ABBEVILLE --- In a game that was a tale of two halves of field position throughout Friday night’s battle of state ranked teams in Abbeville, it ultimately came down to a goal-line stand.
Pike County, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, seized an 18-0 lead over Class 2A No. 4 Abbeville, but had to hang on in the final two minutes behind a goal-line stand to preserve an 18-12 victory and an undefeated season.
The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 with the non-region win as they prepare for next week’s 3A, Region 2 showdown with Providence Christian. Abbeville, which lost a regular-season home game for the first time since 2016 (snapped 12-game winning streak), dropped to 4-1 as it re-enters region play at Ariton next week.
The field position belonged to Pike County in the first half and the Bulldogs took advantage for a 12-0 halftime lead. The Dogs added a score to open the third quarter to go up 18-0, but then the field position turned to Abbeville’s direction.
The Jackets cashed in with two scores to pull within 18-12 and got the ball back with 5:34 left, just 36 yards from the end zone after the defense and penalties pushed Pike County inside the 5.
The Jackets, behind runs of 13 and 20 yards by quarterback Nathan Hall, who fought off cramps in the second half, pushed to the 10. Runs of 5 and 4 yards by Rico Dozier moved it to the 1 with2:12 left in the game.
After an offsides penalty on Pike moved it slightly closer, Dozier tried up the middle but was stonewalled, forcing fourth down.
Hall, taking the snap under center, took it the left side of the line on the ensuing play, but the right side of the Bulldog defense stopped him short, preventing the score and preserving the 18-12 lead with 1:34 left. Darrick Myhand, Zakevin Pennington and Omarion Florence were credited for the final stop.
Pike County quarterback Jordan Hobdy pushed it out of the shadow of the end zone for a 4-yard gain on the next play and the Bulldogs were able to run out the remaining clock.
Defenses dominated game early as the teams were held to three first downs during the first nine possessions – two from Pike County in four series and one on five possessions by Abbeville, which played without starting quarterback Martavious Glanton, who was out with an injury.
The defensive work, combined with a Bulldog blocked punt, two Abbeville turnovers and two failures to convert fourth downs by Abbeville, kept the ball inside Yellow Jacket throughout the first half.
The Bulldogs knocked on the doorstep following a 7-yard run by Rayshawn Reynolds to the 1, but on fourth down a pitch to the left was fumbled with Abbeville’s A.J. Thomas picking it up and racing to the 43, denying Pike County a scoring chance.
The Bulldogs finally cashed in on the positive field position on the next two series, scoring on two short-field drives of 23 and 26 yards to seize a 12-0 halftime lead.
After Thomas’ fumble return, Abbeville was pushed back to the 13 off two 15-yard penalties and the Jackets were stopped on a 4th-and-16 pass at the 23, turning the ball over to the Bulldogs.
Pike County scored in seven plays with Hobdy scoring on a 1-yard sneak up the middle behind a good push by the line and with a running back pushing behind him. The extra point was no good, leaving it 6-0 Pike County with 8:23 to go in the second quarter.
Abbeville, behind a holding penalty, failed to convert a first down and couldn’t convert on 4 th -and-3 at the 27, losing a yard to the 26. One play later, Pike County’s Reynolds went untouched up the middle on a 26-yard scoring run. A try for two failed, leaving it 12-0 with 5:41 to go before halftime.
The Jackets, who had only 54 total yards in their first six series, finally found some offense on the last series of the half. After a 51-yard punt by Pike County pinned AHS at the 1, the Jackets punched it out behind a 15-yard run by Dozier and an 11-yard run by Hall.
After two motion penalties, Hall connected with Jay Anderson for a 40-yard completion. Anderson went up with two Bulldog defenders for the ball, which was tipped into the air and it came down to Anderson as he went to the ground at the 49.
A 12-yard Hall to Anderson pass moved it to the 37, but Reynolds intercepted a pass as the half ended.
Pike County quickly padded to the lead on the first series of the second half. After starting at the 40, the Bulldogs lined up in a two-back I-formation and just powered mostly up the middle behind Reynolds on a five-play scoring march.
After pounding up the middle, the Bulldogs went outside with Derrick Myhand outracing a defender to the left side of the end zone on a 7-yard TD run. The extra point was missed, but Pike County was seemingly in control at 18-0 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
But then the field position and game turned to Abbeville’s direction.
Two possessions later, Abbeville started with its best field position of the night at the Pike County 40 following an 11-yard punt return by Anderson.
After gaining a first down on a block below the knee penalty on Pike County’s defense, the Jackets cashed in with a 19-yard Hall to Gabriel Shell TD pass across the middle. A try for two failed, but Abbeville pulled to within 18-6.
The Jackets defense kept the momentum going, forcing a three-and-out and Abbeville set up at the Pike 45 following a 27-yard punt return by Devan Mills, who took the punt off a bounce with two Bulldog defenders bearing down.
Sparked by a 20-yard run by Hall, Abbeville scored in eight plays with Hall scoring 1-yard QB sneak with 7:29 left. A try for two failed, leaving it 18-12.
Because of a personal foul penalty on the touchdown play, Abbeville got to kick off from the Pike County 45 and the kick was fielded and downed by the Bulldogs at the 10.
A holding penalty and a quarterback sack backed Pike to the 1 and eventually the Bulldogs punted to Abbeville with Mills getting an 8-yard return to the 36, setting up the Jackets’ final drive.
The Jackets, behind the runs of Hall and Dozier, moved to the 1 before Pike County’s defense stood tall to hold on.
Both teams were plagued by penalties in the game, mostly motion and holding infractions. Abbeville, which had four turnovers in the game, had 14 penalties for 105 yards, while Pike County had eight for 86.5 yards.