November 22, 2009 12:08:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- The expression "revenge is a dish best served cold" suggests that if something bad happens, it is better if the payback comes at a later date, and might be more satisfying if it is not inflicted immediately.
That would be the case for the Charleston High School Tigers, who still have bitter memories of a 33-20 season-ending setback at Tiger Stadium last November in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A playoffs in which Aberdeen racked up almost 400 yards passing.
Realistically, an undefeated team playing in the third round of the state playoffs shouldn''t need any extra motivation to return the favor, but that didn''t stop Charleston coach Tony Vance from using revenge as a motivational tool in preparing his squad to face many of the same Bulldogs involved in last year''s defeat.
In pregame comments in The Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Vance said some added incentive for the Tigers'' game against Aberdeen couldn''t possibly hurt, and that he and his coaching staff would be "playing the revenge factor to the hilt" in preparing for the rematch.
"We''re definitely going to use it (revenge) as motivation this week," Vance said. "Our guys have been looking forward to this one ever since last year."
Vance''s motivational ploy notwithstanding, the Tigers will have to wait at least another year to plot their revenge.
Jamerson Love scored two touchdowns and Aberdeen rushed for 275 yards Friday night to knock Charleston from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 22-15 decision.
"It was a great night to be a Bulldog," Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said. "The kids played hard and fought through some early adversity and I''m just proud of each and every one of them."
"Early adversity" just may have been an understatement on Duncan''s part, for nothing can silence a home crowd faster than a turnover on the team''s first offensive play, followed by a quick touchdown and extra point by an undefeated squad averaging 36.8 points per game -- all in the first 65 seconds of the contest.
Charleston defender Frankie Lee gave his team and a strong contingent of Tiger fans something to cheer about when he intercepted quarterback Aaron Andrews at the Bulldog 39 on the game''s first play. Two plays later, quarterback Willie Bradford scooted 39 yards on a keeper and Quinton Harris added the extra point kick for a quick 7-0 lead.
"It wasn''t the way we wanted to start the game, but we didn''t let it get us down," Duncan said. "These kids have fought through adversity of one type or another all year, so one mistake early in the game wasn''t going to make us lose our focus."
Aberdeen responded with a near-perfect, seven-play 85-yard march -- all on the ground. Love, a Mississippi State commitment, accounted for 67 yards on four carries in the drive, including a 17-yard touchdown scamper with 7 minutes, 38 seconds left in the opening quarter. Andrews then went back to the air on the two-point conversion try and found a wide open Erik Buchanan for an 8-7 lead.
Missed scoring opportunities haunted both teams the remainder of the half.
The Bulldogs failed to take advantage of three consecutive scoring chances, as a fourth-and-2 from the Charleston 32 came up short, a fumble by Victor Hodges at the Charleston 1-yard line was recovered in the end zone by teammate Mario Lucas only to have the play negated on a holding penalty against the Dogs, and Lee intercepted a second pass by Andrews in the end zone with a little more than two minutes left in the half.
"We had our opportunities to bust this thing wide open," Duncan said, "but mistakes are an unfortunate part of the game."
Charleston also wasted two possible first-half scoring opportunities: a long shot 49-yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter and a fumble by Jordan Myers that Aberdeen''s Lamonte Carothers recovered.
The Bulldogs padded their lead late in the third quarter when Andrews, who had two key pass completions to Pargo, scored on a 1-yard sneak to cap a 10-play, 37-yard march. A muffed punt attempt near midfield that was returned 13 yards by defensive lineman Fred Ward helped set up the score.
Andrews'' conversion pass failed, but Aberdeen finally had some much needed breathing room at 14-7.
On the Bulldogs'' next possession, Duncan figured what worked on the first scoring drive of the game was worth another try. The strategy worked to perfection as Aberdeen mounted a 13-play, 90-yard march that consumed almost six minutes of the fourth period. And, as in the first quarter, Love proved to be the workhorse with six carries for 54 yards, the last of which was a 3-yard burst off left tackle for his second touchdown.
Andrews made it 22-7 when he found Buchanan on the conversion.
Charleston made things interesting in the final 90 seconds when Percy O''Bannon ripped off an 18-yard touchdown run to cap a nine-play, 78-yard march. Bradford added the conversion run with just three seconds left in the game.
But Aberdeen''s Buchanan covered the onside kick to seal the 12th win of the season for the Bulldogs, who will play unbeaten Booneville and legendary coach Jim Drewry, the state''s all-time winningest football coach, for the North Half State title next week.
"Our defensive unit rose to the occasion," Duncan said. "Charleston came in here averaging almost 40 points a game, and other than that one run in the first quarter and the score at the end, we didn''t give them a thing."
Patrick Schoolar''s defense held the Tigers 21 points under their season average and surrendered but 256 yards - 195 rushing and 61 passing.
More importantly, the Bulldogs held O''Bannon, who had rushed for almost 1,400 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, to 103 yards and only one score.
Bradford completed only five passes for 61 yards after throwing for more than 900 yards and 20 touchdowns in the Tigers'' first 13 games.
Although Aberdeen''s offense didn''t come close to matching its 37.6 scoring average, offensive coordinator Kris Pickle''s unit scored more points on Charleston than any foe this season against a Tiger defense that had posted six shutouts and held 10 of its 13 opponents to less than eight points.
Vance had stressed to his defensive unit the importance of keeping Andrews in check, a goal which was accomplished as last week''s Commercial Dispatch Player of the Week turned in a sub-par passing performance with just five completions for 68 yards and two interceptions.
Pickle''s troops finished with 343 yards, as Love (170 yards on 20 carries) and Hodges (13 rushes for 64 yards) picked up the slack.
Vance said the disappointing outcome hinged on a couple of key plays.
"As I cautioned my team all week, Aberdeen is a very talented football team," said Vance, who shouldered the blame for the loss as he apologized to his squad and seniors in particular for not doing more to help them get to the North Half finals. "I told them the game would probably come down to who makes the plays, and that''s exactly the way it turned out. A couple of turnovers here, a couple of key first downs there -- I hate it turned out this way, but that''s the way the ball bounces sometimes."