It was billed as Class 5A state-ranked No. 1 Aledo’s toughest game of the season when the Bearcats squared off with a one-loss Grapevine Mustangs team that was on a roll and ready to challenge the top team in the state.
It was also supposed to be the biggest test of the season for the Aledo offense, an offense that had rolled up at least 500 yards a game of total offense in all 11 contests coming into the game as it faced what the AHS coaches called “the best defense we will see to this point.”
Despite the opposition and in front of a packed house Friday night at Rough Rider Stadium in Saginaw in this area championship game – which included the largest media contingent of the year – it ended up another Aledo blowout victory.
Scoring on the first play from scrimmage and adding 44 more points, the Bearcats brushed off Grapevine, 51-7, as the Bearcats advance to the third round of the 5A Division II playoffs.
The Bearcats (12-0) will face Abilene Cooper (8-4) in the third round. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, at historic Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.
“Grapevine has a really good football team and our guys realized that,” Bearcats head coach Steve Wood said. “We got a couple of breaks early, and really Grapevine took it to us defensively in the first half. But our guys buckled up and came out ready to roll. I was proud of them.
“Grapevine was tough up front and rushed the passer well, and (senior quarterback) Dillon (Davis) took some shots. But he stayed cool in the pocket and is one of the toughest guys I have ever known. He stayed in the pocket and wouldn’t go down.
“We had some guys come through with some big plays, and defensively, to hold a team like Grapevine to seven points … I mean, that quarterback (Alan Bowman) can play, and they have explosive receivers. I am proud of our guys. They came ready to roll and they needed to.”
In typical Aledo fashion, the Bearcats piled up 611 total yards while holding the explosive Mustangs to 207 total yards. Davis completed 10 of 19 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns, and junior tailback Donnie Evans went off for 128 yards on just five carries and a touchdown.
Speedy senior receiver Logan Bridges had another big outing, catching five passes for 162 yards and a score.
Aledo began the game with the quickest score this season.
After receiving the opening kickoff, on first down from the AHS 15, tailback Donnie Evans took a handoff and raced 85 yards untouched down the left sideline for a touchdown as Aledo caught the Mustangs gambling with an all-out blitz.
Quinn Davis booted the extra point to give the Bearcats a quick 7-0 lead.
“That early touchdown was huge,” Wood said. “Scoring on the first play of the game had to put a little doubt in (Grapevine’s) mind.”
The Bearcats Black Shirts got into the scoring act on Grapevine’s first possession. The Mustangs had moved the ball to their own 31 after Bowman competed a pass to David Clayton on third and six. But on the next play receiver Zach Carnes fumbled after making a catch, and alert sophomore defensive end Colt Ellison performed a scoop and score as he picked up the loose football and sprinted 31 yards to the end zone.
Reed Vierling booted the extra point, and with less than two minutes gone by the Bearcats led 14-0.
The Bearcats forced Grapevine to punt on its ensuing possession, and followed with a 13-play drive that ended in a 35-yard field goal by Quinn Davis as Aledo stretched its lead to 17-0.
Grapevine got on the board before the first quarter ended. Bowman completed six passes to bring the ball to the AHS 8. Two plays Later, Bowman scrambled to his left, stopped, and lofted a pass over the Bearcats’ defense and into the arms of wide open Zach Carnes.
Carson French added the extra point to cut the Bearcats’ lead to 17-7, where it remained as the game moved to the second quarter.
Big-play Evans struck again early in the second quarter. With Aledo facing an unenviable third and 18 from its own 14, Davis tossed a safe screen pass to the right side to Evans, who skipped past one defender, spun and made two more defenders miss before cutting toward the middle of the field. Evans got a big block at mid field by receiver Preston Jefferis as Evans sped down the left sideline to complete a remarkable 86-yard touchdown play.
“When I saw Preston block that guy I knew I was gone,” Evans said. “There was no one in my way.”
Vierling tacked on the PAT, and with 11:01 remaining in the second quarter the Bearcats extended their lead to 24-7.
The Bearcats turned back the next four Grapevine drives to end the half. One drive ended on an interception by Rhett Harris. The following Grapevine drive was its longest of the half. Thanks, in part, to a pair of pass interference penalties on Aledo and five completed passes, the Mustangs brought the ball to the AHS 23.
But the Bearcats’ defense stiffened, sacking Bowman for a loss of seven and tackling Dylan Gonzales for a loss of two yards. Bowman threw consecutive incomplete passes as the ball went over to the Bearcats on downs.
When Grapevine got the ball back, the Bearcats Black Shirts forced a three and out. The final Grapevine drive was a one-play possession that ended after a completed pass when the clock ran out in the first half.
Aledo had two other chances to score in the half but missed field goals of 48 and 33 yards.
The Mustangs received the kickoff to begin the second half. On its most critical possession of the game, Grapevine gained exactly zero yards and was forced to punt.
Sensing an opportunity to put the game out of reach, Davis went to work. He completed a 35-yard pass to senior receiver Logan Peterson to move the ball into Mustang territory at the GHS 32. Davis called his own number on the next play, scampering seven yards to the 25.
Two plays later, freshman tailback Jase McClellan took a handoff and was lost in a pile on his rush up the middle. But like a magician in cleats, McClellan emerged from the pile, turned on the jets and was free as he sprinted down the right sideline and across the goal line to complete a 25-yard touchdown run.
Vierling added the PAT, and with 9:56 left in the third quarter the Bearcats held a commanding 31-7 lead.
Playing with a sense of urgency, Bowman, in a hurry-up offense, quickly moved the Mustangs to the AHS 39 after completing a pair of passes. However, on third and two from the AHS 39, Bowman’s completed pass to receiver Zach Carnes gained zero yards. Bowman threw again on fourth down and completed a pass to Carnes, but the play fell a yard short as Aledo took over on downs.
The Bearcats converted the defensive stand into three points as Quinn Davis nailed a 41-yard field goal to increase the AHS advantage to 34-7 with 5:58 remaining in the third period.
In a game of Aledo big plays, the Bearcats added another. After the Bearcat Black Shirts forced another Grapevine punt, Davis and Bridges hooked up for an 80-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Davis drilled a pass to Bridges, who caught the ball between two defenders. The speedster broke two tackles and outran four others to the end zone to complete the TD play.
Vierling tacked on the extra point, and with 3:39 left in the third quarter the Aledo lead grew to 41-7.
After another GHS three and out, the Bearcats put together a drive of eight consecutive rushing plays, with the big play a 28-yard gain by Evans. But the drive stalled and Quinn Davis salvaged three points when he split the uprights with a 25-yard field goal to extend the Bearcats’ lead to 44-7.
Aledo closed the scoring on a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline by senior tailback Michael Jordan. Vierling added the PAT as Aledo walked away with 51-7 victory.