ABERDEEN — It would difficult to imagine any coach beaming brighter than Chris Duncan did Wednesday.
Duncan”s delight in seeing six of his players sign scholarships to play football in college stems from how far the Aberdeen High School football program has come in a short amount of time.
Four years ago, the Bulldogs didn”t win a game. Duncan, his assistant coaches, and the current group of seniors has helped change that.
Aberdeen won nine games in 2007, was the Class 3A North Half State runner-up in ”08, and the Class 3A runner-up this season.
Jamerson Love, Eric Buchanan, Mario Lucas, Rashad Pargo, Decedrick Quinn, and Anthony Bean were part of the Bulldogs” success this season, and they will try to duplicate it at the next level.
Love (Mississippi State), Buchanan, Lucas, Pargo, and Quinn (Itawamba Community College), and Bean (William Penn) made their choices official in a signing ceremony in the school”s library.
Duncan stood back from the signing table and watched with a big smile on his face as the players, who received their letterman”s jackets Wednesday, practiced their signatures. Even though they had signed their paperwork earlier, Duncan couldn”t be prouder.
“To see those guys come so far in three years, this is the ultimate reward for a coach,” Duncan said. “All of them are important. These were the kids who were here at the start and we began to get things turned around. Each has played an integral part in helping us to get where we are and to be one of the best programs in the state in Class 3A.”
Love will take his versatile skills to Starkville, where he hopes to compete for playing time at several positions.
As a senior, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound running back rushed for 1,778 yards and had 29 touchdowns (rushing, receiving, returning). He also played in the secondary.
“I feel a whole lot better right now and real good that I just signed a Division I scholarship,” said Love, who sported a Mississippi State tie Wednesday on his appearance on WCBI”s Signing Day broadcast. “It wasn”t just me. The coaches put me in a position to be the man I am today and am soon to be. I appreciate everybody who has had an influence on my life and who has helped me be a better man.”
Buchanan, Pargo, and Lucas were weapons at wide receiver for the past two seasons on the Bulldogs” explosive offense.
Pargo said he has been ready ever since Aberdeen lost to Tylertown in the Class 3A state title game in December to get back to the field. He said the goal is to help ICC win a championship and earn a title ring they have coveted for years.
“I am going to do what I have to do,” Pargo said. “I am ready to play ball.”
Buchanan, Lucas, Pargo, and Quinn are four of 38 signees ICC football coach Jon Williams added to his program. The AHS seniors will join former Aberdeen High quarterback Marcus Hinton, who enrolled at ICC earlier this year, for a reunion that could create plenty of fireworks.
“It is something that I have been waiting for for a long time,” Buchanan said. “I am going to go there for one year and then I am going to transfer to Southern Miss.
“It is going to take a lot of hard work in the weight room and in the offseason. I am going to have to stay in shape and be prepared when I go in to earn a spot.”
Lucas didn”t play football his first two seasons in high school because he thought he was “too little.” He convinced himself to try out as a junior and realized a goal Wednesday he never imagined would come true.
“It lets me know I can do anything I put my mind to,” Lucas said.
Quinn anchored the Bulldogs” defense at linebacker. He said he plans to use the fact he was overlooked as an “undersized linebacker” to make an impact at ICC.
“I am a diehard linebacker,” Quinn said. “No matter the size, no matter the weight. I will hit you the same way.”
Bean is eager to go to William Penn, a NAIA school in Oskaloosa, Iowa, so join Barry, a former AHS standout, who was a freshman on the William Penn football team in 2009.
Bean, who is 6-foot, 175 pounds, played defensive end this season, his first at Aberdeen High. The former player at Houston and Tupelo high schools said he doesn”t mind going 10 hours from home to play football in college.
“They gave me an opportunity, so I took it,” Bean said. “Most likely I am going to play in the secondary. It is going to be a lot different, so I am going to have to work hard.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.