Before Saturday, Aledo had scored in every quarter this season, set a national scoring record and played its closest game in a 44-3 win over Highland Park, a team that nearly advanced to the state championship game — in the 4A division above the Bearcats.
All of that, though, didn’t matter much 24 minutes into Saturday’s Class 4A Division II state semifinal game against Ennis in Midlothian.
The undefeated Bearcats and undefeated Lions entered halftime tied at 0-0.
“We were a little down, because we didn’t have any points,” Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. “We made some offensive mistakes. We should’ve had 14 points, and we didn’t.”
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Aledo soon regained its explosive nature.
The Bearcats’ defense produced a fumble recovery on the second play of the third quarter that led to a touchdown, which gave the Bearcats a lead it wouldn’t surrender.
Aledo finished off the Lions 29-6 to advance to face Brenham in the state championship game Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
Tyson Mauser pounced on a loose ball that gave Aledo (15-0) a first down on the Ennis 21-yard line. Two plays later, Jess Anders scored on a 9-yard touchdown run to put the Bearcats up 7-0.
Anders finished with 169 yards rushing on 29 carries.
“[The fumble recovery] was everything,” Mauser said. “We were on our heels, kind of back and forth in the first half. To come out and get that turnover just, I felt like that just propelled us ahead, and we never stopped after that.”
Buchanan said it might have been the play that kick-started Aledo’s offense.
“I was probably more frustrated [at halftime] than the kids were because I knew we had a chance to score twice and we didn’t,” Buchanan said. “They dropped it several times and we didn’t get it. And to get that, that might have been the game breaker.”
Ryan Newsome, who finished with 70 yards rushing, scored on a 6-yard run on Aledo’s second possession of the third quarter to put the Bearcats up by two scores.
Aledo began the game with a 14-play drive down to the Ennis 7-yard line. Anders, though, was stuffed on fourth-and-1, turning the ball over.
Ennis (14-1) struggled to take advantage of the few opportunities it had in the first half. The Lions went three-and-out after halting Aledo’s first drive. Then, after assembling a long drive to the Aledo 9-yard line, Ennis was stopped on fourth-and-2.
Aledo held Ennis to only three first downs in the second half.
Aledo quarterback Luke Bishop finished 5-of-13 passing for 51 yards and a touchdown, a 22-yard toss to Taco Anderson that gave the Bearcats a 19-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Ennis’ Devin Smith hit Marcus Daggs for a 27-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Aledo responded with a drive to the Lions’ 5-yard line, finishing with a 27-yard field goal.
Aledo needs 15 more points to hit the 1,000-point mark for the season. The Bearcats played Saturday on five days’ rest after beating Wichita Falls 69-14 on Monday.
“This ain’t right for us to have to play on five days’ rest when in the UIL policy it says a team can’t make another play with less than six days [rest],” Buchanan said. “If they’re going to host the state championship games, they’ve got to figure out something, because it’s not fair.
“We’re very fortunate to come out of here with a win.”
Game draws a wager between county judges
Not much is bigger than Texas high school football and the state playoff battle between Aledo and Ennis led to a friendly wager between Parker County Judge Mark Riley and Ellis County Judge Carol Bush.
As losing judge, Bush will have to wear Aledo’s shirt at the next Commissioner’s Court meeting.
Despite the fact that Riley is a 1969 graduate of Ennis High School, he made no secret where his allegiance stands.
In fact, it was Riley who contacted Bush to offer the bet.
"I am catching some heat about it from high school friends and I have even received some e-mails calling me a traitor but I support Aledo and all Parker County teams no matter what," Riley said before the game. "We respect Ennis and Ellis County, both teams are 14-0, but I feel very confident in our Aledo Bearcats."
Bush, however, had something different in mind.
"When Judge Riley called eager to lose a wager to me, I was happy to accommodate," Bush said. "I think the Ennis Lions are going to tame those Aledo Bear kittens, and Judge Riley will be wearing the color that he should have been wearing all along."
Riley said the wager made things a little more interesting, but he kept it all in perspective.
"We are having fun with this playoff match-up between two of the state’s high school football powerhouses, but the most important thing is that we, as local leaders, be supportive of our communities’ children and their schools," Riley said.
In fact this is the second wager between Riley and Ellis County.
"We have done this before back when Aledo and Ennis first battled each other in 2004," Riley said. "I won that bet and enjoyed some great BBQ from former Ellis County Judge Chad Adams. This year, I am looking forward to Judge Bush wearing Aledo Bearcat Orange."