November 29, 2009 12:17:00 AM
BOONEVILLE -- The Booneville High School football team had all of the so-called advantages entering Friday''s Class 3A North State championship football game.
The Blue Devils (13-0) were playing at home against a team with two losses and were coached by legendary Jim Drewry, a 50-year coaching veteran who is the winningest high school coach in Mississippi history with 346 career wins, three state titles (1990, 1999, and 2000) and a 7-0 record in North State title games at Booneville.
Individually, the Blue Devils featured a quarterback who had thrown for more than 2,200 yards and 18 touchdowns and had completed 52 percent of his passes, a running back who had gained more than 1,200 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, and a pair of receivers who had combined for 1,940 receiving yards and 13 scores.
Booneville even had the revenge factor on its side, as Aberdeen had eliminated the Blue Devils 14-12 in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
But Aberdeen proved that history, pedigrees, statistics, and even payback don''t win football games -- high-powered offenses and stingy defenses decide the outcome, and that was proven here Friday evening as coach Chris Duncan''s Bulldogs beat the Blue Devils 47-12 The loss was Booneville''s first in North State competition under Drewry''s leadership.
"We just got beat by a better ball club," said Drewry, the 78-year-old coaching icon. "We knew basically exactly what they (Aberdeen) were going to do, but it''s a whole different story trying to stop them."
Drewry''s admission might be the understatement of the year, as Aberdeen dominated the Blue Devils. Offensive coordinator Chris Pickle''s unit scored more points on Booneville in the first half than any team had in a game this year, and defensive coordinator Patrick Schoolar''s squad came up with two fumble recoveries, ran a blocked punt in for a touchdown, and returned an interception for a score while limiting the potent Blue Devils to 12 points and 229 yards total offense.
"I think we dominated from the very start of the game against a pretty good football team," said Duncan, who has turned Aberdeen''s woeful program around in just three years. "Offensively, Erik Buchanan came up with a couple of big plays early that put us in pretty good shape and our defense turned in an all around solid game. That''s a combination that''s hard to beat."
As it has throughout the season, the script for Aberdeen''s win remained the same -- turn the game over to the defense to do its thing and then hit them early and often with "big plays" on offense.
Almost as if on cue, Aberdeen''s defenders came up with the first of their six three-and-out efforts. Quarterback Aaron Andrews and wide receiver Erik Buchanan then silenced the home crowd when they hooked on a 65-yard scoring strike less than two minutes into the game. Booneville defensive back Tre Welch broke up Aberdeen''s two-point pass attempt.
"Erik (Buchanan) made two huge catches early on that set the tone for the game," Pickle said, "and Aaron made a couple of great throws to get him the ball. We told our receivers we had a chance to throw it against Booneville, and after getting only 60 yards last week against Charleston, I think we did a pretty good job of putting it in the air."
Two more three-and-out defensive stands set up Buchanan''s second touchdown grab on the Bulldogs'' third possession, this one a great catch over Welch, who then chased Buchanan down but failed to make the tackle inside the Blue Devil 10. Buchanan''s 73-yard reception gave Aberdeen a 12-0 lead with 4 minutes, 7 seconds left in the first quarter, but the try for two once again came up short.
Battered but not down, Booneville climbed back into the game when Bo Brown blasted his way into the end zone from 13 yards out to cap a seven-play, 65-yard march. The try for two failed.
Mario Lucas returned the ensuing kickoff 22 yards to give Aberdeen the ball at its 47. The Bulldogs then switched tactics by going to their ground game for the first time in the contest.
Victor Hodges picked up 10 yards and a first down and then Jamerson Love sandwiched runs of 22 yards and 11 for the touchdown around an Andrews to Rashad Pargo pass completion 55 seconds into the second quarter. Andrews went back to Pargo on the two-point try and the senior wide receiver dragged two defenders into the end zone for a 20-6 lead.
Lamonte Carothers recovered a Booneville fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Blue Devil 36. Love quickly converted the miscue into six points with a 36-yard, first-down gallop to expand the Bulldogs'' advantage to 26-6 40 seconds later.
Four plays later, Aberdeen''s Jaboris Carter pounced on a Brown fumble at the Bulldog 40. Love ripped off a 47-yard scamper to set up an 8-yard touchdown reception by Lucas to make it 32-6 with 5:39 left in the half.
Disaster struck the Blue Devils for the third consecutive possession less than a minute later, as Aberdeen''s Decedrick Quinn blocked a Tyler White punt and Brandon Smith ran it in from the 12-yard line. Andrews topped off the first-half scoring onslaught with a two-point conversion run to give the Bulldogs a 40-6 halftime lead.
Booneville closed the gap to 40-12 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Brendon Pannell on its initial possession of the second half, but Aberdeen''s Rashad Bates intercepted a Jeiron Jones'' pass and returned it 30 yards for the Bulldogs'' final score on the last play of the third quarter. Pargo''s extra point closed the scoring.
"This win was a team effort," Duncan said. "All the coaches and all the players did a whale of a job. You don''t get this far without either one of them, and that''s what it takes to win."
In addition to rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns, Love also prevented Booneville''s leading receiver, Drew Cristo, from breaking the school record for pass receptions (45 by Will Coggin).
"Jamerson shut down Booneville''s top receiver and didn''t allow him to catch a pass the entire game," said Schoolar, who also praised Quinn for his defensive play.
"Our defense played great all night. Great players make great plays and we shut down a pretty good offensive team. They had some players with some pretty impressive individual stats who didn''t come close to their per game averages, and that''s one reason why our defense can''t be overlooked any longer."
Next up for Aberdeen in its quest for the school''s first state championship will be unbeaten Tylertown at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Class 3A title game at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson.