ABERDEEN – Aberdeen used a fast start to take a 25-point lead to halftime and forced five turnovers to beat McClain 46-16 Friday night.
Aberdeen (10-2) capitalized on two McClain interceptions in the first to take a 13-0 lead. Linebacker Justin Lucas hauled in the second interception of the night to the McClain 42. Bulldogs QB Josh Williams caught Aaron McMillian for a 32-yard pass to set up his 4-yard keeper for the score.
“Defensively we played great. Offensively, the offensive line just has to get better if we’re going to beat Charleston,” Aberdeen coach Mark Bray said.
On the Bulldogs’ next drive, junior tailback Chico Harrison found the end zone from five yards out after his big 28-yard run and a 13-yard pass from Williams to McMillian gave Aberdeen first downs. Williams added two more scoring runs before the half from one and 2 yards out.
McClain (9-4) got on the board with a 67-yard scoring strike from Rotavious Thurmond to Acaunya Brown, with Thurmond running for a two-point conversion to bring the Mustangs to within 20-8. Williams responded with his third scoring run and also found Sammie Burroughs for a 45-yard touchdown right before the break.
Williams finished the night 13 of 25 passing for 271 yards and a lone interception on the Bulldogs’ first play of the game and also added 53 yards on the ground. The sophomore QB spread his passes among five different receivers with Burroughs leading the way with four catches for 108 yards. Harrison led the ground game with 129 yards on 22 carries.
“That’s the whole key to our offense is spreading the football around, and Josh has to keep making good decisions,” Bray said.
The Mustangs’ defense kept Aberdeen off the scoreboard in the third quarter while also adding a 69-yard punt return from Brown, but Burroughs and Williams connected on a 51-yard scoring play halfway through the fourth quarter. Freshmen Javarious Crawford also added an 18-yard scoring run in the last minute of the game.
“The offensive line just didn’t play very well at all tonight. They were lining up and stunting, and we weren’t blocking down and filling gaps,” Bray said. “It was the same thing we talked to them about before the game that they had to do, and we just came out the second half and didn’t do it.”
Defensively, Aberdeen intercepted five McClain passes with Burroughs, McMillian, Lucas and Kenric McCoy each picking off Mustang QB Thurmond.
The win sets up a rematch with Charleston, which halted the Bulldogs’ shot at a third straight 3A title game last season with a 20-0 shutout.
“Most of them I don’t think even remember what the score was. After we look at film and talk about it, they understand what’s involved,” Bray said. “If they want it bad enough and they prepare the way they need to this week, we’ve got a shot at winning it. If they don’t come out and work and get ready in practice, then we won’t.”
Charleston is led by running back Kameron Myers, who found the end zone seven times (twice on defense) in the Tigers’ Round 2 60-32 win over Ripley.
“We’re a lot more mature on offense, and we’re a year older,” Bray said of his team’s chances against the Tigers. “We’re pretty much doing the same thing we did last year, and it’s pretty much on the kids’ shoulders. If they want it bad enough, they can get it done.