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Second-half surge lifts No. 1 Bearcats to 48-29 victory over scrappy Midlothian

Aledo sophomore receiver Jo Jo Earle elevates for a touchdown catch during the first half of the Bearcats’ 48-29 win over Midlothian Friday night at Midlothian. Photo by Cynthia Llewellyn

No. 1 Aledo scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to break a halftime tie as the Bearcats rolled past the Midlothian Panthers, 48-29, Friday night in a District 5-5A contest at Midlothian ISD Stadium.

The win raises the Bearcats’ district mark to 3-0, and 5-0 overall. It was Aledo’s state-record 78th consecutive district victory.

“We came back in the second half and performed,” Bearcats head coach Steve Wood said. “Midlothian outperformed us in the first half, and you have to take your hat off to them.

“But we got some kids with pride, and we came out in the second half and got some stops. Midlothian competed well, and they executed the heck out of the triple option. We made a couple of slight adjustments at halftime and got our feet under us in the second half.

“We knew our offense would keep rolling, and the offense bailed out the defense tonight.”

With the score tied 21-21 and the Panthers crowd on its feet to begin the second half, it took only one play to silence the home crowd.

On first down, tailback Jase McClellan took a handoff and raced 62 yards down the left side into the end zone that silenced the large home crowd and gave the Bearcats a lead they would not relinquish. McClellan led all rushers with 176 yards on 23 carries.

Harper Smith booted the extra point to give Aledo a 28-21 lead just 16 seconds into the second half.

Midlothian came back and converted a fourth down to move the chains, but the drive bogged down and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs to AHS. The Panthers tried to convert with a fourth-down pass, but it was deflected by linebacker Max Lucas.

The Bearcats followed with a nine-play, 53-yard drive capped by a nine-yard touchdown on a sweep to the left side by McClellan with 3:27 remaining in the third quarter. Smith tacked on the PAT to extend the AHS advantage to 34-21.

The Bearcats stopped the following two Panthers’ drives, the first by forcing a punt, and the next on an interception by safety Tre Owens.

Aledo put the game away on its next possession, driving 21 yards on six plays, ending with a four-yard TD run by McClellan, his fifth rushing touchdown of the game. Smith’s PAT increased the lead to 48-21.

Midlothian closed the scoring with an eight-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tate Corbin, with Nolan Samek running in the two-point conversion to cut the AHS lead to 48-29.

Midlothian’s ensuing onside kick was recovered by Aledo as the Bearcats ran out the clock to take the victory.

Bishop completed nine of 12 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Jo Jo Earle led the Bearcats with five catches for 96 yards and a TD.

The first half was a slugfest with each team reaching the end zone three times.

Aledo scored first, gaining possession after defensive end Will Greenwood recovered a fumble at the Midlothian 33.

The Bearcats moved 33 yards on five plays, the last on a one-yard touchdown run by McClellan. Smith booted the extra point to give Aledo a quick 7-0 lead.

Midlothian changed its quarterback on the Panthers’ second possession, inserting the junior Corbin in place of starter Austen Thomas. Corbin engineered an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended when the quarterback fired a 15-yard touchdown strike to receiver Isaac Houston.

Samek added the extra point to tie the game, 7-7.

Aledo countered with an eight-play, 69-yard drive capped by a three-yard blast over the goal line by McClellan. Smith’s PAT gave the Bearcats a 14-7 lead.

Midlothian did not flinch, and came back with a 13-play, 75-yard drive as Corbin called his own number and scored on a 13-yard keeper off left tackle. Corbin, running the triple option to almost perfection, accounted for 44 yards on the ground in the drive. Samek’s PAT with 8:20 left in the second quarter tied the contest at 14.

For the third time in three drives, the Bearcats found the end zone. McClellan was the workhorse in a nine-play drive, carrying for 24 yards, his last of four yards that brought the ball to the Panthers’ 10.

On the next play, Bishop – who also converted two third downs in the drive – lofted a pass into the end zone toward receiver Earle, who elevated above his single defender for the TD catch with 4:12 left in the opening half.

Smith’s PAT put Aledo in front, 21-14.

Midlothian, however, came right back to tie the score. The Panthers faced a fourth and four from the Aledo 23, and Corbin faked a handoff and pitched to Thomas – now at running back –  who sprinted eight yards down the left side to move the chains.

Facing a third and eight three plays later, Corbin drilled a 13-yard TD pass to Samek, who followed with the PAT to tie the score, 21-21, where it remained at the half.

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