DE KALB — The score is still fresh on the Kemper County High School football team’s minds: 40-36.
That was the result of the regular-season matchup between the Wildcats (10-3) and Aberdeen High School back on Oct. 10. More than a month later, Kemper County has a shot at redemption Friday as it travels to Aberdeen for a third-round playoff game in the MHSAA Class 4A postseason.
“I remember a lot of turnovers (happening),” running back Devante Scott said. “We didn’t make the big plays. We started out sluggish and finally pulled ourselves together, but it was too late.”
As part of a unit that yielded 40 points the last time, defensive back Jonathan Jones was blunt about what his team needed to do Friday.
“We’re trying not to let them get (any points) this time,” Jones aid. “It’s still on our minds — we still have to get them.”
Head coach Chris Jones and the rest of the Wildcat staff was hard at work Wednesday afternoon, coaching the players to fight through cold temperatures and correct mistakes that happened in early October.
“We were down 16-0 in the first quarter, came back and had the lead in the third quarter and lost it,” Chris Jones recalled. “We had a chance on the last drive but missed a touchdown pass. I feel like we can play with them if we play like we’re capable of playing.”
While the players would no doubt trade a loss for a win, Scott said making the best of the opportunity they have now is the most important thing.
“I look at it as, everything happens for a reason,” Scott said. “The loss we had put us in a better bracket, and I take it as motivation.”
Chris Jones said the players are still adjusting to the colder temperatures they’ve faced the last couple of weeks.
“It’s a mental thing,” Chris Jones said. “We try to get out here early enough, either with practice or on a game day, so we can get our blood flowing. By (game) time, you’re kind of warmed up, and you’re not thinking about the cold when you’re out there having fun. At first, though, it’s kind of big for these guys who haven’t been in this situation.”
And Chris Jones said he sees the cold as a positive sign for his team.
“I told my guys they should be thankful that they’re playing in the cold,” he said. “It means you’ve done enough to make it to the playoffs. You can’t be satisfied, though. The mission is a championship, so we’re going to continue pressing on until we get there.”
Jonathan Jones said he likes the fact that his team hasn’t been eliminated, even if it means playing in the cold.
“You just have to adjust to that football weather, like Coach Jones says,” Jonathan Jones said with a smile.
This late in the season, Chris Jones said the focal point is on refining what the team already does instead of making major adjustments.
“You can’t put in too much at this point,” Chris Jones said. “You just have to get better at what you do and execute the stuff you’ve been working on since day one. You might throw a few wrinkles in here and there, but it’s all about you getting better and being motivated and understanding what’s about to happen in these big-time games.”
In order to have a different outcome against Aberdeen in matchup No. 2, Scott said the Wildcats couldn’t afford to fall behind early again.
“We must come out fast and execute in all phases of the ball,” Scott said. “Special teams has to step up, and the turnovers must be eliminated.”
Said Jonathan Jones, “We have to run, play physical and play fast. We have to win — that’s all that matters.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Aberdeen.