For their final pre-league lesson, Aberdeen’s Bobcats learned the folly of Red Zone turnovers.
Benefiting from five AHS turnovers, four occurring inside the 20-yard line, Black Hills did all its scoring in the first half to beat the Bobcats, 27-17, in a non-league football game Friday night at Stewart Field.
Aberdeen concluded the non-league portion of its season with a 2-2 record.
The Bobcats had the edge in total offense (364-305) and first downs (17-13) — plus an even more substantial advantage in time of possession.
But they had passes intercepted on Black Hills’ 8-yard line and in the end zone, muffed a lateral on the opposition’s 13 and fumbled inside the 10.
“We moved the ball all over the field,” Aberdeen coach Terry Dion grumbled. “We just made too many mistakes.”
The Bobcats were also operating at less than full strength, with quarterback Veek Cheema and lineman Kaleb Levao suffering from the flu. Cheema still passed for 154 yards before tweaking a knee in the late going.
The Wolves (2-2) capitalized with a big-play offense. Nick Knittle took a 92-yard pass from Jayden Troy to open the scoring and returned a punt 73 yards to set up the second touchdown, on Troy’s 8-yard pass to Mitch Stone. That gave the visitors a 14-0 lead with the contest less than seven minutes old.
The turnover that may have been the most costly, however, came midway through the second period.
Trailing 14-2, the Bobcats had the ball on the Black Hills 8. But linebacker Zach Grate stripped the ball from a Bobcat ball-carrier to end that threat.
The Wolves then launched a 69-yard scoring drive, with Stone taking a short pass from Troy and squirting free down the right sideline on a 27-yard scoring play.
Knittle picked off Cheema shortly thereafter, returning it to the Aberdeen 15. Stone took it in from there to make it 27-2 with 1:46 remaining in the first half.
That’s the way it remained until Cheema scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak at the 10:47 mark of the fourth quarter.
Joel Dublanko ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 27-10 and, with the Wolves showing little inclination to play ball-control, that deficit didn’t seem insurmountable.
But the Cats failed to score on their next two possessions.
When Dublanko, filling in at quarterback for the ailing Cheema, found tight end Lorenzo Ontiveros on a 26-yard touchdown pass, only one minute was left in the contest. Andreas Valdez tacked on the final point.
Aberdeen’s squib kick was recovered by the Wolves, who took a pair of kneel-downs to end the contest.
The Bobcats scored on a safety late in the first quarter. A bad snap sailed away from Black Hills punter Luke Taylor, who kicked the loose ball out of his own end zone.
Austin Floch led Aberdeen rushers with 111 yards on 19 carries.
Bobcat senior lineman Chase Johnson played an exceptional defensive game, almost certainly finishing in double digits in tackles.
Teammate Collin Martin intercepted a pass and also tripped up Knittle at the end of his long punt runback.
“Our tackling in the first half was pretty atrocious,” Dion said. “But I thought both sides of the ball played their hearts out in the second half.”
The Bobcats kick off Greater St. Helens 2A competition next Friday when they host Mark Morris.