History is working for and against Aledo this week.
The Bearcats, who play Stephenville in a Class 4A state quarterfinal game Saturday that's a rematch from Aug. 26, will try to reverse a recent trend.
Since 2008, four of the six times that area teams have met twice in a season, the regular-season winner has swept the series with a playoff win. Stephenville ended Aledo's 29-game winning streak with a nail-biting 48-47 win to open the season.
If Saturday's game follows form, the Yellow Jackets have an edge.
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But, until this year, the Bearcats commanded the series by winning five in a row.
Aledo and Stephenville are responsible for two of those regular-season and playoff series -- in 2010 and 2009 -- with the Bearcats sweeping the Yellow Jackets twice.
As a result of playing so many times, Stephenville and Aledo have developed a strong rivalry.
"These are two good football teams, two of the best in the region every year," Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. "They want to beat us as badly as we want to beat them."
Round one this season was decided in the final five seconds. Aledo blocked a punt to set up a game-winning field goal, only to have Stephenville's defense block the kick.
"That win gave us tremendous confidence as a team," Stephenville senior Aiavion Edwards said. "Now, meeting them in the playoffs, we know that there is a great possibility that the winner of this one will go on to the state championship game. That's how we are approaching it."
Stephenville's players believe they can beat Aledo on Saturday. They've done it once already.
"We have the seed planted in our head that we can do it," Stephenville coach Joseph Gillespie said.
But the Yellow Jackets know the road to a 4A Division II championship runs through Aledo.
"Those guys feel like Aledo has stolen two state championships from them," Buchanan said. "They feel if they had beat us in the playoffs either of the last two years, they would have won a title. They will be extremely motivated to beat us."
The 2009 playoff game at Cowboys Stadium went to overtime before Aledo quarterback Matthew Bishop scrambled for a touchdown and a 26-23 win. In the last year's playoff game at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Aledo won 18-10.
"We've felt each season that our playoff game against Aledo will come down to one or two plays," Gillespie said. "Unfortunately for us, they've made those few plays the past two years. It's probably going to be that way again."
Edwards remembers standing on the Cowboys Stadium sideline watching the Bearcats celebrate after Bishop's touchdown in 2009.
"I remember him breaking tackles and slipping into the end zone," Edwards said. "It was a heartbreaking experience. We thought we had them. It's been really hard each year, watching them keep going after beating us. I haven't even wanted to watch the state championship games. It's crazy to know that we were that close for two straight years."
In this year's season opener, the Yellow Jackets trailed 20-3 and 34-17 before rebounding for the victory. Aledo running back Johnathan Gray rushed for 222 yards and four TDs, but it wasn't enough. Again, Stephenville is bracing for Aledo's powerful offense led by Bishop and Gray, who on Thursday was named the Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year for a second consecutive year.
Gray is poised to set several records Saturday. He needs 17 points and 278 rushing yards to set Texas single-season records. He is also 56 points and 7 TDs shy of setting national scoring and TDs records. He is one touchdown short of tying his own single-season record of 59 from last year.
Aledo will score points , but can the Bearcats stop the Yellow Jackets?
On Aug. 26, Stephenville quarterback Tyler Jones entered the game in the second quarter and claimed the starting job for the rest of the season by throwing for 270 yards with two touchdowns.
The Bearcats' defense will have to stop Jones and Edwards, who rushed for 219 yards and a TD in the first meeting.
Aledo senior defensive back James Place was the only returning starter in the secondary, and he was injured in the first quarter against Stephenville.
"Our defense has grown up a lot since then," Place said. "Everyone has improved a lot. The rest of those guys out there with me have a lot more confidence. They know where they are supposed to be in different situations."
Stephenville has grown as well.
"Both teams are certainly better than they were at the start of the year," Gillespie said. "They were green on defense and will be much better this time. It makes for a great matchup again. It's going to be a heck of a ballgame."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760