No. 1 Aledo scored early and often as the Bearcats ran past the Wichita Falls Rider Raiders, 63-7, Friday night in a Class 5A, Division II state semifinal game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The win advances the 15-0 Bearcats to the Class 5A, Division II state championship game.
Aledo will play No. 4 Fort Bend Marshall – a winner in the other semifinal over Corpus Christi Callallen – in the state championship game at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“I am just as proud of this team as I could be,” Bearcats head coach Steve Wood said. “They came ready to play. We are coming off two tough wins in a row, and it was a challenge for them to play at such a high level for three weeks in a row.
“But they came through, and now there will be one more challenge. Rider is a tough team, and again, I am so proud of our guys.”
The Bearcats scored three times in the opening period to take a 21-0 lead, mixing offense, defense and special teams to lead to the scores.
The Bearcats received the opening kickoff, and return man Demarco Roberts advanced the kick 63 yards to the Rider 9. After carries of 12 and 3 yards by tailback Jase McClellan brought the ball to the Rider 1, McClellan carried again and scored from a yard out untouched.
Harper Smith booted the extra point to give Aledo a 7-0 lead before the Raiders had touched the ball.
Rider was forced to punt on its first possession, and Aledo set back Tre Owens returned the kick 43 yards for a touchdown. Owens caught the ball as he was turning to his left, and after a spin move he sprinted up the middle before bouncing out to the right side. Owens waited for Jake Ford’s downfield block and walked into the end zone for a touchdown.
Smith’s extra-point kick extended the Bearcats’ lead to 14-0.
An interception by Aledo linebacker Wyatt Harris on Rider’s ensuing possession set up another AHS score.
It took just two pass plays for the ‘Cat to find the end zone.
On first down quarterback Jake Bishop connected with leading receiver Jo Jo Earle for a 13-yard gain, and on the next play, the junior signal caller found tight end Devan Daugherty open in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 6:40 remaining in the opening period.
Smith added the extra point for a 21-0 lead.
The Bearcats matched their first-quarter effort with 21 points in the second quarter to take a 42-0 lead at the half, and again, found the end zone on offense and defense.
The first score was a one-yard TD plunge by McClellan that capped a 10-play, 69-yard drive. McClellan carried the ball six times for 49 yards in the drive.
Smith’s PAT increased the Aledo advantage to 28-0.
After Aledo defensive lineman Oliver Crow recovered a fumble at the Rider 17, the Bearcats needed just three plays to achieve pay dirt. McClellan scored his third touchdown of the game on a diving, 2-yard touchdown, and with 5:11 left in the half Smith’s kick extended the lead to 35-0.
Rider countered by driving the ball on eight plays to the Aledo 4-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Rodriguez accounted for most of the yardage, including a 46-yard pass to receiver Noah Randall.
But on fourth and goal from the four, Rodriguez’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by Owens, who sprinted 103 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown with no time remaining on the clock.
Smith’s PAT gave the Bearcats a 42-0 halftime lead.
McClellan carried 13 times in the first half for 93 yards and three touchdowns, and Bishop completed six of nine passes for 46 yards.
Aledo added to its lead by scoring on both of its third-period drives, and both were set up by defensive plays.
After partially blocking a punt, the ‘Cats got the ball at the Rider 30. On first down, Bishop went back to pass but was forced to scramble out of the pocket to his right. Buying time, he spotted wide-open receiver Mylan Hayhurst, who cradled the pass and waltzed into the end zone to complete a 30-yard TD play.
Smith’s PAT extended the lead to 49-0.
An interception by cornerback Demarco Roberts at the AHS 3 followed by his 40-yard return put the Bearcats’ offense back in business at their own 43.
Coming in for McClellan at tailback, Ryan Anderson finished off the drive with a 5-yard TD run, and after Smith’s kick with 5:06 left in the third quarter the Bearcats held a 56-0 lead.
Rider got on the board near the end of the third quarter on a 15-yard TD run by running back Tre Byrd, and Colsen Welch kicked the extra point to cut the Aledo lead to 56-7.
The Bearcats closed the scoring with 2:57 left to play on a six-yard TD run by tailback Matt Tague. Micco Little booted the extra point to give the Bearcats a 63-7 lead.
McClellan, who had only one carry in the second half, finished with 108 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns. Bishop completed seven of 10 passes for 76 yards and one TD.