Aberdeen’s offense was good, but its defense was even better.
The Bobcats defense held a team that scored 51 points the week prior without an offensive score in a 20-7 victory on Friday at Stewart Field in Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen defense was put to the test early as Black Hills took the opening drive and drove to the Bobcats 5-yard line.
But on 3rd-and-goal, Wolves quarterback Jaxsen Beck fumbled the snap and the Aberdeen defense took advantage when defensive back Erick Hayter Ramsey came up with the recovery, thwarting the threat.
The Bobcats broke a scoreless tie when the Aberdeen offense drove 64 yards in seven plays, capped with a 20-yard touchdown run with 1:50 left in the first half.
With Aberdeen (2-1 overall, 1-0 2A Evergreen) leading 6-0 in the second quarter, the Bobcats offense faced a fourth down situation from the Black Hills 32-yard line. Aberdeen quarterback Kale Goings dropped back to pass and was under pressure.
As Goings was about to be sacked he threw a pass that was intercepted by the Wolves’ Keagan Rongen, who returned the ball 65 yards for a touchdown with 6:35 on the clock. The extra points gave the Wolves a 7-6 lead they would eventually take into the half.
In the third quarter, Aberdeen took the first possession of the second half and — with the help of a third-down conversion on a 31-yard pass play from Goings to Bowers — took the lead on a 1-yard Goings sneak with 6:07 on the clock.
Trailing 14-7, Black Hills (1-3, 1-1) responded by driving to the Aberdeen 30. But in a theme the recurred throughout the evening, Aberdeen’s defense made the plays at critical moments, stuffing a run by the Wolves running back Johnnie Stallings on 4th-and-1 to force a turnover on downs.
The Bobcats capitalized by driving downfield using their battering ram of a running back in Jeremy Sawyer, who had first-down runs of 20 and 12 yards to keep the Aberdeen offense rolling along.
Goings broke a run through the left side for a 14-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead with 1:06 on the clock.
The Aberdeen offense had given the Bobcats a second-half lead, now it was up to the defense to make it stick.
With the Wolves driving near midfield, Aberdeen cornerback Drew Lock came up with another clutch defensive play for the Bobcats, picking off a Beck pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“After the first half ended, coach was telling me to hook on the hip and look inside and the first time I did that, I made the play,” Lock said, adding it’s his first interception at any level. “It was amazing. All through Pop Warner, middle school and even high school I never had an interception. That’s my first.”
The Bobcats offense followed with a drive that chewed up over seven minutes of clock, but stalled out at the Wolves’ 37-yard line.
Aberdeen’s defense came up big twice more, forcing another Black Hills turnover on downs and — after an Aberdeen possession and punt — intercepting Beck for the third time in the game, the final being a game-sealing pick from Bobcats defensive back Aidan Watkins in the Aberdeen red zone.
“Our defense gave up zero touchdowns,” Aberdeen head coach Todd Bridge, adding his defense missed the leadership of linebacker Liam Heikkila, who missed the game due to an injury. “They scored 51 last week. They didn’t score any tonight.”
Aberdeen finished the game with 293 yards of offense, 236 of those on the ground.
“We had to create a mindset (on offense),” Bridge said. “We just played our football with our big offensive line. Big, strong kids up front that settled down and took their guy and just shoved him down.”
Sawyer carried the ball 28 times for 151 yards with Goings completing 4-of-6 passes for 57 yards and an interception.
Black Hills, which defeated Centralia 51-8 last week, committed four turnovers in the game, with Bowers also picking off Beck in the game.
Stallings led the Wolves with 115 yards on 15 carries.
Beck went 6-for-14 with 82 yards and three picks for a Black Hills team that had 215 yards of total offense.
“We just committed to stopping their best plays and to playing hard-nosed football and playing straight-up,” Lock said.