Senior running back Mike Bolden scored the go-ahead touchdown from 11 yards out with 1:33 to play Friday night to lead the Abbeville Panthers to a 28-24 come-from-behind victory over the visiting Greenville Red Raiders.
The Abbeville faithful, fresh off back-to-back state Class A titles, were stunned after two quarters as the Red Raiders carried a 24-7 lead to halftime.
Sophomore running back Sylvester Harris had gotten the Panthers off to a great start when he electrified the crowd with a 94-yard TD return on the game’s opening kickoff. Senior kicker Luke White booted the extra point for a quick 7-0 lead for the home team.
Greenville took the ensuing kickoff and moved the ball 80 yards in 10 plays – the last 29 on junior left-handed quarterback Clark Scolamiero’s run. Senior kicker Keith Carmilovich tacked on the extra point to tie the game at 7 with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers dodged a bullet on their next drive, fumbling the ball inside their own 20 and Greenville recovered, but the Red Raiders were unable to capitalize on the opportunity, missing a field goal wide right from 41 yards out.
Abbeville fumbled twice on its next drive, recovering the first but Greenville pounced on the second deep in its own territory to thwart a Panther scoring threat.
Harris had another big play during that drive, bursting through for 38 yards to the Red Raider 22, but Abbeville fumbled the ball away on the next play.
After recovering the fumble, Greenville began to systematically move down the field. The Red Raiders moved 82 yards on 10 plays, the last 8 on junior running back Jamond Thomason’s touchdown run. Carmilovich again added the extra point and Greenville took its first lead, 14-7, with 2:23 to play in the first quarter.
The Panthers were stymied on their next possession, starting deep in their own territory. They moved out near midfield and the offense stalled. Abbeville faced fourth-and-eight from the Greenville 48 and unsuccessfully faked a punt to turn the ball over on downs early in the second quarter.
After exchanging punts, Greenville took the ball with 7:02 to play in the first half and put together another scoring drive – this time moving 54 yards in 10 plays. The Red Raiders capped the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Scolamiero to junior Corbin Singleton. Carmilovich added the extra point and Greenville led, 21-7, with 4:33 to go before halftime.
The Panthers moved deep into Greenville territory on their next possession, but an interception ended that drive. The Red Raiders, aided by a 62-yard run by Thomason, found themselves deep in Abbeville territory again just before the half, but two sacks by the Panthers on the drive kept Greenville at bay and the Red Raiders settled for a 35-yard field goal as time ran out to take a 24-7 lead to the locker room.
Greenville rolled up more than 200 yards of total offense in the first half, and made 14 first downs to clearly control the game. Abbeville was its own worst enemy with three pivotal turnovers, but still managed about 180 yards of offense and 9 first downs in the first half.
Adding injury to insult, literally, was the loss of senior linebacker Keenan Gilchrist, who hobbled off the field with 21 seconds left before halftime.
Still, Abbeville head football coach Jamie Nickles said he didn’t see panic in the eyes of his players at halftime. “I saw a group of young men who wanted to go back out and play football,” he said.
Panther assistant coach and athletic director Tad DuBose said the coaches “did a little bit of tweaking and made a few adjustments” at halftime, but it was up to the players to get the job done.
Gilchrist did not return to the game, but stayed seated on the bench as he iced his knee and encouraged his teammates.
Abbeville needed a break to start the second half, but Greenville received the opening kickoff. The Panthers received the break they needed on the second play from scrimmage, when Greenville fumbled the ball on a pass play and Abbeville recovered at the Red Raider 33.
Four plays later, senior running back O’Bryan Wilson rushed into the end zone from 11 yards out to put the Panthers back in business. White punched through the extra point and Abbeville narrowed the deficit to 10, 24-14, with less than 2 minutes gone in the third quarter.
The Panther defense rose to the challenge with one of their best players watching and held Greenville to (-6) yards on its next three plays.
Following a punt that left Abbeville with good field position at its own 42, the Panther offense went back to work. AHS drove 58 yards on 8 plays (25 of them on a scamper by Bolden) and scored again. This time, Bolden went in from a yard out with 5:08 left to play in the third quarter. White added another extra point and the Panthers were within striking distance at 24-21.
Abbeville’s defense continued to stymie the Red Raider offense, as Greenville totaled less than 40 yards of total offense in the second half before its final drive.
The Panther offense got the ball back and moved 12 plays deep into Red Raider territory early in the fourth quarter. The turnover bug bit again, however, as Greenville recovered an Abbeville fumble inside its own 20 to turn the Panthers away.
The teams exchanged punts again and Greenville found itself completely unable to do anything against a tough Abbeville defense.
The Panthers regained possession with less than 4 minutes to play after a punt left them in challenging field position at their own 18. On the first play after the punt, quarterback Joshua Martin got loose down the right side of the Greenville defense and, 46 yards later, Abbeville was in business with a first down at the Red Raider 37.
Bolden followed with a 9-yard run up the middle, then Wilson pounded 14 yards off the left side, setting the stage for the game-winner moments later. Greenville made a last-gasp effort to snatch the game from the Panthers, but came up 3 yards short as the clock ran out.
“You saw a group of kids who refused to lose,” Nickles said after the game. “We controlled the football in the second half.”
DuBose agreed. “This was Abbeville football at its finest,” he said. The coach pointed to the outstanding play of senior Justin Saylors and junior Tron Morton and a “big turnover” by junior DeAndre Hurley, although he said it was difficult to single out one player because so many on the team made a contribution.
Still, a Panther team looking to find itself went a long way in that process Friday night, believing that it could win despite adversity and going out to make it happen.
Abbeville (1-0) returns to action next Friday night against non-conference rival Woodruff.