By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
ABERDEEN – Starting a freshman quarterback and other new offensive faces, Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan was unsure of how his young kids would perform. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that inexperienced showed early and often Friday night against Columbus in the 2011 opener.
The Bulldogs had five turn-overs, including three that led to 17 first-half points for the Falcons. The end result was a 31-14 setback and the Bulldogs’ third straight loss to Columbus.
“We will get better and grow up,” said Duncan. “And we got better tonight as the game went on. But you can’t just give the ball away like that and expect to win. But you learn from it and move on.”
The first half alone featured seven combined turnovers – three by Aberdeen and four by Columbus. But it was the visiting Falcons who made those miscues hurt worse.
Aberdeen took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter when offensive lineman Brandon Hodges recovered teammate’s Justice Lucas’ fumble in the end zone. Ward hauled in a 2-point conversion pass from freshman quarterback Justin Williams but the rest of the half belonged to Columbus.
The Bulldogs had three turnovers in their final five possessions in the half and the Falcons turned them into 17 points. Columbus’ Quan Lathan returned one of those fumbles 71 yards for a TD to give his team its first lead.
Despite just 57 total yards, Columbus led 17-8 at halftime.
“We had too many turn-overs, too,” said Columbus coach Tony Stanford. “But we were able to keep them out of the end zone after our mistakes. I also thought we wore them down late in the game due to having more depth.”
The Class 6A Falcons used that ground game in the second half to pull away Senior Damian Baker had 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a 45-yard score late in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
Aberdeen finished with 214 yards of offense.