Griffins take first loss at Abbeville

The Griffin defense puts the stop on Abbeville quarterback Joshua Martin (4).Fairfield Central’s Larry G. Bell picks up the first down.Abbeville’s Tron Morton (25) picks off DeAndre Belton’s pass. Morton would return the pick for a touchdown.

The Abbeville Panthers have announced their presence in Class 2A football with authority, knocking off 3A Woodruff in week one and Friday night handing Fairfield Central their first loss at the 2A level, 30-7 at Hite Stadium in Abbeville.

The defending back-to-back Class A state champions have silenced doubters and proven that they are, indeed, ready for 2A competition. The Panthers used a dominant first half, capitalizing on rare Griffins miscues, to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room. Although the Griffin defense stiffened in the second half, mounting two tough fourth-and-goal stands from the 1-yard line, ultimately holding the Panthers to only 2 points in Friday’s second chapter, the Fairfield offense could not take advantage.

“It’s one of those games when you can’t get nothing going,” Griffin head coach Demetrius Davis said. “It snowballs, and that’s the one thing you can’t do against a team like this.”

The Griffins mustered a touchdown late in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback DeAndre Belton, capping a nearly 6-minute drive that began on the Fairfield 15; but it was the only shining moment for an offense that spit the ball up five times, three of which resulted in Abbeville scores.

“We killed our drives,” Davis said. “You can’t turn the ball over and you can’t get the penalties, because once they have the ball, they’re going to do what they do – they’re going to milk that clock. They’re a good football team, but we’ll get better.”

The Griffins took the opening kick at their own 20 and appeared to be poised to push the Panthers around, with Belton opening play with a 46-yard dash into Abbeville territory. But on the very next snap, Damien Bell coughed the ball up on the Panther 27.

The Panthers then unleashed their full stable of hearty running backs, smashing into the Griffins defense out of a mix of formations, from the wishbone to the flex-bone, to the many variations of the wing-T. The Panthers chewed up yardage and clock, taking it down to the Griffin 1-yard line where running back C.J. Martin hammered it home. Luke White added the kick and the Panthers had their first 7 points of the night.

White, meanwhile, had a stellar performance for the Panthers. Although he missed a 35-yard field goal attempt at the end of the next Panther possession, he delivered a remarkable four touchbacks on kickoffs, taking the return out of the game for the Griffins.

Down 14-0 midway through the second quarter, the Griffins were piecing together a steady drive. From their own 20, Fairfield had followed the legs of Belton and Larry G. Bell down to the Panther 38. But the drive turned to disaster when Abbeville’s De’Andre Walton plucked Belton’s pass attempt out of the air. The Panthers would take full advantage, converting the turnover into 6 points on a 4-yard run by O’Bryan Wilson less than 10 plays later.

A similar fate would befall the next Griffin possession, which also began on the Fairfield 20, advanced to the 47, and went up in smoke when Abbeville’s Joseph Battle picked a Belton pass at his own 45 and returned it 55 yards for the score. Wilson would add the final offensive points for the Panthers with his 2-yard run on the 2-point conversion just before the half.

“We struggled with the pass today,” Davis said. “We had some wide-open guys and we kind of missed them. Take those turnovers out of the first half and I think we’ve got a different ball game – but, turnovers are part of the game.”

Abbeville had opportunities to turn the game into a laugher in the second half, particularly after Tron Morton picked off another Belton pass at the Griffin 45 and returned it to the 11. The Panthers ground the ball down to the 1-yard line and were just inches shy of a first down. But the Griffin defense showed their mettle on fourth down, with Devontae Foster coming up to throw Wilson for a loss and give the ball back to the Griffins.

The Panthers had a second shot at the end zone late in the game, going from first-and-goal from the 8 to fourth-and-goal at the 1, but they were stuffed by the Griffin defense once more.

“I commend our guys,” Davis said. “We could have quit and this thing could have really got ugly.”

Davis, whose Griffins travel to Chester next week for an 8 p.m. kickoff against the rival Cyclones, said there was only one guy to blame for the Griffins poor performance Friday night.

“I didn’t have our guys prepared to play today,” Davis said, “so this one’s on me.”

AHS  7-21-0-2 – 30

FCH  0-0-7-0 – 7

First Quarter

AH – C.J. Martin 1 run. Luke White kick. (7:54)

Second Quarter

AH – Mike Bolden 19 run. White kick. (8:44)

AH – O’Bryan Wilson 4 run. Kick failed. (3:38)

AH – Joseph Battle 55 INT return. Wilson 2 run. (2:03)

Third Quarter

FC – DeAndre Belton 1 run. Compton Walker kick. (3:57)

Fourth Quarter

AH – Martavious Jones safety.

Team Stats

AHS     FC

First Downs 15 15

Rushes/Yards 53-254 32-197

C-A-I 1-4-0 9-24-4

Passing Yards 37 75

Fumbles/Lost 4-0 3-1

Penalties/Yards 3-35 3-28

Individual Stats

RUSHING – AH: O. Wilson 20-107. Martin 15-66. J. Martin 8-21. Harris 3-7. Bolden 2-40. D. Harris 5-13. FC: Belton 10-114. D. Bell 11-31. L.G. Bell 9-49. Neal 1-0. J. Young 1-3.

PASSING – AH: J. Martin 1-4-37 0INT 0TD. FC: D. Belton 9-24-75 4INT 0TD

RECEIVING – AH: M. Bolden 1-37. FC: K. Squirewell 3-25. K. Workman 2-21. J. Cook 2-18. L.G. Bell 1-9. T. White 1-2.

Records: AH 2-0/0-0  FC 1-1/0-0