When College Station was starting its football program, coach Steve Huff and his staff visited Aledo as a model of how to build a winning program.
The Cougars, in their fourth season of UIL competition, are now a model program in their own right.
College Station outlasted Aledo 20-19 on Saturday afternoon in front 28,163 at AT&T Stadium to win the 5A Division II state championship.
It’s the first state title for the Cougars (14-2) and the first loss for the Bearcats (15-1) in 32 games. Aledo, which was vying for its second consecutive state title and seventh in nine seasons, had not lost a state championship game since 1974.
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“I think it’s huge for our community,” said Huff, whose Cougars reached the state semifinals in 2016. “To be able to win a state championship now is huge for us.”
Senior running back DaDa Anderson scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a six-yard run with 9 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Anderson, who was named the Offensive MVP, rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns. His 60-yard score in the second quarter helped College Station to a 13-7 halftime lead.
Anderson’s game-deciding score was set up by a 78-yard kickoff return from senior Jaelin Campbell. Aledo also hurt itself with two missed extra-point attempts in the third quarter.
“We made some special-teams mistakes,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “But you have to give College Station credit.”
Aledo had chances in the final frame. The Bearcats took over with 4:17 remaining in the fourth quarter and drove from their own 26 to the College Station 30. But passes on second and third down fell incomplete. And on fourth down, senior defensive linemen Ben Wolz and Marquise Conchola sacked Aledo sophomore quarterback Jake Bishop for a 27-yard loss.
“To finally get the grip on his pads felt really good,” Wolz, the defensive MVP, said of the sack with 1:08 left.
Aledo would get one last chance, taking over at its own 27 with 19 seconds remaining. The Bearcats could only get as close as the Cougars’ 34, on a 19-yard pass from Bishop to Money Parks as time expired.
The defense also had its chance to turn the game in Aledo’s favor in the fourth, including a near-interception deep in College Station territory.
“It’s rough to end it like that,” Aledo senior linebacker Aaron Hale said of his final playoff run. “But I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
Bishop connected with Parks on an 18-yard pass to put the Bearcats in front 7-3 early in the second quarter. College Station countered with the final 10 points of the first half, on a 60-yard run by Anderson and a 28-yard field goal by Alan Guerrieri as time expired in the second quarter.
It was the third time Aledo had trailed at halftime during these playoffs. As in the previous two occasions, the Bearcats started the second half on fire.
Jase McClellan, who rushed for a game-high 137 yards, went for 76 on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, tying the score 13-13.
McClellan scored again on a 2-yard run with 1:49 remaining in the third to nudge the Bearcats ahead by six. But the lead was short-lived. Campbell’s 78-yard kick return for College Station set up the four-play, 18-yard game-winning drive.
“We’ve been fortunate, and my biggest hope is we’ve been humble when we’ve won,” Wood said. “And I hope we handle this the same way.”