December 6, 2009 1:00:00 AM
JACKSON - A ball-control offense and a play-making quarterback proved to be a potent one-two punch Saturday for the Tylertown High School football team.
But the ability of the Chiefs'' defense to regroup after falling behind 20-0 to Aberdeen in the first quarter of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state title game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium proved to be the final piece to a championship puzzle.
The Chiefs (15-0) held the Bulldogs (13-3) to 83 yards in the second half and ripped off 34 unanswered points to pull an improbable comeback.
"We kept picking each other and telling each other not to give up," Tylertown junior linebacker Earl Smith said. "Just like they scored three touchdowns in one quarter, we could do it. We came back and scored five of them."
Smith said the Chiefs played more inspired after quarterback Jameon Lewis hit Ken Brown with a 75-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds before halftime to help pull the Chiefs back to 20-14 at halftime.
The defense then did its job as the Chiefs relied on the running of Lewis (27 carries, 88 yards), T.O. Robertson, and LaDarius Slocum to hold a big edge in time of possession (30:48 to 17:12).
Smith''s emotion epitomized Tylertown''s reversal of fortunes in the final 24 minutes. After stopping Jamerson Love on a first-down run from the 17 in the fourth quarter, he jumped up and acted like Superman and tried to rip his jersey off his chest. After the game, Smith admitted he shouldn''t have allowed his emotion to come through in that act. It was difficult for Smith to contain himself, though, because by then nearly everything was going the Chiefs'' way.
"We really didn''t do anything differently," Smith said. "We just came out playing harder. Everybody thought we were going to give up after a 20-point deficit, but we came back, played hard, and didn''t give up."
Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan hated the outcome for his players, especially his seniors, who helped build the program into a state title contender.
"We just didn''t make plays," Duncan said. "We had people open, we put the ball on the ground, and we just didn''t execute in the second half. You''re playing a great team like that and they''re 14-0 for a reason. You can''t do that if you''re going to win ballgames."
Senior running back Jamerson Love (13 carries, 131 yards) said the reason for the loss was simple: Aberdeen failed to execute.
"After we turned the ball over (late in the second quarter) they got all the momentum and went down the field and scored," Love said. "When the momentum is on somebody''s side, it is going to be hard to stop them.
"We just failed to execute on offense and defense. We came out hot in the first quarter and after that everything just went flat and we couldn''t pick ourselves up."
Love and senior wide receiver Erik Buchanan said senior quarterback Aaron Andrews (10-for-19, 185 yards) was bothered by an ankle injury that he suffered early in the season and reaggravated last week in a victory against Booneville in the North Half State title game. Andrews had both ankles heavily taped and had trouble moving around quickly in the pocket.
Still, Love credited his teammate for "playing tough" against the Chiefs.
Buchanan (five catches, 84 yards) credited Tylertown quarterback/defensive back Jameon Lewis for his defense on him. Lewis made a momentum-saving play on fourth-and-12 from the Chiefs'' 18 when he batted down an Andrews pass at the goal line that was intended for Buchanan.
"He is going to do pretty good if he keeps playing," Buchanan said. "He is a pretty good DB. He had me the whole game and they double-teamed me. I just tried to find a way to get open."
Lewis has made a verbal commitment to play football at Mississippi State next season.
Lewis said Tylertown was able to rally because it kept its composure and never gave up.
Tylertown coach Walter Denton echoed those thoughts and said a grinding rushing attack took its toll on Aberdeen.
"We saw we started to wear them down physically," Denton said. "Our little old boys do it every week. They keep hitting and hitting and hitting and before long the other people just kind of start laying down.
"We''re a second-half team. Our quarterback does a great job, and our offensive line does a great job. Our conditioning and our heart of our kids are two things we are very proud of."
Lewis'' ability to move to outside linebacker for the first time this season helped solidify the defense in the second half and keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
"We came out too excited in the first half," Smith said. "It kind of messed us up. I think we thought we were just going to do them like we did everyone else. Not bragging or anything like that. We didn''t come out like we were supposed to. We came out with a big head. In the second half we just came out ready to play ball.
"(The victory) means our team is hard nosed and we never give up. We are going to play everything, every play. We proved it. We weren''t just talking about it, we did it."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.