ABBEVILLE — The Abbeville Wildcats did not go down without a fight in the battle for the Russo Trophy on Friday night.
Kaplan (7-2, 4-0) defeated rival Abbeville (0-9, 0-4), 22-14 for their seventh straight victory this season, and the ninth straight win over Abbeville in the rivalry game.
In a contest riddled with turnovers and miscues, Kaplan was able to squeak out the win, albeit in sloppy fashion.
“We did everything wrong,” Kaplan coach Stephen Lotief said. “We didn’t take care of the football, and we had some penalties. We took some steps back, but we made some plays.”
It did not take long for Abbeville to get on the board. Junior Travion Moore took the opening kickoff 88 yards down the left sideline for a Wildcat touchdown.
Kaplan responded on its first drive of the game with a drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run by Julius Johnson. A missed extra point gave Abbeville a 7-6 lead.
Sixteen seconds later, Abbeville scored again, this time on a 68-yard pass from Demarcus Collins to Malik Small to put Abbeville up by eight points with less than 3 minutes gone by in the opening quarter.
After the 20-point barrage in less than 3 minutes of action, the scoring lessened with each team trading fumbles and interceptions along the way.
Kaplan stopped the scoring drought in the second quarter with 8:55 left on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jade Herpin to Kerry Kass. A successful two-point conversion tied the game at 14 heading into halftime.
With 1:06 left in the third, Grant Frick broke loose for a 52-yard touchdown run. Another successful two-point conversion gave Kaplan an eight-point lead.
Looking to hold the lead, the Kaplan defense, led by Arizona State commit Jalen Bates, continued to terrorize Collins.
He was sacked six times and was not comfortable in the pocket for most of the night.
Abbeville’s rushing attack was held to -32 yards and the Wildcats were able to only muster up 99 yards of total offense thanks to the stout Pirate defense.
Both teams combined for nine turnovers, with Kaplan committing five.
Abbeville was on the verge of pulling off the upset, but inopportune mistakes led to their demise, according to head coach Chris Towery.
“We played a hell of a game,” he said. “We gave everything tonight. We just couldn’t make plays when we needed to. Hats off to them. They’re a good football team.”
Next week, Kaplan travels to play Notre Dame for the District 6-3A title, and Abbeville will travel to Baldwin to play West St. Mary in a game featuring two winless teams.