ABERDEEN — When the home team has a considerable advantage in total yards, more first downs, no turnovers, and fewer yards penalized, it’s generally safe to assume that team will come out a winner more times than not.
But that wasn’t the case here Friday evening, as the Shannon High School football team put a damper of Aberdeen’s season opener with a 21-14 victory. The win avenged a 26-13 home loss to the Bulldogs last year.
Aberdeen outgained Shannon 312-194, had more first downs (16-11), didn’t turn the ball over, and was penalized just 58 yards, but it wasn’t enough to offset 250-pound quarterback Kendall Cox, who rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
“We had receivers wide open all night, but we just couldn’t get the ball to them,” Aberdeen coach Mark Bray said. “Most everything we do involves a two-person read, and that makes it hard on the quarterback.”
While Aberdeen relied on its passing game for the most of the game, Shannon stuck with its ground game and capitalized on two scoring drives in each half.
“They (Shannon) got physical there with us on their first drive, and then they did the same thing late in the third quarter when they went ahead,” Aberdeen defensive coordinator Eric Spann said. “The rest of the game we did a pretty good job containing (Cox), but he was a load, that’s for sure.”
Cox gave the Aberdeen fans a sign of what was to come as he called his number the first three plays of the game, all of which resulted in 9-yard pickups. Two plays later, he hit his favorite receiver, Mark Seals, for a 21-yard gain. Tyshon Cooper’s 14-yard run and a face mask penalty against Aberdeen set up Shannon’s first score — a 5-yard keeper by Cox less than three minutes in. Hunter Robbins added the point after for a 7-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs countered with a 55-yard scoring strike from quarterback Josh Williams to wide receiver Sammie Burroughs on their second possession to make it 7-6.
The Red Raiders missed on two potential scoring opportunities late in the first quarter and early in the second period, as Aberdeen’s Tavoris Eckford and Chris McMillian recovered fumbles inside the Aberdeen 35-yard line. But Cameron Montgomery made up for his teammates’ miscues with a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left in the second quarter. Robbins’ point after stretched the lead to 14-6.
The Bulldogs quickly tied it up, however, as Williams hooked up with Tyreke Gates on two completions for 23 yards, one of which also had a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on, and Josh Ewing ripped off a 16-yard gainer to set up G.G. Blanchard’s bullish 10-yard scoring run.
Down by two with just under eight minutes left in the half, Williams connected with Burroughs for the game-tying two-point conversion.
Taking a cue from Shannon, Aberdeen also lost a potential scoring opportunity when Williams overthrew a wide open Burroughs on a fourth-and-1 from the Red Raiders 27 with a little more than a minute left in the second quarter.
Late in the third quarter, Cox and the Red Raiders went back to their patented running game to score the game-winning touchdown. Following a Williams’ punt that was downed at the Shannon 13, Cox led the offense 87 yards in 11 plays — only two of which were passes.
Cox accounted for 66 yards rushing on the drive, including a 29-yard run on which all 11 defenders seemingly took a shot at him, several of whom had more than one opportunity to bring him down. His 4-yard burst off tackle on fourth-and-goal with 1:56 left in the third quarter and Robbins’ kick was the only scoring in the second half.
“Kendall missed all last year with a torn ACL in a gym-related incident, but he made every practice and showed a lot of dedication,” Shannon coach Darryl Carter said. “He’s worked really hard.”
With images of a last-second touchdown pass from a 27-22 victory against Amory last season on their minds, Aberdeen’s offense made one last-minute effort to tie the game. The Bulldogs had first-and-goal from the 10 with a minute left but failed to convert.
“We tried to give it away like we did last year, but we dodged it there at the end,” Carter said. “Our defense had a great game, and coach (Boris) Ivy and the whole staff did a tremendous job. Despite a couple of turnovers in which we shot ourselves in the foot, we’ll take a ‘W’ any way we can.”