The tale of Aledo and Saginaw Boswell’s football fortunes this season are complete opposites, yet both have found the same success and are still playing in December.
Meeting for the second time less than a month, Boswell (9-4) takes on No. 1 Aledo (13-0), but this time it’s in the Class 5A Division II state quarterfinals at 9 p.m. Friday at AT&T Stadium.
“We’re familiar with each other. There might be a new wrinkle for one of us to change things up,” said Aledo coach Steve Wood, whose Bearcats ended the regular season as 5A’s top-ranked team in the Associated Press weekly state poll.
Aledo might have appeared to run away with the District 6-5A championship, but Boswell entered the Nov. 4 game needing a win to clinch a share of the title – and the Pioneers were one half away from doing so.
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The Bearcats led 21-14 at halftime before pulling away to win 49-24, the closest score in the past six meetings with the Pioneers.
“They played us tough and I think they have confidence right now, but it’s a whole new season,” Wood said. “You can throw that stuff out the window. It’s a brand new football game.”
The last six games between Aledo and Boswell haven’t been pretty – with Aledo winning by an average of 41 points.
But in his 11th season as Boswell head coach, John Abendschan has had his toughest season by far, yet continues to make program history. His team is in the state quarterfinals for the first time in 39 years.
Saginaw Boswell is one of just three 4-loss teams left in the UIL playoffs, among 88 schools.
If the Pioneers want to be the best, they have to beat the best.
“If you’re going to have to face the No. 1 team, I’d rather face them twice,” Abendschan said. “Show me my cards, let me know what I got and let me see where I stack up. Yes, they whupped us and now we watch the film, and can we correct it and get good enough. Just let the chips fall where they may.”
Aledo has scored 40 or more points in every game, and 50 or more in 11 of 13, but are actually scoring about five points less in the playoffs than their regular-season average of 60.9 points a game. Senior receiver Logan Bridges has come on in the past two games with 13 catches for 342 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’ve played solid defensively and will need to eliminate errors in a game like this. Not a whole lot has changed,” Wood said. “We have some wide receivers that have really stepped up their game, which is huge for our offense. We’ve gained some confidence having survived and still playing.”
The Pioneers have faced tremendous adversity after losing five quarterbacks to injury.
“When quarterback No. 1 goes down in late June, No. 2 goes down in the [August] scrimmage, and No. 3 goes down in Game 3, and all of a sudden everybody is going, ‘OK, we either fall apart or we rally together’ and I watched a team completely jell together,” Abendschan said.
Then entered freshman Brayden Thomas, who has thrown for 1,799 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 games. And all those other players have come back to contribute elsewhere.
“When we played our first district game against Azle, we had 11 starters in street clothes and I’m watching kids volunteer for whatever position. I’m starting to go ‘My goodness, these guys care’ and it was awesome to watch,” Abendschan said. “Brayden’s parents felt like he was ready and he has handled it beautifully.”
Saginaw Boswell vs. Aledo
9 p.m. Friday