MIDLAND -- Johnathan Gray's talent and reputation is such that he demands plenty of attention, and he deserved plenty on Friday against Canyon Randall with another typical big game of 300-plus yards.
But it was a key pass breakup from Clayton Lowe that helped turn the momentum in Aledo's favor early in the second quarter of a 42-14 Bearcats romp in a Class 4A Division II regional semifinal at Grande Communications Stadium.
Lowe's breakup helped spur a 28-point second quarter for the Bearcats, in which Gray ripped off two long TD runs to break the Raiders' back in the first half. Aledo (11-2) was up 35-0 at halftime, and Gray had 257 yards of his 303 yards in the first 24 minutes.
"It ended up being a big play for us and we ended up scoring on the next drive," said Lowe. "It was giant and just making a stop anytime is a big deal."
Aledo will play Stephenville in a Class 4A Division II state quarterfinal game, tentatively set for 3 p.m. next Saturday in Midlothian.
Early in the second quarter the Bearcats held a 7-0 lead, but the Raiders' ball-control offense found some momentum, drove the ball to the Aledo 25-yard line and was facing a fourth-and-3 play. But Lowe stepped in and broke up a pass from Randall quarterback Austin Castillo intended for Logan Brittain on the play.
"I knew what the receiver was fixing to do and what was fixing to happen," Lowe said. "I just made a break on the ball."
On the next play, Gray outran the Randall defense on a 75-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 11:44 remaining in the opening half.
From that point on, the Bearcats were in control.
Gray, who had 20 carries on the night, ripped off a 55-yard run with 9:39 left in the second quarter for a 21-0 lead to essentially put the game out of reach.
"Starting the first quarter just 7-0, we knew we had to score fast, because you never know what's going to happen in these games," Gray said. "Those two quick scores really helped us and we got better and won the game."
Aledo added a 26-yard catch-and-run by Michael Mann with 6:02 remaining in the half, and then backup running back Ben Jopling scored on a 6-yard run at 2:31 for the 35-0 lead.
Both of Randall's touchdowns came in the second half, Aledo's only second-half score was a 3-yard run by Matthew Bishop in the third quarter.
"When we broke John for a couple of long runs, it kind of slowed them down a little bit and in some of the stuff they were doing," Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. "It kept us on the field and scoring points, and we were able to stop them and keep them from getting the ball in the end zone."