Steve Wood knew he had to gamble, or his debut as Aledo’s head coach would end in disaster.Cedar Park had jumped to a 10-0 lead, and marched again to the Aledo 2. So Wood, who has engineered the defenses for four of the Bearcats’ five state titles, switched his team to a man coverage and rushed his front six. Aledo broke into the backfield for a stop on fourth-and-2, and forced a missed field goal from the 5 on Cedar Park’s next drive.Two hours later, Wood celebrated and yelled like a teenager, red-faced, exhausted and relieved after a 21-17 Aledo win at Baylor’s McLane Stadium. “Oh it could’ve been ugly. It could’ve been ugly,” said Wood, who replaced Tim Buchanan five weeks ago. “I was just thinking, man, we’re fixing to get snowballed in my first game as a head coach.”Quarterback Luke Bishop hit Jess Anders for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left to put Aledo ahead. That followed two earlier touchdown tosses from Bishop, who struggled at times but was able to keep the Bearcats’ offense alive enough to tire Cedar Park. “We made the adjustments, but luckily the old kids hung around there,” Wood said. “They’re Bearcats. They battle to win. I’ll tell you what, our quarterback, he will play. He will play, I promise you. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Tiddlywinks or horseshoes or whatever, he’s going to play you.”The win marked the first time Aledo had to come back from anything in nearly two years. The Bearcats were tied with Ennis at halftime of the Class 4A Division II semifinals in December but cruised to a 29-6 win. The next week, they blew out Brenham 38-10 in the title game.Friday’s victory also marked Aledo’s first win with someone other than Buchanan in more than two decades. Wood, a longtime assistant under Buchanan, was named interim head coach July 31 after Buchanan abruptly announced he would be moving into the district athletic director role full time. Like that, Buchanan’s remarkable run at Aledo was over.Twenty-one years. Five state championships. Two undefeated seasons. Last year’s team finished 16-0 and scored 1,023 points, a national record. “He just did something that can probably never be matched by anyone again, much less himself,” said Jeff Williams, the team’s radio announcer since 2000. “Talk about going out on top. Good Lord.”From 2009 to 2011, Buchanan coached one of the greatest high school running backs ever in Johnathan Gray, who led Aledo to three straight titles before signing with Texas. Wood has been along for most of that success. He arrived in 2002, Aledo’s first season in Class 4A, then the state’s second-biggest classification. The Bearcats since have won at least 10 games in all but one season.“There’s certainly a genius to it, how [Wood] is able to plug in guys who are 5-foot-11 and outweighed 50 pounds [on the defensive line],” Williams said. “That to me is where his genius has been. He always finds a way to get them to do it.”For this year’s group of players, Wood’s presence in the program is all they’ve ever known. They were barely starting school when Wood joined Buchanan’s staff.“It didn’t really feel much different,” Anders said. “We felt like the same Aledo Bearcat football team. We had the same expectations.”Bishop is just glad they started out right for their new coach.“I’m just really glad we could get this win for coach Wood,” Bishop said after the Cedar Park win. “He’d do anything us, so the way I want to repay him is just go win some ballgames for him and go win another state championship.”Player of the WeekWith nearly 4,800 votes cast, Keller Fossil Ridge running back Keshawn Mitchell is the dfwVarsity.com Player of the Week for Aug. 28-30. Mitchell received 3,079 votes. Check the site Monday for the Week 2 nominations.
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @RyanOsborneFWST