AHS Ladycats vs. Springtown at Aledo;
Varsity, 6:30 p.m.
JV, 5 p.m.
9th, 5 p.m.
By Tony Eierdam
Aledo senior football players Devin Davis, Danny Heiss, Cy Wilson, Dillon Hawkins and Trey Ozee were having a blast Tuesday afternoon at “Media Day” at the Aledo High School field house, talking it up with area reporters and television broadcasters about their thoughts leading up to the Class 4A, Division II state championship game.
The Bearcats will face Brenham at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19 at D.K. Royal Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.
Tickets will be $10 at the gate, and can be purchased until noon (last lunch period) Friday at Aledo ISD campuses and the administration building.
The 100,119-seat stadium is the home field of the Big 12-champion Texas Longhorns, a venue the Bearcats are excited to play in and an excellent choice for a championship game.
Senior defensive end Devin Davis has played Aledo youth football since the first grade. He said he has always thought about getting an opportunity to play for a high school state championship.
“Most of us have dreamed about this since pee wee football,” Davis said. “You don’t realize what a big deal it is until you actually know you are going to play in the game. I have lived in Aledo my whole life, and I have seen all of the teams when I was younger.
“I was at the ’98 state championship game (at the Astrodome in Houston) when I was in first grade, and I remember my Dad (Aledo ISD school board member David Davis) telling me that this doesn’t happen often and what a big deal it is.
“When the (state semifinal) ended, it was a relief, and I thought ‘we finally did it.’ All the hard work we put in this summer, all the lifting and running and everything finally paid off. It is total relief.
“But it is not enough to just to play in the championship game. We have been keeping our focus all week – even with all the hype around us – and we are not letting it all get to our heads. Practices are business as usual, and we are keeping it the exact same way we have been keeping it all year.”
Senior linebacker Danny Heiss moved to Aledo in the third grade. He started as a sophomore on the 2007 Bearcat team that was eliminated in the semifinal round of the playoffs by Copperas Cove and their talented quarterback Robert Griffin, now the starting signal caller at Baylor.
“When we lost to Copperas Cove two years ago and when we lost last year to Everman (in 2008), it was tough to look at the faces of the seniors,” Heiss said. “I was thinking, ‘the season went by so fast, and now they are completely done with high school football.’
“Before every playoff game this year, I picture those images I had of the seniors after those two games. I didn’t want to go through that. I think it is awesome to be playing in the state championship game, especially after coming so close my sophomore year. Getting it done last week to get past that point was incredible.”
Senior defensive end Cy Wilson is enjoying a final week of practice with his teammates and is eager to play in the championship game on Saturday.
“This whole experience – media day and the anticipation of playing in the state championship game – is awesome,” Wilson said. “Playing an extra six weeks is a grind, but you have to wake up every day (the Bearcats’ primary practices are held in the morning) and come out here in 20-degree weather and practice.
“But you have to find it from within to keep working hard every day. But it is exciting to practice during a playoff run, and a lot easier to practice the week of the state championship game.
“I don’t like to think about it, but I have been bringing up the memory of the Everman game and the Weatherford game (Aledo’s lone loss was by one point in overtime to Weatherford in a non-district game in September) to motivate me.
“I have only lost four times on varsity (in three years), and I keep thinking how much I hated the feeling after those losses. It makes me want to win that much more. That feeling of losing will not happen this Saturday.”
Senior linebacker Dillon Hawkins got sentimental when discussing his final week of high school football.
“It has been a long season – 16 games is a lot – but this week will be my last week of high school football practices, ever,” he said. “That has made me more excited each day to go practice hard.
“Since the Everman game last year, I have taken the attitude to play each play like it is my last play, because you never know what is going to happen. We (the Bearcats defense) have a good feeling about the championship game. We are going to have to play our style of game – be physical and fly to the football. That’s what we will have to continue to do to be successful.”
Senior quarterback Trey Ozee has lived in Aledo since third grade, and he was an avid follower of the Bearcats in his years before entering high school. This is his second year on varsity.
“We obviously expected to do great things this season, but going to the state championship – even though that is a goal we have been working toward – it is still hard to grasp that it is really happening to us,” he said. “I honestly won’t realize we are actually playing for a state championship until I step on the field on Saturday.
“I think the feeling we had after losing to Everman in the second round last year definitely helped us in the off-season. We don’t want to ever have that feeling again. No question it drove us to work harder.”
Ozee said he felt like the Bearcats had a great chance to get to the state title game after Aledo’s area championship win.
“After we beat Stephenville for the second time (in this year’s second round) I knew we had a legitimate chance to get to state,” he said. “Stephenville, in my mind, was our biggest obstacle.”
The playoff run has also produced some great venues for the Bearcats including Cowboys Stadium in Arlington along with top high school stadiums including Northwest ISD, Midland Grande Communications Stadium and Denton ISD’s Collins Stadium.
Royal Memorial Stadium has the largest seating capacity in the state and is a signature football venue in Texas.
“The stadiums we have played in have been real nice,” Ozee said. “Playing Stephenville in Cowboys Stadium – that game could not have been any better, especially how it ended up playing out. Getting to play in UT’s stadium is great, and the high school stadiums we have played playoff games in have also been very nice.”
Ozee said the Bearcats have tried to make this week’s practice routine just that – routine. He also stated that AHS will need everyone on offense contributing on Saturday in order to be successful.
“In preparation, we have pretty much stuck to the same routine and haven’t changed much,” Ozee said. “I think if we just execute we can score some points on them. I think a determining factor is if we can have other players besides (sophomore running back) Johnathan (Gray) make plays.
“We have to execute as an offense and not put the whole game on Johnathan’s shoulders. We need to spread the ball around and have others make big plays. If we can do that, it will cause them to spread out their defense and make it easier on Johnathan.”
For more articles on the state championship game, please see the Dec. 19 issue of The Community News.