ABBEVILLE, SC - Lincoln County spotted the defending South Carolina Class A champions 10 points before reaffirming the Red Devils' dominance of the series 24-13 here last Friday night.
The victory by the Georgia team ended a 14-game winning streak by the Panthers. The game also brings to a close, for the foreseeable future, the LC-Abbeville series with the Devils leading 7-3. The Greenwood Index-Journal reports that the schools have decided not to schedule each other again. Ninety Six High, in Greenwood County, is a possible replacement for Abbeville on the Red Devil non-region schedule.
The first quarter belonged to the home-standing Panthers, but the Red Devils took control in the second and kept Abbeville throttled, other than one long run. Abbeville was held to less than 50 yards offense, and no points, in the second half.
Zireycus Letman starred on both sides of the ball. He led the offense with 5 catches for 72 yards and the first Devil TD. He intercepted a pass to setup the Devils' go-ahead touchdown early in the second half, and saved a touchdown on a defensive stop to end a 39-yard run in the second quarter. Jet Marshall was a terror on defense, disrupting the Panther backfield frequently. QB Denzel Gunby had an excellent game with 9 completions for 119 yards and two scores, and two key runs.
Abbeville managed two first downs on their opening drive before the Devil Defense stiffened to force a 38-yard field goal with 4:28 left in the first period. The Panthers' freshman quarterback broke a 43-yard run down the right side early in the second to put Abbeville up by 10 (with the PAT kick).
But while some teams may have folded at that point, the well-coached Devils kept to their game plan. Mixing running and passing, the Devils quickly moved down the field until they faced a 4th-and-1 at the Abbeville 14. Dayshawn Taylor bulled forward for 6 yards. After a miscue, Gunby zipped the ball to Letman in the front right corner of the endzone to cut the lead. James Spratlin's extra point kick made it 10-7 with 6:39 left in the half.
The Panthers broke a 39-yard run to setup a 35-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining before intermission. Starting from their 20 after the kickoff, Gunby and Jones quickly brought the Devils to midfield before Gunby hit Letman for 36 and then 3, to the Abbeville 10. With only 8 seconds left, Lincoln County opted for the sure points with a 27-yard field goal by Spratlin.
Starting the second half from their 21, two Abbeville rushing plays were stuffed for no gain. The Panthers tried one of their few pass attempts, when Letman stepped in front of the intended receiver, intercepted, and returned the ball to the 20. Three plays later Gunby passed to Mason Saggus over the middle at the goalline for the go-ahead points. The PAT gave the Devils a 17-13 lead.
The Red Devil faithful might have remembered that on their previous two trips to Abbeville the Devils led in the fourth quarter only to leave Abbeville County with a loss. Would 2011 be a repeat?
The next Panther series provided an emphatic "NO" to that question. A short kick gave Abbeville the ball in great position at its 41. After a 4-yard run, Tra Brown slammed the Panther ballcarrier for a 3-yard loss. A 7-yard run came up 2 yards short of a first down at midfield. In punt formation, the Panthers snapped directly to one of the blockers, who was caught by the unfooled Devil Defense for a 4-yard loss.
Big Red took almost 4 minutes off the clock, driving to the Panther 11 before the drive came up just short of a first down. After an exchange of punts, the Panthers started from their 2 with plenty of time left in the game. With heat and cramps taking some of the LC starters out of the game, the Panthers managed one first down before facing 4th-and-1 at their own 25. They ran their regular offense, but Marshall stopped the runner for no gain with 6:24 left.
The Devils picked up one first down before an incomplete pass ended the scoring opportunity at the 5 with 3:18 left. With one last chance, Abbeville went back to their running game, but the rusher fumbled with the Devils recovering at the 7. Sherrod Jones gained 6 down the right side before Taylor scored from the 1 with 2:27 left. Spratlin's kick all but secured the game with a 24-13 lead. The Panthers failed to make a first down on their final possession with LC taking over at 0:58 for one final knee to run out the clock.
Lincoln County will host McCormick this week in a rare Thursday game. The event will be broadcast on RTV Channel 6.2 live and later rebroadcast on WJBF NewsChannel 6. Kickoff is at 7:00 for the first live TV game broadcast from Buddy Bufford Field.
Greenwood Index-Journal game coverage
Augusta Chronicle write-up