State tournament send-offs had become so common at Aledo that at some point the school decided each one needed a theme, as if it were a weekly pep rally. Last week, when the softball team loaded buses for Austin, the town-wide message was foreshadowing: “State championships are what we do.”
“There’s no arrogance about it,” softball coach Jeff Lemons said. “It’s just what we do. The culture around there is that everyone expects to be successful.”
Lemons’ team beat Ennis 10-3 to give Aledo its second UIL team title of the school year to go along with individual championships by golfer Cheyenne Knight and high jumper Carl Williams. The football team went 16-0 and won the Class 4A Division II title in December, capping a season that set a national scoring record.
And the Bearcats have a chance to end the final week of school with another state title. The baseball team (32-6) plays Hallsville (34-4) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Class 4A semifinals at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. The championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.
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Baseball coach Chad Barry has a roster with nearly a dozen players from the football team, including leadoff hitter Tyson Mauser and pitcher Taco Anderson. The expectation Thursday will be the same as it was in December, Barry said.
“It’s a different sport, but it’s a similar atmosphere,” Barry said. “It doesn’t bother them, it doesn’t faze them. They expect to do well.”
In most respects, Aledo is still a small town, its population hovering around 3,000. The school district also draws from surrounding rural areas, making Aledo High a mid-sized Class 4A school with 1,548 students.
“As a whole, these kids pretty much have been together since they were in elementary school, playing on the same teams,” football coach and athletic director Tim Buchanan said. “They trust one another, they believe one another.”
Part of Thursday’s send-off for the baseball team is a bus tour to the district’s four elementary schools, where the future crop of Aledo varsity athletes are waiting.
“There’s orange and black on all the elementary campuses,” Aledo High principal Dan Peterson said. “Every little kid in this town is either a Bearcat or a Ladycat.”
Aledo isn’t the first area school to have a dominating year athletically. Southlake Carroll is another district with one high school. In the last decade, Carroll has won more than 20 team state titles, including five Class 5A football championships.
“We talk here about being vertically aligned, from kindergarten up,” Carroll athletics director Kevin Ozee said. “Obviously third graders aren’t going to be running a spread offense, but there are some fundamental things that [coaches] can be teaching.”
Buchanan said the best part about seeing Aledo’s success this year is the bevy of multi-sport athletes. Rhylie Makawe, for example, played basketball and was also the MVP of the state softball tournament.
“It’s in our policy book that coaches will do everything possible to help kids help multiple sports,” Buchanan said. “The times when I’ve threatened to fire coaches typically had to do with the fact that they haven’t made it easy for kids to play multiple sports.”
For multi-sport athletes such as Anderson and Mauser, their senior yearhas been something of a blur. Football began in August, and the season ran through most of December. Then baseball started in late January. Mauser estimated that he’s had three weeks off from sports. But to him, it’s been worth it.
Anderson, who caught two touchdown passes in December’s state title win and could get the start on the mound if Aledo makes it to Friday’s championship game, said the same.
“We’ve just been so been so busy with football and baseball that we haven’t really had a chance to sit back and think about it. But when you do think about it, it’s pretty surreal,” Anderson said. “We haven’t had any time to relax, but I’m completely OK with it.”