COLUMBIA — Bishop England football coach John Cantey conceded earlier in the week that Abbeville was bigger and stronger than his team. But the Bishops had a bigger bag of tricks, and that propelled them to a 21-0 victory over Abbeville on Friday night to win their second straight Class AA Division II state championship.
On the third play from scrimmage, quarterback Kevin Herbst pitched the ball to Nick Theos on a play that seemed to be developing as a sweep to the right side of the field.
But Theos, who began the year as the starting quarterback, found senior wide receiver Jamie Garrett wide open for a 62-yard touchdown to give the Bishops a 7-0 lead only 79 seconds into the game as the crowd of about 4,500 fans just settled in at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.
“That play was huge,” Cantey said. “They came in thinking they were going to roll over us. But we played with a huge chip on our shoulders.”
The big play gave the Bishops confidence and a lead they never relinquished as they finished 13-1 for the second straight season.
Abbeville finished with an 11-3 record. The Panthers won Class A Division I state titles the last two years, but came up short in their debut in the Class AA Division II title game.
“We won two state titles when nobody gave us a chance,” said senior running back DeAngelo Stephenson. “We proved the world wrong. We are state champs.”
Abbeville moved the ball well in the first half but couldn’t put points on the board. The Panthers missed a field goal in the first quarter and had a drive die at the Bishops’ 30 with 4:32 left in the first half. QB Kelly Bryant suffered an injury on the drive, and backup Joshua Martin struggled. The Panthers used three quarterbacks.
The Bishops had a chance to expand their lead late in the first half, but Drew Costa’s 18-yard field goal was blocked with eight seconds left in the half. The Bishops missed two field goal attempts in the first half. The other was a 39-yard attempt.
Abbeville averaged 292 yards rushing and had 116 yards in the first half as O’Bryan Wilson accounted for 105 yards on 10 carries. Abbeville finished with 153 yards rushing and 29 passing.
The Bishops had 205 yards in the first half. Herbst had 67 yards on the ground on 11 carries. He finished with 132 yards and two TDs as BE totaled 309 yards in offense.
Bryant returned in the second half and guided the Panthers on a drive that took more than six minutes off the clock. But it ended on a punt into the endzone.
But the Panthers got a break when Herbst fumbled at the Bishops’ 25 and Quincy Agnew recovered. But the Bishops came up with big stops again as Nick Shiver broke up a pass in the endzone and linebacker Zach Richter recorded his 10th tackle of the game — a 3-yard loss. The Bishops held on downs as Richter and Griffie Loy came up with the stop.
The Bishops pushed the lead to 14-0 when Herbst scored on a 2-yard run with 8:35 left in the game. The drive lasted 14 plays and covered 73 yards. It took 7:09 off the clock.
Herbst closed out the scoring with a 29-yard TD run with 1:43 left in the game.
Herbst was slowed by the bug, but he wasn’t complaining.
“We wanted this really bad,” he said. “My line did a great job. We won two, and both were great team efforts.”
Cantey had to come up with seven new starters on defense, and after a shaky start, the Bishops’ defense has become rock solid. They allowed 101 points in the first six games of the season and surrendered just 73 in the last eight games.
It marked the second straight year the Bishops recorded a shutout in the title game. They beat Central, 10-0, last fall.
Abbeville 0 0 0 0— 0
Bishop England 7 0 0 14—21
BE — Jamie Garrett 62 pass from Nick Theos (Drew Costa kick)
BE — Herbst 2 run (Costa kick)
BE — Herbst 29 run (Costa kick)
Bishop England wide receiver Jamie Garrett and quarterback Kevin Herbst (#4) celebrate a 62-yard touchdown reception by Garrett against Abbeville in the first half of the AA Division 2 State Championship. Jeff Blake/Special to The Post and Courier×