The battle of unbeatens had reached a tipping point. Either Barnwell was going to make a game out of it or Abbeville was going to further establish its dominance in Class 2A.
Warhorses quarterback Craig Pender sat in the pocket and tossed to the middle of the field. A completion and Barnwell was closer to cutting the Panthers’ lead in half. An incompletion and Barnwell was still in good shape.
But when the worst of possibilities happened, Friday’s state championship game all but ended.
A long interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half helped Abbeville to a 48-14 win over Barnwell, giving the Panthers their fourth consecutive title.
“I don’t like to compare different teams,” said Abbeville coach Jamie Nickles, “but this football team right here is very complete. In every unit, they’re good.”
Abbeville (14-0) has lost just three times since the start of the 2015 season. Such tradition was on full display Friday. Behind a suffocating defense and run-heavy offense, the Panthers jumped out to a 21-7 lead before the Warhorses (13-1) posed a serious threat.
Pender, who threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 57-26 rout of Carvers Bay in the semifinals, had the Warhorses in the red zone with under a minute left in the second quarter until he was picked by Abbeville defensive back David Cobb at the 9-yard line. Cobb went untouched the rest of the way for a deflating score.
The Panthers rolled from there, going to the air in the second half for a couple long TDs — including a 35-yard J.D. Moore to JaBryan Sanders connection on a fourth down in the third quarter.
Abbeville led 48-7 after the third, out-gaining Barnwell by 272 yards. The Warhorses were held well below their season average of 44 points per game.
HOW THEY SCORED
ABV – Moore 22 run (Beauford kick), 7:56
BARN – Creech 71 punt return (Mercado kick), 5:09
ABV – Jackson 37 run (Beauford kick), 2:20
ABV — Jackson 16 run (Beauford kick), 11:35
ABV — Cobb 91 interception return (Beauford kick), 0:46
ABV — Sanders 35 pass from Moore (Beauford kick), 9:11
ABV — Washington 1 run (Kick failed), 3:18
ABV — Sanders 68 pass from Moore (Cobb kick), 1:42
BARN — Chisholm 35 run (Mercado kick)
Rushing: ABV: Jackson 10-121, Washington 19-85, Moore 14-60. BARN: Chisholm 7-79, Harvey 8-32
Passing: ABV: Moore 3-4-0 108. BARN: Pender 13-32-2 146
Receiving: ABV: Sanders 3-108, Woods 1-18. BARN: Johnson 5-69, Frazier 4-69, Creech 2-28, Harvey 2-0