Aberdeen, ranked No. 2 in the Daily Journal’s Class 3A rankings, punched its ticket to Jackson before the final horn sounded on Friday with a 47-12 win at previously-perfect and No. 1 Booneville (13-1) in the MHSAA Class 3A North finals.
Saturday’s state title tilt will be the first in Aberdeen’s history and it comes after the Bulldogs beat two unbeatens in two weeks.
The Bulldogs (13-2) took a 40-6 lead to the halftime locker room.
“We hadn’t had this feeling before,” said Aberdeen coach Chris Duncan. “I’m proud of all the players, all the coaches, everybody that believed in us all this time. It’s a great feeling to get somewhere you’ve been working hard to get.”
The stat lines said it all. Quarterback Aaron Andrews was 5 for 8 for 155 yards. Jamerson Love had 122 yards and two scores on only five carries. Victor Hodges added 66 yards on 10 touches. Erik Buchanan had 149 yards on two catches and two scores.
Aberdeen, winners of 12 straight, struck quickly. On the first play from scrimmage, Buchanan hauled in a 76 yard touchdown pass from Andrews. A drive later on the first play, the Bulldogs scored on the same connection from 73 yards away.
Aberdeen will face another unbeaten in Jackson at 11 a.m. Saturday. South champ Tylertown beat Morton 28-18.
Booneville made it as interesting as it would get late in the first quarter. Bo Brown put the Blue Devils on the board with an 11 yard run with 1:02 left to pull Booneville within 12-6.
It didn’t take Aberdeen long to answer. On the ensuing drive, Mississippi State commitment Love scored the first of his two touchdowns, an 11 yard run 54 seconds into the quarter. Jaboris Carter’s fumble recovery then set up Love’s 26 yard score for a 26-6 lead with 10:26 to play.
Aberdeen added a Mario Lucas 18 yard touchdown catch and Brandon Smith returned a blocked punt 15 yards for the final score of the first half.
“We just got beat by a better ballclub,” said Booneville coach Jim Drewry. “We had a good year, 13-1 is not bad, for a group of kids who weren’t even picked third or fourth in the division.”
With 3 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first half, Andrews limped to the sideline with a twisted ankle. Desmond Jones finished the game under center, but Duncan said Andrews was cleared to play the second half but held out for precautionary reasons.
“We’re the first team to do that, so we made history,” said Love of the title berth. “We’re going to get prepared for the game and hopefully come home with a victory.”
Booneville scored on Brenden Pannell’s 7 yard run to pull within 40-12 in the third.
Rashad Bates responded for Aberdeen. His 30 yard pick-6 and Rashad Pargo’s kick gave the Bulldogs a 47-12 lead as time expired in the quarter.
Duncan said his team had learned from a North State loss last season and a quarterfinal loss in 2007.
“We said we were going to play 48 minutes and it was 24 left (after the half),” he said. “I think we pretty much did that. I’m just proud of them. I think they figured out what was on the line. This is a mature group. I think they saw the mistakes we had in the past and that helped us this go-around.”