December 8, 2011

A predator mentality for Aledo's defense

The Bearcats are playing like sharks when it counts.

Cue the theme to Jaws.

Throw out the chum, climb in your metal viewing cages and watch the Aledo defense attack:

Du-dum, du-dum ...

For seven weeks, the Aledo defensive mascot has not been a Bearcat. It's a shark.

Senior linebacker Dayne Davis and other defenders even have image of the razor-toothed killer shaved into their scalps.

"It's a defensive theme thing," Davis said. "We like to come out and play aggressive, frenzied like sharks."

Coming off its first shutout of the season, a 33-0 thumping of rival Stephenville last week, Aledo (12-2) is hoping to keep its shark mentality tonight against Corsicana (13-1) in a Class 4A Division II state semifinal game at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.

The shark theme started with Davis and defensive lineman Jalen Hill. For extra motivation going into their game against Azle on Oct. 21, the two went to a Fort Worth barber shop for two orders of Mohawks with a shark on the side.

Davis and the defense played so well against the Hornets, the sharks stuck. Aledo coach Tim Buchanan even considered getting his own fin-do.

"I went in and told them they should all get sharks on their heads," Buchanan said, laughing. "It told them if they had another game like that, I might put one on my head."

Opposing offenses have not been laughing lately. The Bearcats have improved each week.

"Recognition of what defense we need to be in, and getting into it is the biggest difference from the start of the season," Buchanan said. "We are adjusting a lot better. In Week 0, we had mental busts about every three plays. Now they are putting together five, six, seven and eight straight solid plays. It's been a lot of fun to watch them learn and grow into a true Bearcat defense."

A shark wouldn't have worked early in the year. It fits now.

"At the start of the year, we were trying to survive and make tackles," Buchanan said. "Saturday afternoon, we were going after the ball to knock it loose."

Aledo gave up 48 points to Stephenville on Aug. 26, then 62 to Lake Travis two weeks later -- Aledo's first losses since early 2009.

"Everyone was doubting our defense after we lost those two games," Davis said. "To finally come out and show them how much we have improved and shut out a great team like Stephenville, gives us a ton of respect."

In the first Stephenville game, Aledo's defense gave up 507 yards. Last week, the Yellow Jackets were limited to 254 yards and punted 10 times.

"After watching film and coming together as a whole these past few weeks, we were all able to play well," said Hill, who had a sack against Stephenville and a fumble recovery. "The whole defensive unit."

For junior defensive back Clayton Lowe, watching the first Aledo-Stephenville game film was painful.

"It was awful. It was bad," Lowe said. "We looked like a completely different team out there than what we looked like against Canyon Randall [in the Region I semifinals]. We've come together as a team instead of everyone playing as individuals."

The Aledo defenders have listened to people call them out all season. And they kept a record. A TV announcer quipped: it's 'Aleo.' There is no D. An Internet story claimed the Bearcats have no heart.

"That's slapping someone in the face and coming back and doing it again," Hill said. "It's personal."

Looking back, the Bearcats defenders are thankful for two early losses and a season full of doubt.

"That's probably the best thing that could have happened to us, those two losses," Davis said. "It highlighted everything we needed to work on. Then we had all of district and the first few games in the playoffs to work on those things and get ready for these types of games."

If Aledo advances to play for a third straight 4A Division II championship, the final head-shaving holdouts will have to convert.

Lowe, who has longer hair, is prepared to get his Mohawk. Cornerback Todd Christian, who already has his initials cut on the side of his head, might get a lock for lockdown corner.

Others could go with the shark. Another playoff shutout and Buchanan might have to join in, although, he will be a reluctant convert.

"No, no. Not yet," he said.

Hill plans is to abandon the shark and go with a different predator: Pac man, holding a spoon, chasing a ghost.

"It's time to eat," Hill said. "We have to stay hungry."

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @bshirley08

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