September 22, 2017 9:55:34 AM
ABERDEEN -- New Hope High School football coach Kris Pickle, who played at Hatley High and was an assistant coach at Aberdeen High from 2007-09, had his second-consecutive successful Monroe County homecoming Friday night as New Hope posted a 46-22 victory against Aberdeen at Lester Miley Stadium.
"I know you don't get style points for a win, and it sure wasn't pretty, but a win is a win," said Pickle, who led New Hope to a 41-24 triumph here last year.
For the second year in a row, Aberdeen's high-powered offense, which was averaging 38.5 points per game in its first four games, sputtered as the Trojans utilized a relentless defensive effort to stymie the Bulldogs.
And, like last year when the Bulldogs had 94 yards passing, Aberdeen's aerial attack this time netted only 92 yards, which was well below its 145.8 average entering the game.
New Hope's defensive effort aside, two sophomores who played more than expected grabbed the spotlight offensively. Running back Braylen Miller posted a career-high 153-yards rushing and quarterback Ryan Burt completed 12 passes for 160 yards -- 132 of which came in the first half.
"We had to play Ryan at quarterback more than we usually do because Kyree Fields (who shares signal-calling duties with Burt) wasn't at 100 percent after getting bruised up last week," Pickle said. "When we had him at running back, he came out a couple of times, so Braylen came in and made some big plays for us there in the second half."
Trailing 14-6 at halftime despite a 2-for-12 passing attack that netted only 20 yards, Aberdeen wasted several second-half scoring opportunities and then fumbled the ball away at its 28-yard line, which led to a Trojan touchdown and a 28-14 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
"We weren't mentally locked in to start the game, but the important thing is we found a way to finish and managed to get the win," Pickle said.
Down eight points to start the third quarter, Jacoby Carruth came up with the Bulldogs' second interception at the New Hope 49. But the Bulldogs gained only 6 yards and had to punt. The Trojans quickly picked up a couple of first downs, but then punted to pin Aberdeen at its 16.
Four plays later the game was tied, as Dajoun Dobbs ripped off a 55-yarder on first down before Jame Taylor ran him down at the New Hope 29. Quarterback Fred Fields then hit a wide open Isaiah McMillian for a 14-yard pickup, ran 12 yards up the middle for another first down at the 3, and kept it again for the touchdown.
Lacking an extra-point kicker, Aberdeen went for two and tied the game at 14-14 when Fields took a big hit while diving for the pylon and rolled into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
Undaunted, New Hope called on Fields, who responded with a 61-yard touchdown run on second down. Kicker Daniel Bradley added the point after to give the Trojans a 21-14 lead with 5 minutes, 2 seconds left in the third quarter.
A fumble recovered by Jaylon Howard at the Aberdeen 28 on the ensuing kickoff proved disastrous for the Bulldogs, as Burt converted a third-and-inches from the 18 into a touchdown to wide receiver Jeremy Tate. Bradley's kick extended New Hope's lead to 28-14 with 3:38 left in the period.
Aberdeen used the remainder of the quarter on a 10-play march, which was highlighted by a 16-yard keeper by Fred Fields followed by a 15-yard late hit penalty against New Hope to reach the Trojans' 22. But the drive went for naught, as Fields was sacked by Antwaan Roland for a 9-yard loss at the 31 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Six plays later, it was 35-14, as Miller accounted for all but 3 yards in the 69-yard march -- the last of which came on an untouched 42-yard burst up the middle.
Bradley's point-after attempt hit the crossbar, but Aberdeen was flagged for roughing the snapper, so Bradley made good on his second attempt to push the lead to 21.
On the ensuing kickoff, McMillian broke loose on a 50-yard return before he was stopped by Bradley at the New Hope 36. After a 2-yard run by Fields and a 6-yard completion to McMillian, Dobbs bolted 28 yards untouched for the score. Fields then hit Dobbs for the two-point conversion to make it 35-22 with a little more than seven-and-a-half minutes remaining.
New Hope found itself with a first down at the Aberdeen 35 seconds later when the ball fell off the tee after the kicker brushed the ball with his foot in an obvious onside kick, but New Hope failed to take advantage when Jonathan Moore dropped Miller for a 3-yard loss five plays later on a fourth-and-1 from the Bulldogs' 5.
Fields and Dobbs connected on a 34-yard pass-run on which cornerback Clay Williamson made a touchdown-saving tackle near midfield, but Aberdeen turned the ball over on downs with 3:28 to play at the New Hope 43.
Three plays later, Miller picked up 28 yards for a first down at the Aberdeen 19. With 1:05 left, he scored on another run by going untouched up the middle. Bradley's kick accounted for the final margin.
New Hope's two scores in the first half came on a 9-yard run by Fields with 7:03 left in the first quarter and on a 56-yard pass from Burt to wide receiver Jaylon Mays. Bradley added both kicks.
Aberdeen's lone first-half points were set up by a Carruth fumble recovery at the Bulldogs' 14. The ensuing 86-yard, nine-play drive -- eight of which were running plays -- was capped off by a 1-yard plunge by Dobbs, but Kobi Chandler dropped Fields short of the goal line on the two-point conversion try.
Miller, a 5-foot7, 150-pound scatback, had 28 yards on four carries in the first half -- with 21 yards coming on one run, but he stepped up when called upon in the second half to account for 125 yards on 13 rushes to lead the comeback.
"I didn't expect to get as many carries, but I had to do what I had to do," said Miller. "And all of that was because my line did a good job blocking up front."
Pickle said Miller was the consummate team player who came through when he was needed.
"He's just a sophomore and he's waited and waited for his opportunity," said Pickle. "And as you saw tonight, he didn't let this opportunity pass him by."
Kyree Fields chipped in with 117 yards on 16 carries. He and Miller accounted for 270 of New Hope's 272 net rushing yards.
Likewise, Dobbs and Fred Fields proved to be a one-two punch. Dobbs led the way with 185 yards on 20 carries. Fields had 116 yards on 20 carries.
Mays had only two catches, but still led the Trojans with 80 receiving yards, while Tate, who burned Aberdeen last year for 108 yards on five catches, had six catches for 65 yards.
"Going into the game, we felt like we had to limit their big scoring plays, and I think we more or less accomplished that," Pickle said. "But offensively, we've got to get off to a better start and keep the gas pedal to the floor."
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