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Bearcats brush off Wichita Falls Rider in playoff opener, 63-20

Aledo senior receiver Preston Jefferis crosses the goal line on the last play of the first half after catching a 55-yard pass from Dillon Davis during the Bearcats' 63-20 victory over the Rider Raiders Thursday night in a bi-district playoff game at Northwest ISD Stadium. Jefferis caught two passes, both for touchdowns. Photos by Karen Towery.

For the 11th time in 11 games, state-ranked No. 1 Aledo recorded more than 500 yards of total offense as the Bearcats rolled up 610 total yards on their way to a convincing 63-20 victory over the Wichita Falls Rider Raiders Thursday night in a Class 5A bi-district playoff game at Northwest ISD Stadium.

The Bearcats (11-0) will advance to the area championship game and play the winner of Friday night’s Grapevine/Fort Worth Southwest bi-district playoff game.

Rider came out aggressively, taking a 7-0 lead after converting a fake punt for a touchdown and attempting an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.

But the Bearcats stayed poised, led by 15 at halftime and scored 28 unanswered points on their first four possessions of the second half to complete the blowout win.

“We gave up a fake punt for a score and fell behind early, but the kids stayed cool and kept on battling,” Bearcats head coach Steve Wood said. “We made a few adjustments on defense, and we handled their running game for the most part after that.

“It is a four-quarter game, and you just have to stay calm, keep your composure, keep competing and play the next play. That what the guys did.”

Aledo rushed for 339 yards, led by freshman Jase McClellan with 129 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns. Junior Donnie Evans added 75 yards on 12 carries with a pair of scores, and in his only carry, senior Michael Jordan willed his way to a 65-yard touchdown run.

Senior quarterback Dillon Davis completed eight of 14 passes for 271 yards and three TDs while also rushing for 24 yards. Junior wide receiver Hunter Rosson had a team-high four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Preston Jefferis caught just two passes, but they both were for touchdowns as he finished with 104 yards receiving.

Rider stunned the Bearcats by scoring on the game’s first possession. The Raiders’ opening drive bogged down after three plays as Bryce Hughes went back in punt formation. But instead of punting, Hughes brought the ball down and raced 64 yards untouched down the right sideline to the end zone.

Nik Williams booted the extra point a Rider jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

Pulling out all the stops, on the ensuing kickoff Rider tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by Aledo. However, the feisty Raiders defense forced the Bearcats to punt after three plays.

On Rider’s ensuing drive, the Raiders used three consecutive running plays to march the ball to the Aledo 44. But Rider got greedy on the next play. Quarterback Willie Cherry’s deep sideline pass was intercepted by sophomore cornerback Brannon Webb at the AHS 15.

The Bearcats found the end zone on their following possession.

McClellan began the drive with three carries to advance the ball to the AHS 37. After McClellan ran for three yards, Davis completed a 15-yard pass to receiver Logan Bridges.  McClellan got his number called again on the next play and flashed for 21 yards to the Rider 24.

With Rider putting on a strong pass rush, Davis was hit as he threw deep, but the rush did not affect the throw. Receiver Hunter Rosson caught Davis’ offering in stride to complete a 24-yard touchdown play.

Quinn Davis booted the extra point, and with 3:06 remaining in the opening quarter the game was tied at 7-7.

Early in the second quarter, the Bearcats put together an 11-play, 84-yard drive. Davis was responsible for converting two third downs in the drive. The first came on third and eight from his own 18 when he threw a strike to Rosson down the middle for a 17-yard gain and a first down.

On the second third-down conversion Davis used his feet to move the chains, gaining three yards on third and one on an option keeper to the Rider 28.

Two plays later, a 24-yard gain by McClellan – thanks in part to a block on the edge by Evans – brought the pigskin to the Raiders’ 9. Davis kept for seven yards on first and goal, and Evans closed the drive when he went untouched for two yards into the end zone.

Reed Vierling booted the extra point, and with 6:21 left in the half the Bearcats took a 14-7 lead.

After forcing a Rider punt, Aledo quickly marched down the field. Evans gained seven yards on first down, and two plays later with AHS facing a third and three, Davis scrambled for five yards to move the chains. With the clock winding down in the opening half, Davis found Rosson for a gain of nine yards to the Rider 49.

