December 4, 2009 8:30:00 AM
Leaders look past the present and to the future.
Marcus Hinton didn''t intend for his Aberdeen High School football career to end last season with a loss to Louisville in the Class 3A North Half State title game.
But as the reality of the Bulldogs'' 41-21 loss to the eventual state champions sunk in, Hinton looked around and saw the potential through a lot of disappointed faces.
He wanted to erase that sentiment and help his teammates re-focus on another goal.
"I just went ahead and gave them the advice that don''t put your heads down because next year you''re coming back again," said Hinton, who was the senior quarterback and leader of the 2008 squad. In 2007, we made it to the third round of the playoffs. My senior year, we made it to the North Half. In 2009, I told them they would make it to the state championship game in Jackson and I told them when they were going to go they were going to win it."
Those words have served as inspiration for the Bulldogs. Senior running back Jamerson Love talked about Hinton''s speech at the beginning of the season, when Aberdeen was one of the favorites to win its first football state title.
The Bulldogs endured a 1-2 start and an injury to senior quarterback Aaron Andrews, but they never lost focus or forgot Hinton''s words.
Aberdeen (13-2) will try to fulfill Hinton''s wishes at 11 a.m. Saturday when it takes on Tylertown (14-0) in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state title game at Mississippi Memorial Stadium.
Although Hinton gave his speech more than a year ago, the words were still fresh in the mind of Love and his teammates Monday at a press conference for the MHSAA championships at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
"We took that to heart and worked exceptionally hard in the weight room the entire offseason and came out on top," Love said. "Me and Marcus grew up together and we are real close. He wants it even badder than some of the players on our team want it, so we had to do it for the community and our parents.
"Last year, I wanted it, but I didn''t want it as bad as he did. This year, the whole team wanted it, so we worked for it the whole time, through injuries and blood, sweat, and tears."
Aberdeen senior linebacker Decedrick Quinn feels the Bulldogs will be the underdog against the Chiefs, who lost to Louisville last season in the Class 3A title game.
Quinn''s emergence as a leader helped the Bulldogs fill the void left by Hinton, who led the offense with his arms and with his legs. His pledge to the offense that if it scored 28 points or more every game the defense would do its job and help the team win had stood the test of time. He said he pushed his teammates during offseason weight training so they could realize their goal of getting to Jackson and winning a state title.
"I knew the leaders, like my quarterback (Hinton) were gone, so the team needed a leader," Quinn said. "The coaches were preaching we don''t have a leader, we don''t have a leader who leads all of the time, so I took that role and said I was going to be that leader."
Quinn said it is extremely satisfying to see how much the Bulldogs have matured and how other players have developed into leaders. As special a feeling as it is to back up his words, though, Quinn said the Bulldogs aren''t finished.
"I knew we were capable of it and that if we didn''t live up to the capabilities of our team, we were selling ourselves short," Quinn said. "I made sure we kept that promise and kept the defense focused and the team focused."
Senior wide receiver Erik Buchanan said it means a lot to the Bulldogs to get to play in Jackson. He said the team doesn''t want to disappoint Hinton or any of the other former Bulldogs who have roamed their sidelines the past few weeks.
"At the end of that game last year we made a promise to our quarterback last year, Marcus Hinton, we were going to make it to state this year and try to bring it home," Buchanan said. "We are here. The next thing we have to do is bring it home."
Hinton, who plans to go Northeast Mississippi Community College in the fall and possibly try out for the football team next semester, plans to be in Jackson on Saturday. He said he has talked with former teammates and current Bulldogs and everyone is anxious to see the team bring a championship back to Monroe County.
Hinton never doubted his former teammates would be in this position, and he is excited that he will get a chance to watch them realize a goal everyone in the community shares.
"They all took (his speech) to heart because everyone looked me in the eyes plus the coaches looked me in the eyes," Hinton said. "I knew they would take the advice and keep in their hearts and remember the words I spoke to them.
"I have faith in them because they are all like my brothers and coach (Chris) Duncan and all of the coaches are like my fathers. I have faith they''re going to win a state championship Saturday."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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