Aledo senior quarterback Jake Bishop converted a key fourth-down play deep in his own territory that led to the game-winning score as the No. 1 Bearcats staved off Lubbock Cooper, 28-21, Saturday afternoon in a Class 5A, Division II state semifinal at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium.
The win – Aledo’s 14th consecutive victory – advances the Bearcats (14-1) to the state championship game Dec. 21 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
The Bearcats will face Fort Bend Marshall in the Class 5A, Division II state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 21 at AT&T Stadium. This state title game will be a rematch of last year’s state championship game, won by Aledo.
With the Bearcats and Cooper tied 21-21, Aledo faced a fourth down with three yards to go for a first down at its own 31 with 4:08 left in the game. But instead of punting, the Bearcats went for the first down.
Bishop’s number was called on a quarterback keeper, and the senior sprinted down the left sideline for a 45-yard gain to the Pirates’ 19 keep the drive alive. Four plays later, senior tailback Jase McClellan – who was hobbled the entire game – came back in this drive and scored on a two-yard run off left tackle to give the Bearcats a 28-21 lead.
Copper got the ball back at its own 38 with 1:51 left to play, but the Pirates went backwards and lost three yards on four plays to turn the ball over on downs as the Bearcats survived to reach the state title game for the fourth consecutive season.
“As a head coach, there is nothing like having a Bishop on your team,” Bearcats head coach Tim Buchanan said, referring to Jake Bishop and his brothers (Matt, Luke) who have combined for six state championships so far at Aledo. “There was no thought of punting (on the fourth-down play).
“We didn’t do a good job of stopping them in the second half, and I wasn’t sure if we would ever see it (the football) again.”
When ask what played was called, Buchanan said, “Run, Bishop, run,” he said.
Bishop touched the ball four times on the final touchdown drive, including quite possibly the biggest play he has ever made with the 45-yard fourth-down run.
“Coach (offensive coordinator Robby) Jones made a great play call,” Bishop said. “The play was called to the left and I got great blocking. When I got the snap I saw there was a good push off from the (offensive) line and I knew I needed three yards.
“But I saw a gap and ran as hard as I could. This team does not quit – it is kind of a Bearcat thing – and we work hard and play hard, and today we battled adversity.”
To begin the first quarter the Bearcats received the opening kickoff and found the end zone after eight plays. McClellan carried four times in the drive, the last a three-yard blast over left tackle that capped the 75-yard drive.
The PAT kick was wide, and with 9:06 left in the first quarter the ‘Cats led 6-0.
After the teams traded punts, Cooper put together an 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive that was closed on a one-yard run by running back Isaiah Johnson with 11:57 remaining in the second quarter.
Brook Thompson booted the extra point to give the Pirates a 7-6 lead.
Aledo came back and answered on its ensuing drive. Bishop ran for 14 yards on the second play of the 10-play, 93-yard drive, and on the next play completed a 37-yard pass to receiver Money Parks.
Following the Parks’ reception, Bishop stayed in the air, completing a 19-yard pass to Jaedon Pellegrino to the Cooper 40. McClellan took over from there with a three-yard run followed by a 13-yard carry. Cooper was also flagged for a personal foul penalty which brought the ball to the Pirates’ 3.
Three plays later, on third and goal from the one-yard line, McClellan lowered his shoulder and crashed over the goal line with 7:51 remaining in the half, and Little’s PAT extended the lead to 13-7.
Aledo punted on its last two series of the half, as did Cooper, and a third Cooper drive ended as time expired as the Bearcats took a six-point lead at the break.
McClellan carried 12 times for 74 yards and two TDs in the first half. Bishop completed eight of 13 passes for 99 yards, and Parks led AHS in the opening half with three catches for 50 yards.
Each team found the end zone in the third quarter.
The Pirates took a 14-13 lead when quarterback Cooper LaFebre converted a third and six from the Aledo 40 with a 40-yard scramble to the end zone, and Thompson added the PAT to give the Pirates a one-point lead.
Later in the third period, the Bearcats answered on a four-play drive. On the second play of the drive, the Bearcats used trickery as Bishop handed off to McClellan, who darted to his right before handing off to receiver Jo Jo Earle, who began on the right side but came back to the left to receive a short pitch from McClellan.
Twenty-two yards later Earle was shoved out of bounds at the Cooper 13, and two plays later, Bishop sprinted down the left sideline and scored from 11 yards to give the Bearcats a 19-14 lead with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
Aledo went for two points on the conversion as Bishop fired a bullet in the middle of the end zone to Earle, who caught the pass for two points to increase the Bearcats’ lead to 21-14.
Feisty and scrappy Cooper, however, tied the game on its next possession, marching 75 yards on 14 plays, the last a three-yard TD run by Johnson, and Thompson’s PAT tied the contest, 21-21, with 5:35 left in the game.