Bishop England football coach John Cantey sees a lot of similarities between his Battling Bishops and Abbeville when he breaks down film.
Football scheduleState championshipsFridayat Benedict College, ColumbiaDivision I-AAFairfield-Central vs. Dillon, 5:30 p.m.Division II-AABishop England vs. Abbeville, 8:30 p.m.Saturdayat Williams-Brice Stadium, ColumbiaDivision II-AAAANorthwestern vs. Greenwood, noonDivision I-AAAAGaffney vs. Dutch Fork, 3:30 p.m.Class AAAHartsville vs. Union County, 6 p.m.
“Their defense comes up with a lot of big plays, a lot of turnovers,” Cantey said of Abbeville, which will face the Bishops at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Division II-AA state championship game at Benedict College.
“Their defense puts their offense in good position with a short field. On offense, they like to grind it.”
Both teams like to run the ball. Bishop England threw one pass in its victory over Silver Bluff last week. Abbeville also passed just once against Chesnee last Friday.
Abbeville is seeking its third straight state championship, but first at the II-AA level. The Panthers own an 11-2 record after moving up in classification from Division I-A. Abbeville beat Chesnee, 40-13, with a running game that churned out more than 300 yards and a defense that caused four turnovers.
Bishop England was just as impressive in its 42-7 victory at Silver Bluff. The Bishops rushed for 370 yards, while the defense forced three turnovers.
Defense was a big reason why the Bishops won the Division II-AA state title last year. They were very opportunistic, forcing 47 turnovers, including 32 interceptions. They were also very stingy. They allowed only 155 yards and 6.7 points per game.
Defense also is a big reason why the Bishops are back in the title game and own a 25-2 record the past two seasons. This fall, the Bishops have forced 35 turnovers, including 20 interceptions. They have allowed only 243 yards and 13.5 points per game.
“This year, the defense has been a work in progress,” Cantey said. “Last year, everyone sort of expected the defense to be ready from Day 1. This year, we’re learning about execution. But what makes it good is that they work hard.”
Defensive end Griffie Loy has been a starter both years and he’s come up big on defense. He’s recorded 72 tackles, including 26 for a loss and seven sacks. He’s forced four fumbles and recovered three. He says the younger players have stepped up.
“Everybody’s contributed,” Loy said. “This year the defense has been tough and we still feel we have something to prove. Nobody expected us to win (against Central) last year, and now we can have two titles to our legacy. We have to be ready, but we can do it.”
Senior linebacker Zach Richter leads the team with 117 tackles, including eight for a loss. Nick Shiver leads the team with six interceptions and is one of four talented players in the secondary. Reed Fosberry and DeAngelo Stephenson both have four picks while Ryan Rogers has three.