MIDLAND — Aledo’s defense and special teams scored in the first half, giving its offense a chance to find its legs in the second half in a 37-21 victory against El Paso Del Valle.
The Class 5A Division I regional-round game was played Friday at Grande Communications Stadium.
The Bearcats scored a touchdown on a 13-yard fumble return by Aledo defensive end Sam Holzschuh in the second quarter and returned a blocked extra point for two points in the same quarter.
Holzschuh’s fumble return and a 2-yard touchdown run by Bearcats quarterback Luke Bishop came in a span of 2 1/2 minutes of the first half, and Aledo went from a 9-6 lead to a 23-6 advantage.
“I was proud of our defense, they got after it pretty hard because we weren’t hitting on all cylinders offensively,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “But defense is one of those things that needs to be consistent every week.”
Aledo (12-1) advances to play Canyon Randall (12-1) in a state quarterfinal, set for 7 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium in Snyder.
That 17-point first-half cushion forced Del Valle and quarterback Steven Montez, a Colorado commitment, to play catch-up the rest of the game.
Montez completed 26 of 39 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked at least twice and had the fumble that Holzschuh returned. He did break for some double-digit runs in the second half, and Aledo players and coaches admitted Montez, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, was tough to bring down.
Aledo, winners of 28 of their last 29 playoff games, limited the Conquistadores to 83 rushing yards.
“We pretty much focused on keeping their quarterback in the pocket,” said Holzschuh, a senior. “Their quarterback was awesome, and as long as we kept him in [the pocket] it was fine.”
Aledo’s offense found its legs in the fourth quarter as running back Jess Anders, who was returning from an injury, scored on runs of 5 and 48 yards. Anders’ first TD run came after the Bearcats‘ defense stopped Montez on a quarterback sneak deep in Aledo territory on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter.
Aledo had 444 total yards with 314 coming on the ground. Bishop had 100 yards on 13 carries, Anders gained 86 yards on three carries and Isaiah Mallory 54 on 13 carries.