Aledo’s march through 2013 might most closely resemble the locomotives of the Texas and Pacific Railway of yesteryear, which ran through town picking up the product from the local corn mill.
The 15-0 Bearcats powered through the towns on their schedule with unstoppable force, dispatching opponents by an average score of 66-9, which includes a “close” 29-6 victory in last week’s state semifinal.
Only one game remains.
A victory over Brenham (14-1) in the Class 4A Division II state title game at noon Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington would give the school a fifth state championship and a lofty place in the history of Texas high school football.
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The debates will surely ensue, but if Aledo wins it would be hard to deny that the Bearcats are among the best teams ever to take the field on Friday nights.
Several have taken a shot at determining the best team to play Texas high school football.
“Southlake Carroll’s teams, the Allen teams,” Bearcats coach Tim Buchanan said, thinking off the top of his head the great teams he’s seen in his 31 years as a football coach, including 21 at Aledo. “LaMarque, Katy, Lake Travis in 2011 … those are all good football teams.
“I would match this team up against any of those,” he continued before flashing a grin. “If the ball bounces right, I think we could win.”
It’s hard enough to be the best team in Aledo history, but Buchanan said, as far as the most balanced, this is it.
The Bearcats have scored a national-record 985 points, 82 more than scored by Albermarle (N.C.) in 2001.
Defensively, Aledo hasn’t allowed more than 16 points in a game this season. On special teams, place-kicker Chance Nevarez became the national record holder for extra points made in a season (127) and consecutive extra points (202).
Ryan Newsome has seven punt returns for touchdowns, one shy of the national record.
By accounts of his teammates and coach, Baker Roberson is a top punter, though hardly anyone would know because he’s had only 13 all season.
“We never had a complete team,” Buchanan said. “Right now, when you look at our special teams, our defense and our offense, we are good in all aspects of the game. That’s why I say it’s the best team.”
Aledo doesn’t feature a Johnathan Gray, the otherworldly high school running back who left after graduation for a spot in Texas’ backfield.
In fact, only five off this team are expected to go on to play college football, among them Newsome, a junior.
That’s uncommon for teams vying for the “greatest ever” label.
There are several pitfalls in trying to determine who is the best ever.
Author and sports writer Al Pickett took a stab at it, arguing in Team of the Century that Abilene of the mid-1950s was it.
The Eagles were formidable, winning 49 consecutive games while claiming three consecutive state championships. The 1955 and ’56 teams went undefeated.
Yet, it’s hard to properly place that team and all the great teams in the era of segregation, when black student-athletes played in their own schools and leagues.
Likewise, today it’s difficult because of the structure of the playoffs, which places teams in big school and small school divisions. Denton Guyer, which was seeking a second consecutive Class 4A Division I title Friday, and Aledo won’t play this year.
The 1983 Daingerfield Class 3A state-championship team outscored opponents 631-8, though its defense never yielded a point. Houston Yates, led by future NFL running back Johnny Bailey, stormed to the 1985 title by easily upending perennial power Odessa Permian.
Dallas Carter had 15 players sign letters of intent with FBS schools during its 1988 Class 5A state-title run, which ended in scandal. Carter eventually had its title stripped.
During a run of four state titles in five years, Southlake Carroll won 79 consecutive regular-season games.
“I really don’t know,” said Eddy Peach, who praised Aledo’s achievement. Peach won more than 300 games in four decades as Arlington Lamar’s coach before retiring in 2010. “It’s so difficult to compare football teams.
“I think we’re living in a time when it’s hard to compare now to yesteryear because I believe there’s better athletes and far many more better programs today. I believe that.”
Any team with Earl Campbell on it, like Tyler John Tyler, would be tough to beat at this level. Campbell’s team won the title in the state’s top classification at the time, Class 4A, in 1973.
Aledo has overcome its lack of star power with a chemistry its players said is second to no one.
The Bearcats are also a smart group. Twenty-six players have been nominated to be academic all-state selections. That makes a big difference when making judgments and adjustments on the field, Buchanan said.
They also share the quality of all those who have come before them: confidence.
For now, a state championship will suffice for this Aledo team.
As Peach knows, that’s more than enough accomplishment for any team.
“Overall, I feel like we’re the best ... I don’t want to say ever, but recently from what I’ve seen [over the years],” Aledo linebacker/safety Tyson Mauser said.
“The plan is to win. It would mean the world. We saw the teams coming up in middle school, but to be in a state championship as seniors is indescribable.”