ABERDEEN- Power football a proved a formula for success Friday as the South Pontotoc Cougars opened their 2020 season with a decisive road win over the Aberdeen Bulldogs, 34-13.
The Cougars racked up 211 rushing yards behind an all-senior offensive line that demonstrated its athleticism and experience.
Junior Chase long personified the Cougars’ smash-mouth offense, pounding his way to four touchdowns.
After the Cougars’ stalled first possession, Jacob Lewis forced the Aberdeen return man out at the 15 yard-line on the ensuing punt. That led to a Bulldog miscue and a safety, and the Cougars went up 2-0.
On the ensuing possession, Cody Stutsy recovered a fumble on the Bulldogs’ 10 yard line. Right guard Brandon Flake and right tackle Collin Tallant laid crushing blocks to clear a path for Chase Long to carry it in for his first touchdown. Chandler Coker rushed for the two-point conversion, and South surged ahead 10-0.
The Bulldogs found some offensive rhythm late in the first quarter. Quarterback Jermaine Strong completed a pass over the middle that took Aberdeen into Cougar territory for the first time. Xavier Young took a pitch and rumbled for a 10-yard gain. Three plays later Young took it in from the 1 yard-line, and with the PAT the Bulldogs pulled to within three at 10-7.
Early in the second quarter the Bulldogs were pinned deep in their own territory again. The Cougar defense held strong, and the Bulldogs fumbled the snap on the punt attempt. The right side of the Cougar offensive line continued to drive Bulldog defenders off the line of scrimmage. Wes Lindsey, along with Tallant and Flake cleared the road, allowing Long to lower his shoulders and bull his way into the end-zone for his second touchdown. Noah Fleming added the PAT to put South on top 17-7.
Aberdeen mounted its best drive of the night late in the second quarter. Strong hit William Johnson down the right sideline for a 6-yard gain. Then Moore rumbled for 35 yards. Strong took it himself on a quarterback-keeper to the 5 yard line. Moore carried it in for the touchdown, but the Cougars blocked the PAT. The Cougars led 17-13.
Stutsy spearheaded the Cougars’ offensive charge on the ensuing possession, tearing off a pair of 10-yard runs, but South’s drive stalled.
The Cougar defense shined late in the second quarter. Defensive back Kendalle Morphis ran stride-for-stride with a streaking Bulldog receiver and broke up a deep pass attempt. Zac Patterson planted a hard hit on a Bulldog rusher, holding him to a short gain. The Cougars forced a Bulldog punt with just under four minutes left in the half.
South took over at their own 41 yard-line. Quay Scott, along with Stutsy and Long, carried the ball strongly as the Cougars marched down the field. Long again bulled his way in for a touchdown, running behind the right side of the offensive line. Fleming’s PAT gave the Cougars a 24-13 lead going into halftime.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with some attempted trickery, launching a half-back pass from deep in their own territory. Defensive back Isaac Finely saw it developing and broke it up. Mickelle Dawson then delivered a big hit on a Bulldog ball-carrier to stifle the drive.
Later in the quarter the Bulldogs were putting together a good drive when the fumble bug struck again. Finley scooped up the ball near midfield and returned it to the 35 yard-line. Stutsy slashed ahead for a first down, setting up Long for another bruising touchdown run off right tackle. Fleming’s PAT extended the Cougars’ lead to 31-13 with 2:26 to play in the third.
South played clock management in the fourth quarter, sticking with its dominant ground game. Quarterback Eli Allen craftily drew the Bulldog defense offsides with a hard count, setting up a 42-yard field goal. Long-snapper Isaac Finley put the ball on the money, Allen spun the laces out and held the ball in place, and Fleming booted it through with leg to spare.
South Pontotoc hosts North Pontotoc in the annual battle for the Horton Trophy on Friday.