ABERDEEN – A big offensive night for the Aberdeen Bulldogs led by Jermaine Strong resulted in a 28-17 victory over Nettleton on Friday night.
It was an overall team effort for the Bulldogs as they moved to 1-1 in Division 4-3A.
“My guys really helped me tonight,” Strong said. “I was cramping up coming out of halftime, and they gave me the energy to keep pushing.”
The Bulldogs opened up the first quarter with the ball on the 35-yard line, and Jeffery Sykes, Strong and Chris Holliday provided Aberdeen with some instant offense in their ground game.
After moving the ball well on their first possession, the Bulldogs found themselves in the red zone, and Strong waltzed into the endzone on a four-yard run that put Aberdeen up 6-0 with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
Nettleton took over at midfield, and they broke through on their first play of the drive with a 50-yard touchdown run by Roderick Patterson. Jackson Cheek drilled the extra point to give the Tigers a one-point lead midway through the first.
A false start penalty pushed the Bulldogs back to the 15-yard line on their second possession, but Strong connected on multiple positive throws to ML Fort and TJ Fields that gave the Bulldogs a first down.
The Tigers’ defense got a big stop on fourth and short as they took over at the 30-yard line. Ty Walton, Patterson and Jaylon Betts each kept the drive rolling with runs for positive yardage, and Walton found Betts with a 23-yard pass that put Nettleton in the red zone.
The Bulldogs put an end to this long Nettleton drive with an interception in the end zone by Ka’Darius Watkins.
The Nettleton defense got its revenge after the interception by forcing a quick three and out. The Bulldogs opted to punt the ball away, but the ball bounced off the back of a Nettleton player and a group of Bulldogs instantly dove to recover the fumble at the 45-yard line.
After recovering the fumble, Aberdeen scored on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Strong to Fields as the Bulldogs took a 12-7 second-quarter lead after the failed two-point conversion.
After getting a missed field goal by Nettleton, the Bulldogs received the ball on the 20-yard line. The Tigers' defense was able to force a fumble on the second play of the drive, recovered by Drew Humble.
On fourth-and-long, Ty Walton evaded the Bulldogs defense and found Aidan Pettigrew on 19-yard pass that was one-yard short of the first down marker and a touchdown to end the first half.
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively coming out of the half. Nettleton’s defense forced another fumble on Aberdeen’s second possession in the third, recovered by Pettigrew.
After the fumble recovery, a big run from Patterson pushed the Tigers deeper into Bulldog territory and set up a 45-yard field goal by Cheek that trimmed Aberdeen’s lead to two points at 12-10 with 3:28 left in the third.
Nettleton’s defense was able to force another turnover, this time on an interception by Jayden Hawkins, and he returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. After a penalty pushed the Tigers back on the extra-point attempt, Cheek nailed the 49-yard extra point to give the Tigers their first lead since the first quarter at 17-12.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Strong found Joe Buchanan on a 21-yard pass that put them in Nettleton territory. This set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Holliday, and a pass from Strong to Fields on the two-point conversion helped the Bulldogs regain the lead at 20-17 with 11:19 left in the fourth.
Aberdeen recovered another fumble on the kickoff, but the Bulldogs gave it right back to Nettleton after a fumble recovery by Blake Lauderdale.
With the ball on the 10-yard line and around nine minutes left in the game, the Tigers looked to carry on the momentum from the fumble recovery and move down the field, but they were forced to punt after the Aberdeen defense got a sack and forced two incompletions.
The Bulldogs took over at the 45-yard line, and Strong hit Fields with a 55-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive. Aberdeen extended its lead after the two-point conversion pass from Strong to Field and sealed their first division win of the season.
“It’s always big to get a win, especially ones against a tough division opponent like Nettleton,” Aberdeen coach Alex Williams said. “We made some changes on the offensive line that opened up our running game tonight, and we decided to lean on it.”
Strong finished the game with 143 passing yards, 73 rushing yards and three touchdowns. TJ Fields had five receptions for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For Nettleton, Patterson had a touchdown and rushed for 124 yards on 11 carries.
“We came out and ran the ball well, but consistency was a problem for us tonight,” Nettleton coach John Keith said. “We’ve got to remain consistent on both sides of the ball all game. That starts with me as the coach, figuring out what we need to do to get those things worked out.”