October 20, 2009 9:45:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- A tradition that dates back nearly a century, homecoming is an annual event designed to be a joyous occasion that brings a town or community together as they welcome back friends and former students.
Although the "main event," so to speak, is always centered around a football game and the selection of a homecoming court, other activities and traditions include pep rallies, dress-up days, parades through town featuring the marching band and floats, and a dance or parties following the game.
Aberdeen celebrated such an event here Friday and at the conclusion of the festivities, the Bulldogs emerged with a hard-fought 14-0 win against division foe Mooreville.
Ordinarily, the 14-point win would be a fitting climax to a successful week and something to celebrate, but Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said it was anything but a joyous occasion as the Bulldogs played about as bad a football game as they have the past three years.
"There''s no doubt about it, we dodged a bullet, that''s for sure," Duncan said. "We played as bad as I have seen us play since I have been here, and the truth is we were lucky to win. We just thank the Lord we won tonight because we definitely didn''t do it ourselves.
"I''m pretty upset with our performance. I haven''t been this disappointed in an Aberdeen team since I took the job."
Offensive coordinator Kris Pickle echoed Duncan''s comments.
"Offensively, we didn''t execute on anything we did," Pickle said. "Low snaps from center, bobbles, missed throws, dropped passes, missed assignments on the line -- you name it and we did it. Coach Duncan had it right, it was the worst game we have played offensively since we got here."
Duncan said a number of factors figured into his team''s poor performance, some centering around homecoming activities and some attributed to the recent inclement weather.
"I think because of all homecoming stuff, we didn''t focus on the main goal and that was beating Mooreville," Duncan said. "All we heard all week was how we were going to win by 70 and we definitely overlooked the fact Mooreville wasn''t going to come in here and lose just because it was our homecoming."
A week of rainy weather also played a role in the Bulldogs'' poor performance, according to Duncan.
"We didn''t practice Monday, got in about 45 minutes Tuesday, and then worked a little Wednesday in a mud hole," Duncan said. "A lack of quality practice time and all the homecoming activities took us out of our normal routine and it nearly bit us in the rear end."
Statistically, the usually potent Bulldogs turned in respectable numbers with 202 yards passing and 159 yards rushing for 361 yards.
But a rash of low snaps from center caused quarterback Aaron Andrews to be caught behind the line of scrimmage no less than five times and, coupled with four bobbles and two lost fumbles, combined to knock the high-powered Aberdeen offensive unit off stride.
Throw in eight penalties for 80 yards against the offense, two of which wiped out touchdowns by Mario Lucas and Jamerson Love, and it''s not hard to see why Duncan was displeased.
"I guess we can look back on tonight and use it as a learning experience," Duncan said. "We shouldn''t have played this badly because we''re a better team than this."
If there was a bright spot for the Bulldogs other than winning the game, it was the play of their defense, which limited Mooreville to 123 yards -- 28 yards rushing and 95 passing.
"We didn''t play all that bad on defense, although we did give up some pass completions in the second half," Duncan said. "We also came up with three interceptions and a fumble recovery and we didn''t let Mooreville score, so that was a big plus on a night where our offense just wasn''t clicking."
Duncan got a preview of things to come on Aberdeen''s first possession when the Bulldogs ate up more than six minutes off the clock and scored a 28-yard touchdown on a pass from Andrews to Lucas that was called back because of a holding penalty.
A sack and a low snap stalled the Bulldogs on their second possession, but they needed only six plays to score two-long range touchdowns and a two-point conversion early in the second quarter to account for their 14-point offensive output.
Following a missed 35-yard Mooreville field goal that hit the crossbar, Love picked up 80 yards rushing on just two carries, the last of which covered 65 yards for Aberdeen''s first score with 11 minutes, 16 seconds left in the second period. On the point after attempt, a low snap from center was bobbled and Mooreville recovered to keep it a 6-0 game.
Aberdeen''s defense then forced a Mooreville three-and-out to give the Bulldogs possession at their 32. After yet another low snap and a 6-yard sack, Andrews found Rashad Pargo wide open at the Trooper 30 and the senior wide receiver sprinted untouched to the end zone to complete a 74-yard pass-run play.
Decedrick Quinn then punched it in on the two-point conversion for the game''s final points.
If the Bulldogs'' homecoming was deemed unproductive, it was also an unsuccessful homecoming of sorts for Mooreville quarterback Griff Loftis, who grew up playing catch on this very field with his father, Don Loftis, a former Aberdeen tight end who still lives in Aberdeen.
Loftis, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, was under constant pressure and finished with 95 yards passing on an 11-for-29 effort. He was sacked three times and also threw three picks.
"We just couldn''t handle Aberdeen up front," Mooreville coach Kevin Austin said. "Aberdeen''s offense gets all the publicity for their quick-strike capability, but I''m here to tell you their defensive is pretty stout also."
Austin said his team played well defensively, but he was disappointed his team couldn''t mount a running attack.
"Our plan was not to give up the big play and make them drive and score and, other than their two long touchdowns, we did fairly well in that department," he said.
"But when we couldn''t run the ball, it turned into a one-dimensional game, and we''re not very good when we have to throw the ball as much as we did tonight. We didn''t give our quarterback much time to set up and our receivers found it hard to get open and that''s because Aberdeen has better athletes than we have.
"But we played hard, and that''s all I can ask of these kids as a coach."