St. Mary’s was overmatched in its season opener Friday night, with the Class 1A Tigers taking on a 3A Abbeville club expected to be better than the Wildcats have been in years.
The SMHS players didn’t buy into that line of thinking. Although Abbeville headed back south with a 43-23 win at Turpin Stadium, it was not a blowout, and it was hard earned.
The Tigers led 10-7 at halftime, and coach Aaron York saw a lot to like even as the visitors took control thanks to their superior numbers and overall size and speed.
“Overall, it was a good experience for us, playing up two classifications. I couldn’t ask for any more effort than our kids gave. For a little 1A school, our kids are tough.
“They (Abbeville) were a good Class 3A ballclub. They had 11 coming in on offense, 11 others on defense, and some guys who could go. It was a stout challenge for us,” said York. “We didn’t back away.”
The first half wasn’t all it could have been for the Tigers, but it was a solid start.
“We won the first half, I thought. The defense had a couple good stands,” said York. “We played the best we could have, held our own.
Abbeville began to take over with a kick return for a touchdown. Later came a pick six interception return for a score when the pass bounced off the SMHS receivers’ hands, bounced in the air and was snatched up and run back.
The Tigers moved inside the Wildcats’ 20 three times, but scored only three points.
Ethan Busby scored three touchdowns, two on receptions from Adam Parker. Busby caught six passes for 83 yards. Jaydyn Jackson accumulated 91 total yards on nine touches in his first game as the primary back for St. Mary’s. Parker went 13 of 26 for 162 passing yards.
Payne Williams booted a field goal and was perfect on three extra points.
Defensively, Drake Griffin topped the Tiger chart with 4.5 tackles and Graeme Fidelak made 3.5.
“My message after the game was, ‘Don’t ever accept losing. This ought to make you upset, make you want to get better.’ Our kids felt that way. They were hurting afterward,” said York.
“I can’t complain. Some younger kids had to step up and get some reps, and now we can teach off of that. A lot of kids got their first game experience, and some of those were playing both ways – five starters. Four of our five offensive linemen, and our entire receiving corps, played both ways.
“If we’re going to play this iron man football, it was an eye opener. We didn’t get our feet wet in a jamboree so this was our first test, and it was a good one,” said York.
The Tigers stay home next Friday night to meet Buckeye.
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