Corpus Christi Calallen was within one possession late in the third quarter and forced the Class 5A No. 1 team to punt, but fumbled on the return.
It proved to be the difference and the Christmas gift the Aledo Bearcats were looking for.
Aledo drove down and scored, and then recovered a late onside kick by Calallen to defeat the Wildcats 24-16 in the Class 5A Division II state final on Friday night at AT&T Stadium.
The Bearcats (16-0) won their seventh UIL state football title — tied for fourth all time in 11-man football — and sixth in eight years.
“I can’t believe it. It still really hasn’t hit me, but I’m so proud of my team,” senior quarterback Dillon Davis said. “Our defense played lights out and the offense blocked really well, it was an all-around team effort.”
Carson Hyles recovered Calallen’s muffed punt with 27 seconds left in the third quarter, and Donnie Evans capped off Aledo’s scoring drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Bearcats a 24-10 lead with 5:43 to play.
The Wildcats (14-2) put up a fight as Alec Brown scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left, but Aledo’s Preston Jefferis recovered the onside attempt.
“It was the goal all year long,” said senior Wes Harris, who finished his Aledo career with a 60-3 record. “It wasn’t about how good we were going to be or how deep we were going to go, but to win a state championship.”
Aledo brought in its jumbo package that included Harris and James Williams, and Rhett Harris ran in a 5-yard touchdown for the 7-0 lead with 4:09 in the opening quarter. This came five plays after Calallen’s John Gaddis intercepted an Aledo pass attempt, but fumbled on the return. Seth Strickland recovered to give the Bearcats the ball again.
On the ensuing drive, the Wildcats drove 72 yards on 15 plays and ate up over seven minutes, but came away with just a 20-yard field goal from Grant Gonzalez with 8:55 in the second.
The Bearcats answered with its own field goal, a 35-yarder from Quinn Davis, to extend its lead to 10-7 two minutes later.
Freshman running back Jase McClellan, who had a career-high 217 yards rushing last week in the semifinals, had a 59-yard touchdown run, carrying two defenders the final 5 yards, to give Aledo a 17-3 lead with 8:14 left in the third quarter.
Calallen quarterback Gaige Lamb’s 32-yard touchdown run got the Wildcats within 17-10 with 5:44 left in the quarter.
“This year we pulled through and came together as a team to win a state title and take back home,” said senior offensive lineman Chuck Filiaga, who moved to Aledo from California in the summer.
McClellan was voted offensive MVP with 98 yards rushing and one touchdown. Williams was defensive MVP with six tackles and two for loss.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Williams said. “We knew they had some big plays running the ball, but in the end of the day it’s about who makes the most plays and we made the most.”