November 2, 2013 11:57:50 PM
ABERDEEN -- Early on, Senior Night at Aberdeen High School took on the appearance of a junior varsity game as the Bulldogs struggled offensively their first two possessions.
But then, appropriately enough, senior Sammie Burroughs grabbed the spotlight and led the Aberdeen High football team to a 41-6 Class 3A, Region 4 victory against South Pontotoc.
After wasting an early scoring opportunity at the Cougars 21-yard line and then failing to convert a fourth-and-2 from near midfield on their second possession, the Bulldogs opened the floodgates with a 34-point first half as Burroughs proved to be a one-man wrecking crew with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
His first score came midway through the first quarter when he stepped in front of a receiver near midfield and sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown. Late in the same period, he latched on to a pass from quarterback Josh Williams and went 80 yards for a score. He then dashed 20 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep on the Bulldogs' first possession of the second quarter to help Aberdeen build a 20-0 lead.
"We started off really ragged right off the bat," Aberdeen coach Mark Bray said. "We didn't have our starting center and we just didn't execute early on. But Sammie gave us a boost there with the interception, and his next two scores gave us some breathing room."
South Pontotoc coach Roger Chism, who coached with Bray at Houston and South Pontotoc, said turnovers proved to be the Cougars' downfall.
"You can't turn the ball over as many times as we did and expect to win, especially against a good team like Aberdeen," said Chism, whose team slipped to 3-8 and 0-5 region.
Senior Theo Boyd gave Aberdeen excellent field position at the South Pontotoc 21 when he recovered a high snap on the Cougars' first play. But three incompletions followed by a fourth-down interception by Armon Gregory stymied the Bulldogs' initial scoring opportunity.
A fourth-down fake-punt pass fell incomplete on Aberdeen's second possession to give South Pontotoc field position at the Bulldogs' 46, but Burroughs' interception return seconds later gave the home team a 6-0 lead.
South Pontotoc drove to the Aberdeen 41 on its next possession, but Jerrick Orr came up with the Bulldogs' second interception at the 11.
Five plays later, Williams found Burroughs open near midfield and the speedy wide receiver ran through a couple of tacklers at midfield, dropped the ball, and then picked it up and ran untouched to the end zone to complete the 80-yard pass-run play.
Down 13-0 following Demarea Dobbins' kick, South Pontotoc countered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Clay Hood to Gregory, but the play was nullified because Gregory had stepped out of bounds prior to the catch.
Five consecutive running plays, three by backup quarterback Tramonte Prather good for 27 yards, gave Aberdeen a first down at the Cougars' 20 and set up Burroughs' third score and Dobbins' second point-after kick.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff caused by Josh Ewing and recovered by Marquellus Atkinson gave Aberdeen a first down at the South Pontotoc 23, Deonta Carter capped the five-play drive with a 1-yard TD plunge. Dobbins' point-after kick made it 27-0 with 7 minutes, 55 seconds left in the half.
"We were in the game early, but the two interceptions and then the fumble on the kickoff did us in," Chism said. "Aberdeen's speed proved to be to be too much for us. Once they got outside, they were gone."
On South Pontotoc's next possession, the Cougars lost yet another scoring opportunity when Burroughs made his second interception at the Aberdeen 15 and returned it to midfield. Orr then lost 2 yards on first down, but grabbed a 51-yard TD toss from Prather one play later, followed by a Dobbins' kick for a 34-0 advantage.
South Pontotoc avoided the first-half shutout with a nine-play drive, all on the ground, capped by a 2-yard quarterback keeper by Hood with 24 seconds left. But senior Devonta Walker blocked the point-after kick to leave the Cougars with a 28-point deficit (34-6).
A 17-yard kickoff return by Chris McMillian, a 14-yard pass completion to Tyreke Gates, and a 35-yarder to Orr -- both from Prather -- gave Aberdeen (6-5, 4-1) one last chance to pad its lead, but Carter was stopped a yard short of the end zone on the final play of the first half.
The Bulldogs rounded out the scoring on the first play of the second half when Ewing bolted 52 yards untouched and Dobbins added the point after 16 seconds into the third quarter.