JACKSON – No one on Aberdeen’s sideline thought it was a fumble. The television crew argued the call on air.
Tylertown recovered a controversial second-quarter fumble, scored on a 75 yard touchdown pass a play later and went on to a 34-20 win against Aberdeen in the MHSAA Class 3A state championship game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs (13-3) were on the 15 yard line trying to increase a 20-7 lead with 26 seconds left in the first half.
Instead, Erik Buchanan’s ruled catch and fumble ultimately resulted in Jameon Lewis’ 75 yard touchdown pass to Ken Brown on the ensuing play.
Tylertown pulled within 20-14 after Logan Conerly’s kick and – even though they still led – Aberdeen never recovered.
“I think it was an incomplete pass. That was big,” Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan said. “We never could actually make a play to get back in it. In football, momentum is something very valuable. You’ve got to make plays when you have a chance to make plays and we didn’t.”
Aberdeen made the game’s first big play. With Tylertown driving to the Aberdeen 17-yard line, Fred Ward recovered Lewis’ fumble and took it to the 35.
Mississippi State-committed senior Jamerson Love then took off for a 51 yard gain and Victor Hodges scored on a 14-yard run for a 6-0 lead just two minutes into the game. Love scored on Aberdeen’s next drive – 51 yards in, again, two plays – on a 34-yard run for a 12-0 lead.
Lewis was sacked three times on Tylertown’s next possession, the third resulting in a fumble and Ward’s second recovery of the quarter.
Bulldogs in control
Hodges capitalized with his second score, an 8-yard run to cap a four-play, 23-yard drive. Buchanan’s two-point catch from Aaron Andrews made it 20-0 Bulldogs with 3:53 left in the quarter.
Love had 13 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown, 103 on six carries in the first half. Hodges had 36 yards on eight carries with two scores.
Andrews threw for 185 yards on 10 of 19 passing, 84 of them on two passes to Buchanan. Mario Lucas had two catches for 74 yards.
Tylertown drove 77 yards in 16 plays midway through the second quarter for its first touchdown on Lewis’ 2 yard dive with 6:57 to play in the half.
The late touchdown left all the momentum with the Chiefs, Duncan said.
“I think they got the momentum then and we never got it back,” Duncan said. “You let them score an 80-yard touchdown with a couple seconds to go, that’s a back breaker.”
During the quarter, Andrews limped off the field with an re-occurring ankle injury he first suffered last week against Booneville. He seemed more immobile as the game went on.
“We taped it up and he did what he could do, but he couldn’t move after that point,” Duncan said.
Fourth downs were back breakers for Aberdeen as well.
Aberdeen – playing in Jackson for the first time – tried to take back the momentum, but its opening second-half drive stalled at the Tylertown 19. The Chiefs then tied the game at 20 on Lewis’ 10 yard pass to Jawon Jackson on third-and-7 at the 11 yard line. Conerly’s kick gave the Chiefs (15-0) their first lead with 4:07 to play in the third.
‘Hard to stop’
Tylertown went ahead 27-20 on a fourth-and-goal at the 5 yard line when Lewis scrambled and hit Brown in the back of the end zone just out of the reach of Rashad Pargo.
“When the momentum’s on somebody’s side, they’re hard to stop,” Love said. “We just failed to execute. If you don’t execute, you’re going to lose ballgames.”
With three minutes to play, Aberdeen stopped the Chiefs on fourth down, but a facemask penalty kept possession with the Chiefs at the Aberdeen 25. On fourth-and-1 with 2:50 to play, Lewis ran left on an option and scored from 16 yards away to ice the game.
“We slowed everything down offensively and went back to our base stuff,” said Tylertown coach Walter Denton, whose team lost to Louisville here last year. “It gave our kids a little bit of confidence and they fought back.”
Lewis, who’s headed to Mississippi State as well, finished with 88 yards on 27 carries in Tylertown’s first title win.
“He’s a very good ball player and when they needed him, he made plays,” Duncan said. “We had several times to stop him on fourth down and he makes a big play.”
Brandon SpecK/Monroe Journal