ABBEVILLE 48, BARNWELL 14
COLUMBIA — The momentum shifted in Barnwell's favor before halftime in its previous game.
This time was different.
Already facing the biggest deficit they had seen all season, the Warhorses seemed poised to cut Abbeville's two-touchdown lead to a manageable deficit in the closing minutes of the fist half.
Then disaster struck. David Cobb picked off Craig Pender's pass and took it 95 yards the other way to put Abbeville up 21. It also put the Panthers 24 minutes away from its fourth consecutive state championship.
They came out and closed the deal in the second half, beating Barnwell 48-14.
"If we got it to 21-14 right there before half, things may have been a tad different," Barnwell head coach Dwayne Garrick said. "They were physical. They were physical on both sides of the ball more than I really thought, to be honest with you."
Barnwell's defense struggled to get off the field on third and fourth down at times and committed a few crucial penalties to extend Abbeville drives. A fourth-and-3 play on the first drive of the third quarter proved to be the back breaker. Abbeville quarterback J.D. Moore connected with JaBryan Sanders on a 35 yard touchdown pass to put the Panthers up 35-7, and the Warhorses' title dreams started to slip away more rapidly. Moore hit Sanders again late in the third quarter for a 68 yard touchdown. Sanders finished with 108 receiving yards and the two scores.
"Give coach (Mark) Smith and coach (Tony) Temple a lot of credit. They studied film and saw that was there," Abbeville head coach Jamie Nickles said. "Man, could you ask for a better play?"
Abbeville made it look easy early on, driving 64 yards on its first offensive possession, and Moore capped it off with a 22-yard touchdown run. Dallyon Creech provided a spark when he returned a punt 71 yards to tie the game in the first quarter. The Panthers responded with 21 unanswered points, including two Courtney Jackson rushing touchdowns.
Jackson was unstoppable, rushing for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Dominick Washington added 85 yards and a touchdown of his own. Moor ran for 60 yards.
"Those big backs they had were tough, and we tackled them kind of high at times too," Garrick said.
Barrnwell didn't find much luck in the run game. The Abbeville defense held them to 108 yards rushing, with most of it coming late in the game. Pender was 13-32 for 146 yards. He threw two interceptions.
"I'm proud of our kids. I'm proud of our coaches," Garrick said. It's been a great season for us. Tonight wasn't our best effort, by any means, but that's no reflection on our program, our players or our coaches."