ABERDEEN — The Aberdeen High School football team, fresh from a much-needed 45-28 win against Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A defending state champion West Bolivar, has a chance to do something tonight at Lester Miley Stadium that no other Bulldog squad has done: beat Louisville.
In years past, Aberdeen has been the decided underdog in its infrequent clashes against Louisville. But this year’s non-division battle shapes up — on paper, anyway — as a toss-up. Both teams are 3-2 and have lost to Columbus High, their only common opponent (Aberdeen, 21-0; Louisville, 21-13).
“Playing Louisville is going to be like playing against ourselves,” said Aberdeen coach Mark Bray said. “They’re more athletic than big, probably about our size up and down the lineup — very similar to us.
“Offensively, the Cats have a big, strong quarterback who runs well and utilizes a spread offense to throw the football off the zone read. Defensively, they run a 5-3 defense and really come after you. They don’t sit back and wait on you to come to them, the same thing they have done over the years.”
Aberdeen had a banner first half against West Bolivar, holding The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen running back Kailo Moore in check. The Bulldogs didn’t give up a yard rushing and surrendered only 54 passing yards.
In the second half, in which Moore played but a series or two, senior Trevoris Hampton took over the rushing chores for the Eagles and they ended up with 306 total yards, most of it coming through the air.
Chico Harrison led the Bulldogs with 171 yards rushing on 21 carries, including touchdown runs of 55 yards and 1 yard. Quarterback Josh Williams had a pair of touchdown passes — one to Sammie Burroughs and one to Aaron McMillian, both of which went for more than 50 yards.
The Hamilton High slow-pitch softball team again used the long ball to post another division victory — a 12-5 decision against Monroe County rival Hatley — last week.
Cheyenne Logan provided the big blow, a grand slam in the fifth inning to give the Lady Lions their first lead. Logan was one of three players credited with a home run, and one of six starters who had two or more hits.
Jordyn Jackson’s two-run home run in the bottom of the second cut Hatley’s lead to 5-2. Christy Willis’s three-run shot capped a five-run sixth, as Hamilton pounded out 17 hits — four by winning pitcher Alison Atkins and two each by Hallie Dobbs, Addie Thompson, Myiah Dobbs, Jackson, and Logan.
“We’ve really been hitting the ball better and a lot further,” Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said. “Here lately, we’ve been doing a few things a little differently and it seems to have helped a little bit.”
Earnest said his squad has been hitting a lot of home runs at practice and it has had a positive effect come game time.
“We’ve got some bats we use at practice and some fairly hot practice balls and the home runs are flying out of the park,” Earnest said. “The girls are feeling good about hitting, and they’re confident when they go to the plate when it really counts.”
Hamilton faced Baldwyn last night, will play host to Okolona on Tuesday and will travel Thursday to Mooreville.
Aberdeen’s college connections
Jackson State University quarterback Clayton Moore, whose grandfather, John Moore, is a court security officer at the Thomas G. Abernathy Federal Courthouse in Aberdeen, was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Newcomer of the Week after leading the Tigers to a 45-35 win against Texas Southern last Saturday.
In his first start, Moore accounted for six touchdowns and threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 101 yards and three more scores.
Moore, a junior who went to Louisville High and transferred to JSU from Akron University, moved into the starter’s role after seeing limited duty in the Tigers’ first two games — a 56-9 season-opening loss to Mississippi State University and a 38-12 setback to Tennessee State.
In the first two games, he was 5 of 10 for 17 yards against the Bulldogs and was 18 of 28 for 184 yards in the second half against TSU. He also led the Tigers to their only touchdown, a 1-yard plunge that capped a 68-yard drive.
“I think Clayton Moore just gave us that edge I was looking for,” said JSU coach Rick Comegy in an interview with The Clarion-Ledger’s Travis Downey. “We have to have somebody that can score any way possible. We need a quarterback who can drive us down and get us points on the board.
“At this point, he’ll go into our next game as our starting quarterback,” said Comegy, after pointing out Moore gave the JSU offense “a spark we’d been looking for all year.”
