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Aberdeen shuts out Okolona

 

Don Rowe Special to the Dispatch

 

OKOLONA -- Despite a 24-0 lead, Aberdeen High School football team offensive coordinator Kris Pickle had a spirited meeting with his offense late in the third quarter Friday night. 

 

Unhappy with his offensive line in particular after three unproductive offensive possessions in the quarter, Pickle didn''t mince words with his charges. 

 

To their credit, they took the message to heart and helped set up two Jamerson Love touchdowns on just four plays en route to a 43-0 victory against scrappy, but outmanned, Okolona. 

 

"Our offensive linemen were not getting after it like they should have been, and we weren''t doing a good job of downfield blocking," said Pickle, who, based on the results of his "pep talk," was encouraged to get a copyright on his speech. 

 

Aberdeen High coach Chris Duncan echoed Pickle''s frustration. 

 

"The good news is we didn''t play great, but we won 43-0," Duncan said. "We had a poor third quarter offensively, and despite the shutout, we didn''t do a very good job on pass coverage. We''ve got to get where we can cover people. If they (Okolona) could have thrown the ball a little better, they would have torn us to pieces." 

 

Duncan liked one aspect of his defense. 

 

"Our run defense did a good job," said Duncan, whose defense allowed 44 rushing yards on 28 carries and forced six punts.  

 

Aberdeen''s kickoff return team also held the Chieftains to 22 return yards on six kickoffs. 

 

"If we could just put it all together in a complete package, the sky is the limit for this team," Duncan said. 

 

Love scored five touchdowns against the Class 1A Chieftains, four on the ground and one on a 41-yard middle screen, to account for 30 of the Bulldogs'' 43 points. He also rushed for 118 yards (his second consecutive 118-yard effort) on 19 carries and had two pass receptions for 68 yards. 

 

"He''s a game-breaker," Duncan said. "He can go the distance at any time, but our offensive line has to give him a chance for us to be successful." 

 

After missing a scoring opportunity on its first possession, Aberdeen (3-2) broke on top when Love caught a middle screen pass from quarterback Aaron Andrews, broke a couple of tackles and scampered 41 yards down the home side for the touchdown. 

 

On the previous play, he had scored on a 31-yard run thanks to a Rashad Pargo block, but a holding penalty wiped out the touchdown. An 18-yard Andrews'' toss to Pargo and a 13-yard keeper by Andrews were the big plays in the 66-yard drive. 

 

Brandon Smith added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 Aberdeen lead with 19 seconds left in the first quarter. 

 

Excellent special team coverage on the ensuing kickoff backed the Chieftains to their 8-yard line to set up a bad snap on a punt attempt that allowed the Bulldogs to swarm punter Arrius Jenkins at the Okolona 5. 

 

One play later, Love had his second touchdown and an Andrews to Jalen Devauld conversion pass gave the Dogs a 16-0 lead with 8 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the second quarter. 

 

Aberdeen''s defense forced a three-and-out for Okolona on its next possession and, following a 31-yard Jenkins'' punt, the Bulldogs capped a nine-play, 54-yard march with Love''s third touchdown of the game from 7 yards with 2:42 left in the second quarter.  

 

Andrews was the driving force in the march. He had a 22-yard run on a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak from the Okolona 45, completed a pair of short tosses to Pargo and Devauld for 13 yards, and then found Erik Buchanan on the two-point conversion for a 24-0 halftime lead. 

 

The Bulldogs had three cracks at Okolona in the third quarter, reaching the Chieftains'' 27 and 15, but they failed to score. 

 

After Pickle''s rousing "pep talk," the Bulldogs needed one play to score their fourth touchdown 39 seconds into the final quarter when Love scampered 55 yards behind a caravan of blockers. 

 

Love scored again on a 3-yard plunge with 8:19 left in the period. Pargo added an extra point for a 37-0 lead. 

 

The Bulldogs'' final tally was set up by a Jaboris Carter interception return to the Chieftains'' 40. Junior running back Victor Hodges claimed the scoring honors this time on a first-down, 40-yard romp to account for the final score. 

 

"Playing in the rain in the first half on a wet field takes away a lot of what we do best," said Duncan, whose offense had 383 yards. "We got a little lethargic there offensively in the third quarter after we had a pretty good lead. We did the same thing last year; we didn''t finish games like we should have. We''d get a big lead and then lay down." 

 

Duncan said the team''s physical preparation for Okolona wasn''t that bad in practice, it was more of a mental thing. 

 

"They (the team) looked at the film all week and they knew Okolona was a much smaller school, so I don''t think they really thought things through," Duncan said. "But that''s how kids are, and it''s our job as coaches to get them to play with intensity whether it''s against a smaller opponent or our division rivals." 

 

Okolona coach Calvin Aldridge was somewhat upbeat following the shutout. 

 

"We played tough at times and stayed with them defensively for a while, but Aberdeen has so many weapons," Aldridge said. "As a coach, you can only hope your team gains from a game like this, and despite the score, I did see some positive things."

 

 

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