AMORY – It was a memorable comeback game for Amory’s James Spratt.
The Panthers’ junior wide receiver/cornerback, who missed the first three games of the season due to a foot injury, hauled in a touchdown pass and had a fumble recovery score on defense as Amory romped past Aberdeen 35-0 for its second-straight A-Game victory on Friday night.
“It feels good to be playing with my team again, and I love those boys forever,” Spratt said. “It’s been hard watching from the sideline during the losses.”
Amory got the ball first to open the game, and the Bulldogs’ defense appeared on its way to a stop when Hunter Jones hit Jay Hampton for a 40-yard gain down the right sideline to keep the drive alive and get to the 11-yard line.
Jones punched it in from the 1-yard line for a 6-0 lead.
Two plays later, the Panthers got the ball back when Shaidon McKinney pounced on an Aberdeen fumble, and Charleston French had a first down carry as Amory took over at the Bulldogs’ 29-yard line. The drive stalled after three carries and an incomplete pass on fourth down, however, and Aberdeen took over deep in its own territory.
The Panthers’ defense came through with a sack to take over on downs at the 47-yard line and tried a trick play for a touchdown that was called back on an illegal forward pass.
French helped them eat up yards from there before Jones found Braxton Griffin for a couple of first-down catches. He hit Spratt over the middle for the 7-yard touchdown strike and then Pete Moore for the two-point conversion to put the Panthers up 14-0 with 8:17 left in the first half.
“Coach (Chad) Williams, our athletic director, came out to us this Thursday. He was tired of seeing what we have been doing because we haven’t been together as a team,” Jones said. “He came out and made a great example of us and brought out some things that made us change. We continued that until today, and we’re getting closer and closer together. The first three games we weren’t together, and until we become a family, we’re not going to be successful. But we’re on the path there for sure. Our defense was great, and we have to give all the props to them and our defensive coaches because they worked their tails off and it paid off tonight.”
After another three-and-out forced by the defense, French broke loose for 23 yards on first down, and Jones found Jay Hampton for a 22-yard gain.
French rumbled his way into the end zone from the 5-yard line, and Bryn Camp tacked on the extra point to make it 21-0.
The Bulldogs found some success on their next drive as Xavier Young and C.J. Arnold picked up some big runs, and Isaac Watson got open for a 12-yard catch, but James Conner sacked Arnold as time expired in the first half to keep Aberdeen off the board.
Aberdeen worked its way past midfield on the opening drive of the third quarter but eventually punted. Braxton Griffin broke loose for a punt return touchdown that was called back on a penalty, and the Panthers went three and out from there.
Jenari Bell had an 11-yard catch for a first down on the ensuing drive, but Amory came up with a stop again.
On the Bulldogs’ next drive, Spratt scooped up a fumble deep on the Bulldogs’ 18-yard line and took it in for the score to extend the lead to 28-0.
The Panthers came through on special teams on the very next play as they forced a fumble on the kickoff and capitalized when Jones hit a leaping Hampton for the 24-yard score to give Amory a pair of touchdowns in less than 15 seconds and extend the lead to 35-0 early in the fourth.
“We controlled the clock and ran the ball pretty well tonight,” Amory coach Allen Glenn said of his offense. “We took shots, and Jay (Hampton) made plays. James Spratt having his first game back, he was electric. He’s a playmaker on both sides of the ball, and he’s not quite in game shape yet, but I do feel like the more and more we get going, the better he will be. We’re just excited for these guys, but that was one game, so we have to be ready to come back and roll in the next one.”
Amory’s defense finished with its first shutout since a win over Caledonia in 2017.
“I thought our defense set the tone for us tonight,” Glenn said. “This week has been the best week of practice we have had all year, and it showed tonight. That’s the key. The question now is can we follow it up on Monday with another good week of practice.”
Jones was 7 of 12 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns and added the rushing score. Hampton was the leading receiver with three catches for 89 yards.
Griffin also had three catches for 27 yards, and French rushed for 94 yards on 20 carries.
Young did most of the heavy lifting for Aberdeen, totaling 108 yards on 27 carries.
“We had some injuries, but those are part of the game, so we can’t cry about that,” Aberdeen coach Alex Williams said. “We just didn’t have enough bullets in the gun. We threw everything we had at them, but we’re just too young and not enough depth to really compete with a team that competed at 4A last year. I’m very proud of my guys though because they fought to the end, and that’s all I can ask of them. All we can do is get back to the drawing board and get better next week.”
Aberdeen hosts New Hope, while Amory hosts Ripley for homecoming next week.