ARLINGTON - Prior to the start of the 2016 high school football season in Aledo, Bearcats senior offensive/defensive lineman Wes Harris said the team held a fundraiser. In going to door-to-door he was reminded of the community's expectations for this and every season.
"We went house to house to house and at every one it wasn't 'How are we gonna do this year?' It was 'We'll see ya at the state championship.'"
Harris and his Bearcat teammates, with those same community members in attendance, defeated Corpus Christi Calallen 24-16 Friday night at AT&T Stadium to win the Class 5A Division II state championship before a crowd of 25,983.
The reason for such expectations? This was Aledo's seventh state title since 1998 and sixth in the past eight seasons. The Bearcats were a perfect 16-0, going wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the state from start to finish.
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Jace McClellan's 59-yard touchdown run put Aledo up 17-3 in the third quarter. Then, after Calallen scored to again pull within seven, the Wildcats recovered an Aledo fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Aledo defense rose to the occasion and held, however.
With 5:43 left in the game, Donnie Evans' 2-yard touchdown run proved to be the difference for Aledo. Calallen (14-2) scored one final time, missed the extra point, and the Bearcats recovered an onside kick before running out the clock to another title.
McClellan, who rushed for 98 yards on 13 carries, was named the offensive most valuable player of the game. Junior defensive lineman James Williams, who had six tackles with two for a loss, was the defensive MVP.
The Aledo community support was evident throughout the stadium. Little girls were dressed in cheerleading uniforms. One fan held up a sign that read Whatabearcat with the No. 40 (senior linebacker Carson McCone) on it. One section of fans called themselves Quinn's Orange Tourage in support of senior kicker Quinn Davis, who had a 35-yard field goal to put Aledo up 10-3 at the half.
The Bearcats never trailed after Rhett Harris' 5-yard run gave them a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Senior offensive lineman Chuck Filiaga joined the Bearcats this season after moving from California, where his teams at Vista Murietta had gone 23-5 the past two seasons with deep playoff runs. He said nothing compares to winning a state championship in Texas high school football.
"Honestly, I was scared coming out to Texas," he said. "It was all worth it, 110 percent."
Aledo athletic director Tim Buchanan, who guided the team to its first five state titles, said this championship further validates its place in Texas football lore.
"Seven state championships, that says a lot for a school and a program," Buchanan said. "I can't be prouder for our kids, our school, our community...everything."
Steve Wood, Buchanan's assistant for four previous titles, coached the Bearcats to his second state championship and is 44-3 since taking over for Buchanan in 2014. He praised the senior class.
"We have an unbelievable senior class that will be greatly missed," he said.
Both Wood and Buchanan had nice words to say about Calallen's Phil Danaher, the winningest coach in Texas high school football history with 427 victories. He's led the Wildcats to the postseason every year since arriving in 1984, with another state finals appearance in 2005.
"That's a lot of history. He's got all those skins on the wall," Wood said.
"Coach Phil Danaher didn't win 400-plus games because he didn't know how to coach football," Buchanan said. "Calallen played a great game."
Wood said the Bearcats' success can be traced back to youngsters at the peewee level who dream of growing up and winning their own title one day.
"Our youth football program is really the backbone," he said. "They love football in this community, and it starts with those little guys."
As for the expectations fans get from so many championships, Wood said, "We can get a little spoiled, but I'd just as soon keep spoiling them."
▪ Aledo scored in 63 of 64 quarters during the season, including the final 36 straight. The one quarter in which they did not score was the fourth in a 59-14 victory against Haslet Eaton on Oct. 15.
▪ The Bearcats outscored their opponents by an average of 55-19.
▪ The Bearcats are 115-8 since 2009, including 41-2 in the postseason.
▪ This was Aledo's third time to go 16-0 in their state title run. They were also perfect in 2010 and 2013.
▪ The championship victory marked the Bearcats' lowest point total of the season. They scored more than 50 points 11 times.
▪ The title game was also only the second time Aledo won by single digits. The other time was 41-36 in the season opener against Colleyville Heritage.
▪ Aledo coach Steve Wood is 44-3 in three seasons at the helm of the Bearcats.
▪ Aledo's state championships have come in 1998, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Aledo championship game leaders
▪ Rushing: Freshman Jase McClellan, 13-98, TD; junior Donnie Evans 8-32, TD.
▪ Passing: Senior Dillon Davis 3-12, 74 yards, 1 interception.
▪ Receiving: Senior Logan Bridges 1-56.
▪ Tackles: Sophomore Wyatt Harris, 7.5; junior James Williams, 6.