On the next play, Davis fired a 10-yard pass to the left sideline to well-covered receiver Preston Jefferis, who was surrounded by Raiders. But after the leaping grab, Jefferis broke a tackle, bounced toward the middle, broke another tackle and cut back to the left side and sprinted past two defenders to complete a remarkable 49-yard touchdown play.

“Preston is a big, physical kid and he refused to go down,” Wood said. “He wasn’t going to take no for an answer.”

Quinn Davis added the PAT, and with 1:53 remaining in the half the Bearcats stretched their lead to 21-7.

Rider took advantage of an Aledo face mask penalty on the ensuing kickoff and had good field position at its own 47. Rider used two passes and two running plays to move the ball quickly to the Aledo 19. On the next play, Rider quarterback Jorge Vargas found starting quarterback Willie Cherry – who lined up at wide receiver on the play – for a 19-yard touchdown.

The PAT was wide, and with 10 seconds left in the half the Raiders cut the Bearcats’ lead to 21-13.

Rider, with momentum and confidence, decided to squib kick on the ensuing kickoff. The decision cost the Raiders a score.

Knowing he had a one play before the half ended and with the ball at the AHS 45, Davis dropped back to pass and threw the ball as far as he could down the middle of the field. Incredibly, not only was Jefferis single covered, but the defender had no deep safety help.

Jefferis simply ran under the pass, gobbled it in stride and sprinted untouched to the end zone to complete a stunning 55-yard pass play. Vierling tacked on the PAT as the Bearcats led 28-13 at the half.

“I could not believe Preston was single covered,” Davis said. “For a big guy, he is faster than people think.”

The Bearcats reached the end zone on all three possessions in the third quarter to put the game away.

Evans rushed six times in the Bearcats’ opening drive of the second half, accumulating 42 yards, the final 18 on a touchdown run off right tackle. On the PAT, the Bearcats worked on their two-point conversion play as Rosson, also the holder on field goals and extra points, spotted the snap but then flipped a quick shovel pass to Rhett Harris, who ran into the end zone to increase the AHS advantage to 36-13.

After forcing the Raiders to line up and punt, Aledo took advantage of an errant Rider punt snap to gain outstanding field position at the Raiders’ 28. On first down, Rosson took a handoff on a reverse and scooted 25 yards. On the next play, McClellan blasted off left tackle for three yards to reach pay dirt.

Quinn Davis added the PAT, and with 6:36 left in the third period the Bearcats extended their lead to 43-13.

A fumble recovery by sophomore defensive end Colt Ellison set up the next Aledo score. It was all McClellan, as the big frosh carried five times in the drive to move the ball to the Raiders’ 2. On the next play, Harris, who plays running back in the Bearcats’ short-yardage offense, took a handoff and rambled the necessary yards to the end zone with 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Vierling nailed the PAT as the Bearcats enjoyed a 50-13 cushion.

The Bearcats’ defense struck again as defensive back Logan Childs – the hero of Aledo’s win over Colleyville Heritage in the season opener – intercepted a pass to set up another AHS score.

McClellan capped a five-play, 88-yard drive with a spectacular eight-yard TD run where he juked a pair of defenders and made a sharp cut to elude two others on his way to the end zone. The big play in the drive was a 69-yard pass from Davis to Rosson.

The PAT failed as Aledo led 56-13.

Rider finally stopped the Aledo scoring flurry when Vargas threw a six-yard TD pass to Aaron Miller, with Williams adding the extra point to cut the lead to 56-20.

Jordan closed the scoring with his 65-yard sprint to the end zone. On the play, Jordan appeared stopped at the line of scrimmage. But the fleet-footed senior bounced out to his left, broke two tackles and sprinted down the left sideline for the score.

Aledo freshman runnig back Jase McClelan high steps toward the end zone during the Bearcats' playoff win over Wichita Falls Rider. McClellan rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries with two scores.
Aledo freshman running back Jase McClellan high steps toward the end zone during the Bearcats’ playoff win over Wichita Falls Rider. McClellan rushed for 129 yards on 18 carries with two scores.

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