Echoes of Abbeville: Griffins prep for Tiger ground game

The Fairfield Central Griffins wrapped up region play Oct. 26 in impressive fashion with their 57-6 win over North Central. They emerged from Region III with a spotless 5-0 record, enough to earn a bye in round one of the state playoffs. The bye week has come and gone now, and the Griffins must get back to work for Crescent High School.

The Tigers (4-3/8-3), who finished third in Region I, overcame a 99-mile road trip last week to knock off Pelion 35-13 in round one. And they did so in a manner that stirs some unpleasant memories for Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis.

“They remind me a lot of Abbeville,” Davis said. “They run the wing-T, the single-wing – they’re a run-oriented outfit. Their quarterback (sophomore Dalston Davis) does a good job running the football, and they have good skilled kids who run the ball well.”

It is understandable that Davis would cringe at the thought of another Abbeville-style opponent. In week two, the Griffins had what was inarguably their worst performance of the season on the road against the Panthers, throwing four interceptions and giving up one fumble, all of which lead to three Abbeville touchdowns. The Griffin offense was held to just 197 yards rushing back on Aug. 31, while their passing game was an anemic 75 yards. The upside of that miserable performance was the fact that, in the second half, the Griffins outscored the Panthers 7-2, largely behind several stiff goal-line stands from the Griffin defense.

It would be the first of only two losses on the season for the Griffins, the second coming Sept. 14 to gun-slinging Union County, 42-40. Since then, the Griffins have gelled into an offensive juggernaut and a defensive stone wall, hanging 50 points or better on three of their last four opponents and holding their last six opponents to a combined 49 points.

“You always learn more from a loss than you do a win,” Davis said, reflecting on the Abbeville setback. “I think we learned more from that one game than from all the others.”

To beat back the Tigers, the Griffins will have to adjust their style of defense somewhat, a defense that is typically on the attack through four quarters.

“One thing that option stuff does is it forces you to play good, disciplined football on defense,” Davis said. “What has been our strength could be our disadvantage. Our guys have to stay home and protect their assignments.”

Opponents have averaged just 13.5 points per game against the Griffin defense, while the offense has averaged 38.8 points per game. The Tiger offense, meanwhile, averages 33.8 points per game, while their defense surrenders an average of 22.8. The Tigers hung 50 points on Southside on opening night and have scored 40 points or more four times this season, including a losing effort to Blacksburg on Sept. 14 (48-42). Their three region losses came at the hands of Chesnee (45-20), Liberty (41-7) and Blacksburg. Against Pelion last week, Crescent’s Davis ran for one touchdown and passed for another, while running backs Ray Artybridge and B.J. Yeargin each rushed for a score.

“If they throw the ball, they’re throwing it for a touchdown,” Davis said. “They’re clock eaters. Our defense has to get those guys off the field and our offense has to execute and capitalize on our opportunities when we get them.”

Friday night’s round two matchup could be a slugfest or a defensive struggle of attrition, but certainly not a shoot-out.

“I expect a tough, hard-fought game,” Davis said. “I’m putting it on our defense to get us to the next level.”

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

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