It was business as usual for the state-ranked No. 1 Aledo Bearcats against the Grapevine Mustangs Friday afternoon in a Class 5A area championship game at Midlothian ISD Stadium.
Paced by an Aledo defense that recorded six turnovers, the Bearcats ran past the scrappy and never-say-die Mustangs, 45-30, to advance in the 5A playoffs.
The Bearcats will move on to the regional quarterfinals and face Abilene Cooper. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1 at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene.
Grapevine got behind early but came back to make it a game in the second half. But the Bearcats seemed to answer every Grapevine score in the 15-point victory.
“It was a good game, and I like the way we reacted to (Grapevine’s comeback) in the second half,” Bearcats head coach Steve Wood said. “I am proud of the guys, they competed hard, and now we move to the third round.”
To begin the game, after forcing a Grapevine fumble – quarterback Alan Bowman lost the ball after being sacked by Colt Ellison as James Williams came up with the recovery – Aledo moved the ball 41 yards on four plays, scoring on a seven run to the right side by Jase McClellan.
On the TD play, McClellan was met by three Grapevine defenders at the two, but he executed a spin move, broke two tackles and danced across the goal line with 8:55 left in the opening period.
Cole Daniels booted the extra point for a quick 7-0 advantage.
After an interception by Aledo cornerback Jake Ford did not produce a score, the Bearcats got the ball back when Ellison sacked Bowman again and forced a fumble that this time was recovered by defensive end Will Greenwood.
It took just two runs to find the end zone. McClellan raced 43 yards down the right sideline, swatting away would-be tacklers, to move the ball to the Mustangs’ four. On the next play, tailback Tre Owens went untouched off right tackle and into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown run with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter.
Daniels added the PAT to increase the Bearcats’ lead to 14-0.
Later in the opening period, Grapevine committed its fourth turnover after an interception by Jake Mclendon. It took two McClellan runs to reach pay dirt, the TD run coming on a nifty 26-yard run where the sophomore stutter-stepped past a pair of defenders on his sprint to the end zone.
With 31 seconds left in the first quarter, Daniels’ kick extended the Bearcats’ lead to 21-0.
After holding Grapevine on fourth and one, the Bearcats used five plays to march 38 yards, the final play coming on a 15-yard run off right tackle by McClellan, who went untouched into the end zone.
With 7:37 remaining in the half, Daniels added the PAT for a 28-0 cushion.
On its next possession, Grapevine marched to its first score. The Mustangs, helped by an Aledo pass interference infraction near the goal line, moved 79 yards on six plays, scoring on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Bowman to receiver David Clayton with 5:37 left in the half. Carson French booted the extra point to cut the Bearcats’ lead to 28-7.
With under two minutes remaining in the half, Grapevine mounted a final first-half drive. On first down, tailback Roshawn Prear went off right tackle for 36 yards to the Mustangs’ 45. Bowman then completed a 13-yard pass to receiver Alex Vergara, and hit receiver Jack Ertz for nine yards before completing a 15-yard pas to receiver Jordan Brooks-Wess to the Aledo 34-yard line.
But on the next play, Grapevine committed its fifth turnover of the first half when Jake Ford stepped into a Bowman offering and intercepted his second pass of the contest with two seconds left until halftime. Ford returned the ball 45 yards to the Grapevine 32, leaving the ‘Cats one more play before the break.
Aledo lined up four receivers to the left side, but when quarterback Jake Bishop went back to pass he had to scramble and he almost scored. The sophomore had plenty of room down the right side, but Grapevine closed his path and he was tackled at the four to end the half.
Aledo finished with 250 total yards at the half, including 194 on the ground. McClellan rushed 14 times for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
Grapevine finished the first half with 151 yards, 142 coming through the air.
The Mustangs got back in the game with a touchdown early in the third quarter. An interception by defensive back Cameron Hamway set up the Mustangs at their own 32. Grapevine used six passes and four runs by Prear to score on a nine-play drive that covered 68 yards.
Bowman ended the drive with a 26-yard TD strike to Vergara, and French added the extra point to cut the lead to 28-14 with 6:49 remaining in the third quarter.
With the momentum on Grapevine’s side, Aledo, on its next drive, methodically got it back.
Using 12 consecutive running plays, but never needing to convert a third down, Aledo took to the ground as McClellan carried five times and Owens six, the sixth carry for one yard and a touchdown on first and goal.
The drive, aided by a Grapevine personal foul penalty and with a six-yard run by Bishop, took 5:08 off the clock as Owens’ TD came with 1:42 left in the third quarter. Daniels’ PAT increased the AHS lead to 35-14.
As a packed visitor’s side celebrated, Grapevine refused to give up, and again the Mustangs mustered up a touchdown drive on its ensuing possession. On a spectacular 70-yard play, Bowman sent a high pass toward Brooks-Wess, who leaped high in the air, grabbed the ball, broke two tackles and was free. The senior sprinted the rest of the way, and with 42 seconds remaining in the third period, French’s kick cut the lead to 35-21.
The score fired up the Mustangs’ defense, which forced an Aledo punt. The Mustangs got into scoring territory after a 56-yard run by Prear to the Aledo 21. But after an Aledo offsides penalty brought the ball to the 16, Bowman threw three incomplete passes.
However, Grapevine salvaged points when French connected on a 38-yard field goal with 8:38 left in the game that cut the Aledo lead to 35-24.
Aledo went to work again on the ground and put the game away. The Bearcats ran the ball on 10 consecutive plays as Owens converted two third downs into first downs with runs of six and four yards, respectively.
The drive stalled deep in Grapevine territory, and Daniels gave the ‘Cats a 14-point cushion with a 20-yard field goal with 2:38 remaining in the game that increased the Bearcats’ lead to 38-24.
Both teams finished with a TD each. Aledo tailback Demarco Roberts scored on a one-yard run, and Daniels’ PAT increased the led to 45-24.
Grapevine closed the scoring with a Bowman TD pass to Clayton.
Aledo finished with 444 total yards, including 388 on the ground. Grapevine passed for 364 yards and finished with 453 total yards.
McLellan led all rushers with 232 yards on 27 carries.