November 6, 2010 10:36:00 PM
ABERDEEN -- Entering the playoffs with a 5-6 record and a fourth-place division finish is always a challenge.
But having to play the state''s fourth-ranked Class 3A team at its place in the first round more times than not will result in a season-ending loss.
That was the case here Friday as the Aberdeen High School football team unleashed a devastating ground game en route to a 50-6 win against Kossuth in the opening round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A state football playoffs.
"We hadn''t played well the last four or five weeks, but this is what happens when you practice hard and get ready to play," Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said. "When you focus on the task at hand, good things usually result, and I''m proud of these kids because they did a great job."
Kossuth coach Pete Seago had no illusions as to the challenge his team faced, so Friday''s final score came as no surprise.
"Aberdeen is a very talented team and proved to be a little too much for us to handle," said Seago, in his 16th season at Kossuth but only his second as head coach. "They were as fast on the field as they were on film, and we were a step behind them all night long."
A 25-second span in the first quarter all but decided things, as the Bulldogs (11-1) scored twice to take a 14-0 lead.
Aberdeen''s defense, after giving up a 13-yard gain on a pass from quarterback Jay Vanderford to Heath Wood on the Aggies'' first play from scrimmage, forced a punt by Kossuth (5-7) that rolled dead at the Aberdeen 18-yard line.
Aberdeen offensive coordinator Justin Moss elected to go for the home run ball on first down, but quarterback Desmond Jones overshot a wide open Aaron McMillian near midfield, so the Bulldogs went to their running game. Senior Victor Hodges responded with runs of 19 and 9 yards to give Aberdeen its initial first down.
Facing a second-and-1 at his 46, Jones found McMillian on a backward pass. The sophomore wide receiver stiff-armed Wood to the ground around the Kossuth 40 en route to a 54-yard touchdown run. Antonio Crayton''s kick made it a 7-0 game with 7 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
Twenty-five seconds later, the Bulldogs held a two-touchdown advantage thanks to a muff recovery by Corino Blanchard on the kickoff, a 32-yard pass from Jones to McMillian, a 4-yard touchdown run by Hodges, and a second Crayton kick.
Seconds later, Aberdeen''s Tevin Jones picked up Wesley Davis'' second consecutive kickoff muff and raced 28 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the officials blew the ball dead at the spot of the bobble.
Kossuth dodged the proverbial bullet, however, as defensive back Zack Cooper intercepted Jones at the 15 and returned it to the 39. The Aggies quickly picked up 16 yards on a Vanderford pass to David Gibson and then added their third first down pickup of the half on an 11-yard run by Tyler Pittman to reach the Bulldog 34.
But three straight carries by Pittman netted a minus yard and then Ramontez Hodges intercepted Vanderford at the 25 to end the Aggies'' only scoring threat of the first half.
The Bulldogs wasted little time in converting the turnover into points as Hodges, a bottle-rocket type running back who finished with 151 yards rushing on just nine carries in the first half, accounted for all 66 yards of the drive - the last of which covered 44 yards for the touchdown. Crayton''s kick gave Aberdeen a 21-0 lead with 1:37 left in the first period.
On Kossuth''s ensuing possession, Seago gambled on a fourth-and-4 from the Aberdeen 48. But Johnny Wilson intercepted Vanderford to give his offensive mates yet another scoring opportunity. Hodges capitalized, rushing for 53 yards on three straight carries, the final run from 4 yards out for the score. Crayton then added a two-point conversion off a fake for a 29-0 lead.
In a near repeat of their first-period blitz, Aberdeen was on the board again just 20 seconds later when Braxton Anderson recovered a backward pass at the Aggie 6 and Jones waltzed into the end zone untouched on the Bulldogs'' first and only play of the ensuing drive. Crayton added the point after for a 36-0 lead with 10:05 left in the quarter.
Yet another Aggie miscue led to Aberdeen''s sixth touchdown, as two-way star Brandon Smith partially blocked a punt to give the Bulldogs a short field at the Aggies'' 35 and then scored on the first play from scrimmage. But a holding penalty nullified the scoring run, so Smith bolted 47 yards for the touchdown and Crayton added the point after for the 43-0 halftime lead.
Seconds before half, Wilson came up with his second interception and scored on the play, but a block in the back penalty against Aberdeen nullified the touchdown.
Kossuth finally dented the scoreboard with a little less than minutes to play in the third quarter when Vanderford and Wood hooked up on a 47-yard pass-run play, but the two-point conversion try failed.
Up 43-6, the Bulldogs utilized a running clock by mounting a 15-play drive that took up the final 1:55 of the third quarter and all but 42 seconds of the fourth period. Chico Harrison and Tevin Jones shared the running duties, as Harrison rushed for 58 yards and the touchdown from 5 yards out, while Jones picked up 46 yards on seven carries (Aberdeen was penalized three times for illegal procedure, once for an illegal substitution, and quarterback Josh Williams was sacked for a 4-yard loss).
Crayton''s point after kick accounted for the final score.
"I think we clicked on all cylinders, both offensively and defensively," said Duncan, whose offense had 461 total yards (407 rushing for an 11.6 yard per rush average). "We would liked to have played our starters more than we did to keep them sharp, but with the score the way it was we had to get them our as quick as we could to see to it that no one got hurt."
Seago played his starters most of the game.
"We''re really pretty young," Seago said. "We only have seven seniors and three of them didn''t play football last year. Our long-range goal is to get back to the playoffs next year, but we are going to lick our wounds, get back on the bus, and get on out of here."
With the win, Aberdeen earned a second-round home matchup with Leland on Friday.