By Reid Bankston
WATER VALLEY – Nearly every preseason publication had the Aberdeen Bulldogs atop class 3A. On Friday night, the Water Valley (3-4, 1-1) Blue Devils found out why.
On what was described as “the worst field conditions I’ve ever seen,” Aberdeen, led by senior quarterback Aaron Andrews put on an aerial exhibition en route to a 42-13 victory.
“They’re very impressive. When you have a great staff and a great group of athletes, that’s a tough combination,” said Embry.
Water Valley dodged bullets early, as Aberdeen fumbled twice inside the Blue Devil ten, but it was only a matter of time before the Bulldogs converted their opportunities.
After Water Valley punted on their first possession, Andrews completed a 36 yard touchdown pass to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead with 4:39 to go in the first quarter. Andrews struck again with 11:18 remaining in the second quarter, this time from 40 yards out, giving Aberdeen a 12-0 lead.
Andrews ran in for his third from 28 yards just five minutes later. An Aberdeen two-point conversion made the lead 20-0. A shanked Water Valley punt put Andrews in position for his third touchdown pass of the night with 5:53 remaining in the second, putting the Bulldogs ahead 28-0. Aberdeen would tack on another before the half, stretching their halftime advantage to 36-0.
“They were better than us tonight, they’re not that much better than us, but they’re a very good team. It didn’t go our way a single time. The first half was the worst cluster of things I’ve ever been a part of,” said Embry. “At halftime, we said there is nothing we can do except go out and act like its 0-0.”
Andrews threw his fourth touchdown, he only had three incomplete passes the entire night, with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter, giving Aberdeen a 42-0 lead. The senior signal caller finished the game with 301 yards of total offense and 5 touchdowns. Aberdeen finished with 498 total yards, the most given up by a Blue Devil squad under Embry.
“They had a plan and they came in and executed it as close to perfection as possible,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo. “When we blitzed, they had an answer, when we read, they had an answer, when we played zone, they had an answer, when we played man, they had an answer.”
Russo, who has taken his Blue Devil defense to new heights this season, believes that his defense was slightly overzealous, leading to many Aberdeen big plays.
“Some of our kids thought they had to be superman and play three positions,” said Russo. “You just have to do your job and trust your teammates to do theirs. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot, because they’ll (Aberdeen) make you pay for it.”
Water Valley finally got on the board in the fourth quarter with runs by C.J. Jackson and Josh Johnson to bring the score to 42-13.
“I know it’s the second half and they had a big lead, but we scored twice and they scored once,” said Embry. “Our kids fought to the very end. To our team’s credit, we didn’t quit.”
Johnson’s touchdown was set up by a 79 yard Torrey Horton run. Horton, who earned more playing time due to a string of strong practices, set up Johnson after being run down by Aberdeen sophomore Channing Ward at the two yard line.
Ward, who strikes an imposing figure for the Bulldog defense, drew rave reviews from Embry after an impressive all around performance.
“No. 51, he’s a tenth grader and he might be the best one I’ve ever seen and I coached 5A ball for 10 years,” said Embry. “I’ve coached five NFL players and none of them looked like that in the tenth grade. They are loaded. They don’t play lights out every play, but they win.”
While Mississippi State commitment Jamerson Love garners rave reviews across the state, Embry was also very impressed with several others on the Bulldog offense
“He’s (Love) one of many. He’s great, but did he stand out more than six or seven of their guys?” asked Embry, complementing Aberdeen’s speed and execution.
Next up for the Blue Devils is a trip to division foe South Pontotoc. With only three games to play, the Blue Devils, standing at .500 in the division, know they desperately need another road victory.
“We got to have it. In the region, when you lose one, you have to come back and get the next one,” said Embry. “We’ll regroup, I have all the confidence in the world, and I know that because of the second half.”
Although the Blue Devils failed to deliver on their first big stage of 2009, Russo believes this young Water Valley squad will only benefit from the experience going forward.
“Every experience you have whether it is positive or negative, you need to learn from it. If we learn from this, this won’t be the last time we’re on a big stage in 2009,” said Russo.
While traveling to South Pontotoc was hardly the biggest game on the Blue Devils heading into the season, Water Valley desperately needs to deliver as the season turns down the home stretch.
A win would leave the Blue Devils needing just one victory out of their final two games to most likely clinch a playoff berth, while a loss would leave Water Valley with plenty to do on the road at Winona and at home against Mooreville.