November 20, 2009 7:57:00 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
ABERDEEN -- Perry Liles knows the football programs at Charleston and Aberdeen high schools have plenty of similarities.
As a former coach at both schools, Liles had plenty of talented players on both teams. He also grew to be accustomed to a hard-charging style of play at each school.
Given Charleston and Aberdeen have so many things in common, don''t ask Liles to tell you which team will win at 7 tonight when they meet in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North Half state semifinal at Lester Miley Stadium.
The winner of the game will advance to the Class 3A North State title game to face the winner of tonight''s Belmont-Booneville game next week.
Liles, who spent six seasons as head coach at Charleston, led Calhoun City to a 7-6 finish this season in his first season as head football coach at that school.
He also worked as coach at Aberdeen in the early 1990s, spending two seasons as head football coach at the Monroe County school.
"I don''t think it''s going to be a high, high scoring game, but both teams can put up a lot of points," Liles said. "I think it will come down to who will play better defense is going to win. That is usually what happens in playoffs games."
Liles said Calhoun City, which lost last week to East Webster in the Class 2A playoffs, played Charleston in its spring game. He said the Tigers, who are coached by Tony Vance, aren''t as big as they have been, but he knows they have qualities performers in the backfield in Willie Bradford and Percy O''Bannon. He said an athletic offensive line helps make those two even more explosive.
Those players might not be as talented as former standouts Dwayne Chandler, Reginald Kelly, and Fernando Davis, who Liles coached at Aberdeen, or Eldra Buckley, who Liles coached at Charleston High.
But while the players change, Liles said the brand of football each program plays remains the same.
"I do know it will be a good, physical game. I can guarantee you that," Liles said. "Both schools traditionally hit and run to the football and play really, really hard."
Charleston (13-0) is coming off a 55-6 victory against Leland last week. The Tigers have six shutouts this season, and have allowed 79 points this season. They have scored 478.
Aberdeen (11-2) comes into the game off a 42-16 victory against Ripley. Coach Chris Duncan, whose team has scored 489 points this season, didn''t find much to fuss about last week, but he knows Charleston will present plenty of tests tonight.
"It is a chance to go to the North Half championship," Duncan said. "We felt like sooner or later that we were going to play Charleston, and I feel like they figured sooner or later they were going to play Aberdeen.
"I think our kids will be ready, and I think their kids will be ready. I wish we had played them next week for the North Half championship, but that is the way the bracket was drawn out. I think it is something both bunches have been looking forward to all year."
Duncan likes that his team has responded from a 1-2 start to put itself back on track to contend for a state title. Last year, Aberdeen couldn''t get past eventual state champion Louisville in the Class 3A North Half State final. He doesn''t want Charleston to be a similar kind of stumbling block this season.
"We have had another great year and we want to take a step to that next level so we can go to Jackson," Duncan said. "To do that, you have to beat the best team. Louisville has definitely been the best team the past couple of years, and we beat everybody but them. This year, Charleston seems to be the best team, so that''s what you look forward to.
"I told the guys if you don''t get ready to play this time there is something wrong with you. I think they understand what is at stake. We won''t have to tell them much that Charleston is good and they have to get ready. I think we will get our best game, and I am sure we will get their best game."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.