ABERDEEN – If you like offense, Lester Miley Stadium in Aberdeen was the place to be on Friday night.
The Bulldogs and the Hatley Tigers battled it out in a game that came down to the wire as Aberdeen quarterback Fred Fields scored a touchdown and the go-ahead two-point conversion with 26 seconds to go to take down Division 4-3A opponent Hatley with a 46-45 win.
Aberdeen had trailed by as many as two scores early in the third quarter.
“I just knew Brandan (Williams) was going to get it. He got me the key block, and I just ran it in,” Fields said. “At halftime, I was down, and my team talked me up. They said that we were going to get it.”
Aberdeen coach Eric Spann praised the resiliency of his team.
“Once we caught back up, we got a stop and forced them to kick a field goal. We got back into it then. We were the last one with enough time on the clock. If they had another minute, who knows, they may have won,” Spann said. “I’m proud of our guys for the fight they had because they were down at halftime. We challenged them, and they came out and responded and hung in there. I hope it’s a life lesson about not quitting. If you don’t quit, things can work out for you, but if you do quit, they will never work out for you. There’s more to this than just football because we hope we’re bringing up good, Godly young men.”
The Bulldogs scored on the opening possession of the game. A strong kickoff return and then a 20-yard run from Jaquan Jones put the Bulldogs inside the red zone where Fields punched it in from 11 yards out and made the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Much of the rest of the first half momentum belonged to Hatley and tailback Nick Washington as he dominated on the ground.
He carried the ball on all nine plays of the Tigers’ first drive and capped it off with a 1-yard scoring run.
The Bulldogs countered with another Fields TD run to go up 14-7, but Hatley scored twice to end the first half.
Washington ate up most of the groundwork on the Tigers’ ensuing drive, but Alex Cooper cut around the left side to score on a 9-yard run and tie the game after Luke Moffett’s extra point.
After a Hatley stop on defense, their offense went right back to work with Washington, who made into the end zone for the second time in the first half with a 2-yard TD run.
Cooper preserved the 20-14 advantage by hauling in an interception right before the half.
The Tigers kept the momentum on the first drive of the third quarter with Washington breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 26-14.
The two teams started to trade scores from there as Fields first found Isaac Watson and Jones on big pass plays and then got loose himself on a 39-yard touchdown run. His two-point conversion made it 26-22.
Hatley’s next drive featured a 38-yard run by Washington, but the Bulldogs came up with a stop inside the red zone as they held the Tigers to a 26-yard Moffett field goal to make it 29-22.
Aberdeen took its first lead of the second half on the final play of the third quarter with Fields finding Jones across the middle on a 17-yard scoring strike and scoring another conversion to go up 30-29.
The Tigers countered in less than three minutes with Markhel Hunt’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Matt Turner, set up by runs of 17 and 46 yards by Washington, to retake the lead at 36-30.
Fields found the end zone for the fourth time on a 9-yard run to give the lead back to the Bulldogs at 38-36.
Washington and Hatley answered in just three plays as he raced 38 yards to the end zone for his fourth score for the 42-38 advantage.
“Nick had a great game, and everyone played well from the offensive line to Markhel (Hunt) coming in and doing a great job. I love this team and these kids,” Hatley coach Ken Adams said. “They play their hearts out, and that’s part of who we are. We just have to get it done when we get to these games. We have a chance though, and our goal is still in front of us. We just have to go get it.”
The Tigers’ defense looked to gain momentum as they stopped the Bulldogs on fourth down at the 17-yard line to get the ball back with great field position.
Aberdeen’s defense stepped up as well, holding Hatley to a 33-yard Moffett field goal to make it 45-38 and leaving enough time on the clock to work with to take the lead.
“I’m proud of our kids and how they played. They have worked hard,” Adams said. “It was a good game, and congratulations to Aberdeen. When we kicked a field goal down there, we needed to put it in the end zone.”
Fields had a couple of big passes to Brandan Williams to set up his 2-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs down by just one, then he barreled through the middle for the two-point conversion and the win.
“I was proud of him with his composure the whole game because it’s something I challenge him on every week. He’s so competitive, more competitive than I was, and I couldn’t stand it to lose or not to do well,” Spann said of his quarterback. “Fred thinks he’s supposed to complete every pass and score on every play, and he’s hard on himself. I don’t have to ever get on to him because he’s hard enough on himself. He just had great composure tonight, and I think he lived up to it and learned a good lesson about staying positive and focused. He stayed up the whole time, and he gave us a chance to win.”
Spann also complimented Hatley for the impressive offensive showing.
“Hats off to Hatley. They played a great game and did everything they needed to do. The (Nick) Washington kid is unreal,” Spann said. “I told everybody over here that I wish he would move to Aberdeen because he’s as good of a back as you’re going to see. He knows how to run and runs downhill, and he’s a good, hard-nosed, great kid. The Hatley community has great kids, and I’m proud of them for what they have done this year. Coach (Ken) Adams is doing a wonderful job, especially coaching the details to be good like that.”
Both teams are on the road this week with Aberdeen at Houston and Hatley at Nettleton.