By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
JACKSON - Aberdeen was pathetic.
At the end of the 2006 season, the Bulldogs were closing out a 1-19 mark in two seasons.
It wasn't the players' faults. Don't blame the sheep. Blame the shepherds. The right coaches weren’t in place.
Skip ahead four years and add a great staff and Aberdeen is in its second straight Class 3A title game.
Think about that. Two years removed from one win in two years, the Bulldogs are back in Jackson?
Back? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get here once?
It’s even tougher when you realize that Aberdeen’s losses on offense included key receivers, not just down receivers in Mario Lucas, Rashad Pargo and Erik Buchanan. The Bulldogs sent a back, Jamerson Love, to the SEC and quarterback Aaron Andrews graduated. Oh, and defensive leaders Decedrick Quinn and Anthony Bean moved on to the college game.
That’s a hard hit.
Then offensive coordinator Kris Pickle took a job Northeast Jones, carrying with him the explosive offense that many thought would be tough to revive without him.
Pickle was, is, a great offensive coach, but who said Aberdeen had to go back to the pass-happy team that got to the school’s first state title game? Who says the same system has to be the identity of this team?
Turns out, their identity was indeed different. This team is a beat-you-with-the-pass bunch with a quarterback that takes advantage of teams when they fill up the box to stop Victor Hodges.
Justin Moss took over the offense and it’s been smooth sailing after an opening 8-6 loss to Class 6A Columbus. The spread wasn’t necessarily what this team needed to do. This was a rushing team and it’s rushed all the way back to Jackson.
Moss still has a group that knows how to put points on the board. It may not often be as flashy as it was last season but points are points, even if they don’t come via the long ball.
Moss’ best friend may not even be his offense though. It’s Patrick Schoolar’s defense. Schoolar has mentored for four years and this year’s group has shown the makings of a group of players who have listened, learned and put into use what he taught.
No one has scored more than 14 and a lot of that came well after games were in hand.
The staff took the losses and revamped.
From head coach Chris Duncan to Moss to Schoolar to former NFL linebacker Sammie Burroughs and his NFL experience added to the staff, to Alex Williams and Latorrence Bivens, this staff has done exactly what Winona coach Ken Chandler accused them of.
“Those coaches have made athletes into players,” said Chandler, after Aberdeen beat his Tigers again Friday night.
Those players will get a second chance to bring a historic gold football back to Aberdeen on Saturday against Forest at 11 a.m.
Brandon Speck is sports editor of the Monroe Journal newspaper.