By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
Was the Week 3 loss to Pontotoc High the turning point in Aberdeen’s 2009 season?
The Bulldogs lost 24-14 on the road to the Warriors last September before rattling off 12 straight wins and advancing to the MHSAA Class 3A state title game. Aberdeen lost the championship game, 34-20, to Tylertown, but were playing phenomenal football up to that point. The two teams play tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Aberdeen
“Pontotoc was pretty doggone good,” Aberdeen head coach Chris Duncan reflected about last year’s loss to the Warriors, which dropped the Bulldogs to 1-2 on the year.
Heading into last year’s contest, Pontotoc was ranked fifth in the Daily Journal’s large schools’ rankings while Aberdeen was the Journal’s top 3A team.
“We didn’t concede last year,” Warriors head coach Charlie Dampeer said about being the underdog, “even though we had no chance.”
The Bulldogs’ only regular-season losses last year were to Class 4A Pontotoc and Class 6A Columbus.
“Maybe the competition in 4A and 6A is a little stiffer than in 3A,” Duncan said. “As far as turning it (the season) around, the quality of competition may have changed a little bit.”
After nearly everyone had left Pontotoc’s stadium following last year’s game, Duncan and his staff addressed the Aberdeen players for at least 15 minutes on the Pontotoc field.
“Our kids expect to win,” Duncan said on Thursday. “Because they’re used to winning, they get complacent at times – as is probably the case with any sports team that is successful. We got complacent and we got our butts kicked.”
That loss did do good for the Bulldogs, though, as they regrouped in practice and started to have a more serious focus each week, said Duncan.
Favorite in 3A
At the beginning of training camp last month, many picked the Bulldogs to return to the Class 3A state championship game. They were returning seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense.
Two games into this season, Aberdeen finds itself in the same position it was last year: 1-1 on the season after splitting the first two games with Columbus and Ray Brooks.
However, Duncan says his team has nowhere reached its potential.
“We got to get a lot better in a lot of places,” he said. “I think we have the talent and the ability to get there (to the state title game), but we’re still a long ways away.
“We’ve only won one ballgame against a team that isn’t very good. We haven’t done anything yet.”
One thing is for certain, though: The Bulldogs are looking forward to the challenge of playing Pontotoc.
“I have the utmost respect for them,” Duncan said about tonight’s opponent. “They’re very, very hard to defend. They’re one of the best coached football teams I’ve coached against. They prepare well and do all of their homework. …
“They’re always a challenge. I can’t say enough good things about them. They’re a class act. Their football team is a class act and their coaches are a class act. We enjoy playing them.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572