only given up 48 points in their first 11 games, but they had their hands full with the  Tigers.
  Abbeville had the game’s first scoring threat, but it died when the field goal attempt hit the upright a caromed off to the left.
  Saluda took over at the 20, but on third down Montrevious Baker fumbled at the Tigers’ 30, and Abbeville recovered and a Panther returned the ball to the Saluda four. On second down from the nine, Jamal Marshall scored. Addison Nickles kicked the PAT and the Panthers led 7-0 with 5:45 to go in the first quarter.
  The Tigers responded with an 87-yard, five play scoring drive. The big play was a 58-yard pass from quarterback Jonah McCary to Tyleke Mathis, who made a spectacular catch at the Abbeville 15. On the next play, Baker scored on a run. Sam Espinoza’s kick tied the game at 7-7 with 4:13 left in the quarter.
  The Panthers started at their 38 after the kick-off. Using their bevy of speedy backs, Abbeville moved 62 yards in eight plays for the score, a four yard run by Antonio Harrison. Nickles made the first quarter score 14-7.
  Saluda’s attempt to knot the score, ended when the Tigers could not convert on third down at the Abbeville five. Espinoza came on to kick an 18-yard field goal to make the score 14-10 with 9:08 to go in the first half.
  On Abbeville’s next scoring march, the Panthers actually attempted and completed a pass. The 19-yarder kept the drive alive, and four plays later, outstanding quarterback Zay Rayford scored in a one-yard run. Nickles upped the lead to 21-10 with 5:07 to go.
  Unfortunately, the Tigers did not hold serve, and were forced to punt from the own nine-yard line after three failed downs. Espinoza got off an excellent 49-yard punt, but the Tigers were penalized 15-yards on the play and Abbeville started at the Saluda 37. Four plays later, Rayford scored on a 17-yard run. Nickles kicked the PAT, giving Abbeville a 28-10 lead with just 2:59 to go in the half.
  There was no “quit” in the Tigers. After the kickoff, from their own 38, they got as close as the Abbeville 20, where Espinoza kicked at 32-yard field goal with two seconds to go, making the halftime score 28-13.
  Saluda attempted to catch Abbeville sleeping by attempting an onside kick to start the second half. It didn’t work. The Panthers were on the board in only three plays, the score coming on a 29-yard run by Rayford. Nickles made it 35-13 with 10:49 still to go in the third quarter.
  The route was on ... or so seemed.
  The Panthers decided to return the favor by attempting an onside kick on the kick-off. It didn’t’ work either.
  Saluda got the ball at the 41 and moved in for the score in 15 plays. The touchdown came on a four yard run by McCary. Espinoza cut the lead to 35-20 with 5:58 to go.
  After the kick-off, the Panthers showed they were almost human, when a back fumbled on third down and Saluda recovered at the Abbeville 48. A 34-yard pass from McCary to Zion Wright sparked the drive, and on third down from the six McCary threw a scoring pass to Mathis. Espinoza cut the Panther lead to 35-27 with 3:36 to go in the third.
  Abbeville was forced to start at the ten after the kick-off, but it didn’t matter. Rayford  broke a 49-yard run to the Saluda 26 as time was running out in the period. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Marshall scored on a 14-yard run. Nickles’s kick upped the Abbeville lead to 42-27.
  Again, the Tigers did not fold their tents. Staying mostly in the air, Saluda moved 72-yards in 16 plays. Mathis scored on a five-yard run, and Espinoza was true on the kick, and the lead was cut to 42-34.
  But it was the same old story. The Tigers defenders could not stop the Abbeville runners. The Panthers took eight plays to move 73-yards, and Marshall salted it away with a 13-yard scoring run. The score stood at 49-34 after Nickles’s kick with 3:33 to go in the game.
  As had been the case the whole night, Saluda came back, but McCary’s pass was intercepted in the Panther end zone as time was running out.
  It was another one of those “You beat us but we got more yards” games. Saluda totaled 460 yards in total offense, compared to Abbeville’s 422.
  McCary completed 30-50 passes for 371 yards. Receivers Javarious Stevens 9-112, Mathis 7-89, Jabari Baker 7-79 and Wright 5-93 all had outstanding games.
  The difference in the game was Saluda’s fields goal instead of touchdowns, and the Tigers inability to force an Abbeville punt.
  The Tigers finished the year 7-3, with the three losses coming against teams that currently have the combined record of 33-2.
  Despite having two games cancelled the Tigers scored 386 points, the fourth highest in school history.
  McCary’s 1862-yards passing was also the fourth highest in school history. Noah Bell has the top three yardages.
  Kicker Espinoza’s eight field goals was the most in a season in school history. Dylan Strickland held the previous mark with seven.
  The Tigers lose Jabari Baker, Javarious Stevens, Darious Cleveland, Dashawn Jones, Montrevious Baker, Diego Licea, Hayden Stoudemire, and Jamarious Moore to graduation, all contributors to the Tiger success. Next year’s team will feature 20 seniors.