Bearcat seniors complete special run with consecutive state championships
By Tony Eierdam
The Community News
When a specific class has success at the middle school level, more often than not the lofty expectations do not come to fruition when the class gets to their senior year in high school.
That was not the case for the Class of 2020, the senior class of the 2019 Aledo Bearcats state-championship football team.
While not every senior was at Aledo ISD in their seventh- and eighth-grade years, the major players were — to name a few — quarterback Jake Bishop, tailback Jase McClellan, wide receiver Money Parks and offensive lineman Aidan Hayes.
This senior class had an unprecedented run at Aledo Middle School. While in seventh and eighth grade, not only did the group go 20-0 in two seasons, but it never got scored on in those 20 games.
In fact, Joshua Nichols was the closest to score when the seniors were in eighth grade. Joshua received a kickoff and returned the ball to the Aledo 10. However, Nichols went backwards on four plays and Aledo took over on downs at the Joshua 22-yard line.
In other sports while at AMS, this class never lost a basketball game and won every track meet it entered.
While most just play football now, this class is responsible for winning the last two Class 5A, Division II state championships and played in the state title game as sophomores. If you count McClellan, who played varsity as a freshman, it could be said this class won three state football championships in high school.
Hayes felt this group was special when the class was at AMS and before.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. “We (seniors) have been thinking about this day since first grade when we were playing pee-wee football together. This has been a crazy run. We put in a lot of work to prepare for (the ’19 state championship) game, and in these past few (playoff) games we have been outworking people. This began in offseason and we have worked hard every day since then.”
To say Bishop played well as starting quarterback the past three years would be a gross understatement. The youngest of the Bishop brothers, he had a lot to live up to after eldest brother Matt was starting quarterback on three Aledo state championship teams (2009-11) and brother Luke was starting QB on two state title teams (2013-14).
As a starting quarterback, Jake Bishop in three years compiled a remarkable 46-2 record that included two state championships and three state-championship-game appearances. Of the two losses, one was by one point and the other three points.
Surprisingly, Bishop said he and his AMS teammates were so focused on the job ahead that he said they really didn’t talk about what they wanted to accomplish when they got to high school.
“When we were in seventh and eighth grade it (winning state in high school) was in the back of our heads, but we really didn’t talk about it,” he said. “Our goal was to win the next game, and as Bearcats we kept working hard and did what our coaches asked us to do.
“In the end, it worked out, by going back to back and winning it as seniors. Looking back, I realize this doesn’t happen everywhere; doesn’t happen anywhere, really. But I am blessed, and I could have not done this (a 46-2 record in three years as starting quarterback) by myself.”
Bishop said many of those on that undefeated, unscored eighth-grade teams were huge contributors on varsity including Max Lucas, Weston Reese, McClellan, Parks, Hayes, Zach Prestwood, and Logan Michael.
“We got most all of our offensive line from eighth grade,” Bishop said. “As a group, we just went to work every day, and the hard work paid off. But talking about this in middle school? We just went through the process; went through the program. Just like any Bearcat, we went through the program and good things happened and we won two state championships.
“It is awesome to know we will have these great memories for life, and to be able to tell someone I went 46-2 on varsity is special. It has been an awesome run.”
The Bishops came to town in 2009 when father Lee Bishop was hired as a varsity offensive line coach.
“This class has been an extremely talented class,” Bearcats head coach Tim Buchanan said. “But when you have guys like Jase McClellan — who was as nearly as big in the seventh grade as he is today — and Jake Bishop and Money Parks, you put those three cats on a seventh-grade team, it will be hard for anyone to touch you.
“Then you throw in Weston (Reese), Max (Lucas), Aidan Hayes, Logan Thurman, and you realize you have a pretty good football team. That group…just because you win in middle school doesn’t mean you are going to win a state championship in high school.
“I think the first football game Jake Bishop ever lost as a starter beginning with pee-wee football was the 2017 state championship game his sophomore year. You can say what you want about all of our players, but Jake Bishop — in his entire life as far as I know — when he put on a football helmet and played a game he lost twice from first grade through 12th grade. Jake is The Guy of this class; he is The Man.”
McClellan said this class would not have had it any other way but to end this run with a final victory in its final high school football game.
“This one was the best one,” McClellan said. “It is a great way for our 2020 class to finish it out. It feels great to get another state championship. I am going to miss playing with these guys, especially Jake.”
Linebacker Max Lucas summed the entire experience up by pointing to the hard work this group has put in during the last six football seasons.
“It is expected here to play for a state championship,” Lucas said. “But it is a process, a grind, and there really is not more to it. We are getting up in January at 6:45 (a.m.) and running at the track before we go and lift for an hour…it starts there.”
And it has ended with a signature win to highlight the success this group has enjoyed since middle school.