Aledo season leaders
▪ Rushing: McClellan 197-1,489, 19 TD; senior MIchael Jordan, 116-1,046, 16 TD; junior Donnie Evans, 139-995, 23 TD.
▪ Passing: Senior Dillon Davis, 61 percent completions, 3,774 yards, 45 TD, 10 int.
▪ Receiving: Senior Logan Bridges, 51-1,177, 15 TD; senior Preston Jefferis 40-942, 10 TD; junior Hunter Rosson, 52-910, 13 TD.
▪ Tackles: Junior Aaron Hale, 113; sophomore Wyatt Harris, 103; senior Wes Harris, 102; senior Will Trawick 101; junior James Williams, 101.
▪ Sacks: Senior Michael Arlt, 14; Wes Harris, 10; sophomore Colt Ellison, 10; Williams 8.
▪ Interceptions: Sophomore Brannon Webb 5, senior Rhett Harris, 3; Wyatt Harris, 3.
OTHER AREA SEASON SUMMARIES
WEATHERFORD KANGAROOS (2-8, 1-5 IN DISTRICT 3-6A)
The Kangaroos struggled, but with the majority of their roster being juniors and sophomores there is reason for optimism. This includes junior quarterback Corban Campbell (837 yards, 6 TD, 4 int.) and junior receiver London Williams (29 catches, 405 yards, 2 TD).
Weatherford will also have a new head coach next season as Weldon Nelms has retired after 37 seasons, the past four leading the Kangaroos.
The Kangaroos will have to replace senior quarterback Lane Gilley, who passed for 885 yards with seven TD and six interceptions. He was also the leading rusher with 188 yards and two TD.
BROCK EAGLES (13-1, 5-0 IN DISTRICT 4-3A DIVISION I)
The Eagles came up short of successfully defending their 2015 state championship, but they did once again have a memorable season. A 28-17 upset loss to Wall brought an end to a 29-game winning streak.
Brock is 41-3 over the past three seasons, the only three in which they've been eligible to compete for a state championship since the program was formed. They were 16-0 in 2015.
The Eagles will lose all-everything running back Tyler Gray to graduation. He ended his Brock career with 5,425 yards and 83 touchdowns, including back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons with 2,052 yards and 34 TD in 2016.
However, junior running back Matt Gray (63 carries, 792 yards, 5 TD) will be back as will sophomore Toby Morrision (49-508, 8 TD). Also, both quarterbacks are underclassmen, junior Tren Corcoran (26-of-37, 483 yards, 8 TD, 1 int.) and sophomore Tripp Jones (38-63, 683 yards, 8 TD, 3 int.).
In all, the Eagles' roster features 11 juniors and three sophomores.
MILLSAP BULLDOGS (3-7, 0-5 IN DISTRICT 5-3A DIVISION II)
The Bulldogs got off to a fast start but hit problems in league play. Still, it was an improvement from 0-10 the year before, and with the majority of the team returning, including eight offensive and eight defensive starters, coach Jacob Johnson is already looking ahead to 2017.
"I'm encouraged by the progress we made. The program will continue to drive forward and gain momentum," Johnson said. "Every team from seventh grade up through varsity increased their win total."
The Bulldogs had over 20 players on their roster who were underclassmen, including junior quarterback Brock Barron (295 yards, 4 TD rushing).
WILLOW PARK TRINITY EAGLES (10-3)
The Eagles' first foray into 11-man football and their coinciding first season in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools was a big success. They advanced to the state semifinals in Division III before falling 35-27 to Colleyville Covenant.
The Eagles are optimistic about 2017 with seven starters coming back on defense and six on offense.
"Moving forward, we realize we can make a great run at it. Our focus is on getting to the state championship," said coach Joe Hamstra.
"With a year under our belt, we have a foundation to build on. We can significantly expand both our offense and defense package now that our guys have an understanding what we are trying to do."
The Eagles will return junior running back Garrett Green (79-657, 7 TD rushing; 26-365, 10 TD receiving) and junior Nathan Montano (13-257, 3 TD receiving) to lead the offense. Sophomore cornerback Caleb Chesney (133 tackles) and freshman linebacker Marshall Tovar (6 sacks) will be back to lead the defense.
WEATHERFORD CHRISTIAN LIONS (4-7)
The Lions competed in TAPPS Six-Man for the first time and advanced to the state quarterfinals, falling to eventual state runner-up Wichita Falls Notre Dame 34-32.
Sophomore Matthew Marsh accounted for 1,818 yards and 26 TD on 180 carries. Freshman quarterback Jackson Floyd passed for 1,54 yards, 15 TD and six interceptions. Marshall also posted 108 tackles as a defensive back and sophomore defensive back Spencer Stults had 85 tackles and eight sacks.