Another college quarterback with an Aberdeen connection who took advantage of his first start was Itawamba Community College freshman Griff Loftis. A 2012 Mooreville graduate whose father, Don Loftis, suited up for the Bulldogs in the 1970s, Loftis’ debut resulted in a 39-9 ICC road win against Mississippi Delta.
Loftis was 22 of 42 for 325 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions) as the Indians improved to 3-0 and 1-0 in the MACJC North Division. Former Aberdeen High standout Rashad Pargo caught five passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
Monroe County high school coaching connections
At last count, there were any number of former Monroe County football coaches leaving their mark on various programs throughout the state.
Olive Branch, the defending 6A state champions, moved to 4-0 on the year with a 43-33 win against Memphis University School. The Conquistadors, ranked first in The Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Dandy Dozen poll and coached by former Aberdeen High football coach Scott Samsel, trailed 26-14 entering the fourth quarter but outscored the third-ranked host team 29-7 down the stretch en route to their 19th straight win.
Toby Collums, a former standout at Smithville High, has Itawamba AHS unbeaten at 4-0 and ranked No. 5 in The Clarion-Ledger’s Class 4A poll. In his second year leading the Indians, Collums went 7-3 in the regular season last year before losing to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs.
Vardaman’s Justin Hollis and Falkner’s Ben Ashley both served as assistant coaches at Amory and are now rivals in the 1-1A ranks. Hollis, in his fifth year with the Rams has a 2-2 record, while Ashley’s Eagles are 3-1, their lone loss a 34-26 setback to Vardaman. The Rams finished 10-4 (7-1) a year ago after losing to Shaw 12-6 in the North State finals. The Eagles posted a 9-3 (7-1) mark and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Ray Brooks 32-13.
After suffering through a 2-9 (0-7) record a year ago, former Amory High coach Pat Byrd has his Class 5A Saltillo Tigers at 3-1.
Former Aberdeen coach Lynn Moore, who had a successful run with the Bulldogs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is in his first year as head coach at Mantachie High. After serving as the offensive coordinator at Anniston (Ala.) High last year, Moore is 2-3 and hopes to help the Mustangs improve on their 3-8 record from a year ago.
After posting a 28-3 record and a perfect mark in division play the past two years, former Aberdeen coach Perry Liles has his Calhoun City Wildcats at 3-2 entering the sixth week. The ‘Cats went 13-2 a year ago after missing out on an opportunity to become the first Mississippi prep team to go 16-0 in 2010 thanks to a 26-24 loss to Lumberton in the state championship game in Jackson. Calhoun City will play host to Amory (4-1) tonight.
Madison Central coach Bobby Hall, who put Amory on the state’s prep football map in the 1990s, is off to a 1-3 start. Hall, who has coached on the high school, junior college, college, and professional levels, has won four state titles and, according to MaxPreps, has an 82-28 record in eight-plus seasons at Madison Central. The 1-3 start is Madison Central’s worst start since 2007, when it started 0-4 and finished 6-6.
In the headlines
Aberdeen linebacker-running back Justin Lucas drew kudos in the 2012 Mississippi Gridiron magazine: “One top returner is linebacker Justin Lucas. The defensive leader will be one of the state’s best linebackers this season after a big year in 2011. Lucas will also have time in the Bulldog backfield.”
Also drawing attention in the same magazine was Xavier Forshee: “At 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, Forshee should have a huge senior year. Forshee is a legitimate college prospect.”
Chico Harrison, Sammy (sic) Burroughs, Josh Williams, and Aaron Mcmillian (sic) also were mentioned favorably in the same article, which picked the Bulldogs to finish second behind Water Valley in Region 2-3A.
Samsel was featured in a three-page, full-color spread in the Mississippi Sports Magazine. Samsel, 70-16 at Olive Branch and 15 wins away from his 200th victory, led the Conquistadors to a 15-0 record and their first state championship last year. Olive Branch held on to the second spot this week in The Clarion-Ledger’s Super 10 poll and in the Class 6A Associated Press poll. Meridian is No. 1 in both polls. By his own count, he has “16 or 17 (of his former players) playing Division I football somewhere.”
Hamilton’s Deion Howard made The Clarion-Ledger’s Top Performers list for his four-touchdown, 323-yard rushing effort on 14 carries against Hatley.