Fast forward to 2009, and Duncan and his staff have led the Bulldogs to their second-straight 10-plus win season, and most important, to the MHSAA Class 3A state championship game.
"This group of young men here," said Duncan, pointing to wide receiver Erik Buchanan, running back Jamerson Love and linebacker Decedrick Quinn, who each accompanied him to Monday's news conference at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, "was the first group that came in with us. They worked hard and got things going.
"It's been a gradual process to be where we're at."
Aberdeen (13-2) battles undefeated Tylertown (14-0) in the championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Duncan wasn't going to take all the credit for the remarkable turnaround. He spoke highly of defensive coordinator Patrick Schoolar and offensive coordinator Kris Pickle, two coaches who have been with Duncan since his first season at Aberdeen.
"They have spent three years with us, and helped us build our program," he said. "I guess the stability overall of having a nucleus - that for us is those two coordinators and the head coach - is really exceptional for those kids in helping us win."
Robbins helps 'Dores
If you ever peer down the Lafayette County sideline before a game, Northeast Mississippi fans would see a familiar face.
Dennis Robbins, who coached at Pontotoc and Bruce, is in his fourth season as a Commodores assistant coach. He is currently the team's offensive coordinator, in addition to coaching the quarterbacks and running backs.
"Coach Robbins brings a lot of experience," head coach Anthony Hart said. "He's a great football coach.
"His head-coaching record speaks for itself. He coached in this (championship) game as a head coach.
"He's just such a great person to have on staff."
Robbins was at Bruce when the Trojans made it to consecutive Class 2A state championship games in 1991 and 1992. Robbins and his team, however, left Jackson empty-handed both times.
He and the rest of the Lafayette coaches will be looking to guide the Commodores' (14-1) to their first MHSAA state title on Saturday when they take on St. Stanislaus (13-1). The kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
"I think that's one of our strengths at Lafayette is our coaching staff," Hart said. "I have great coaches at every position."
Hart's got star power
Lafayette's Hart has the honor of coaching the Mississippi team in the 23rd Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic set for Dec. 12 in Mobile, Ala.
"That is a great honor for me to get to represent our state," said Hart, who will be the head coach. "I love this state.
"I coached two years in Alabama (at Walker High School in Jasper) and it was OK. But it's nothing like coaching in Mississippi. Mississippi football is great and it's just where I want to be, and to be able to represent our state in that game is a great honor for me personally."
Wave's pressure cooker
West Point High head football coach Chris Chambless is not oblivious to the amount of pressure the Green Wave football team faces each year to win a state championship.
"The pressure is always there," said the fourth-year Wave head coach. "It's not only there on me, but there on the kids."
The reason for the pressure resides in the school's five state titles and the great players who have come through the program.
"When you coach at a place like West Point, you are going to have some guys that want to win and are willing to do whatever it takes to win," said Chambless, who spent nine seasons as an assistant before becoming head coach. "That means the hard work and dedication in the weight room - and not just in practices. They are doing the little things it takes."
The Green Wave (13-1) plays Wayne County (11-3) - the school the Wave beat in 2005 for its last state title - in Saturday's 7 p.m. Class 5A title game.