On Friday night, under the lights at AT&T Stadium, the Aledo Bearcats will play for their sixth Texas high school football title in eight years -- and a shot at redemption.
The story of their 2016 season has been chronicled in the original Star-Telegram web series Titletown, TX. And while Aledo enters Friday’s 5A District II championship game against Corpus Christi Calallen with an undefeated 15-0 record, the road back to State for these Bearcats has been anything but easy.
‘The football gods are gonna understand if you haven’t paid your dues’
In Episode 1 of Titletown, we explore the winning tradition in Aledo, and the weight of expectations the seniors feel to avenge 2015’s loss in the state semifinals.
‘He’s probably the largest human being I’ve ever seen in person’
Chuck Filiaga, a 6-foot-7, 340-pound offensive lineman and top college recruit, moved from California to Texas to play his final season. And he quickly became the big man on campus.
‘There’s one spot left for a state championship picture on the wall’
Quarterback Dillon Davis is a legacy. His three brothers all won state at Aledo, and he is determined, almost desperate, to join that club. In Aledo’s first game of the season, Davis served noticed by throwing for 336 yards in a 41-36 thriller against Colleyville Heritage.
‘That’s absolutely a parent’s biggest fear’
When a fellow athlete collapsed on the track one morning before school, it was a tragedy that sent shock waves through Aledo. Through their grief, the Bearcat family paid tribute to Trenten Darden by dedicating a rare game against a California team to him.
‘There was some screaming and yelling. An emotional couple of days’
National issues about race and police shootings cause tension within the Aledo locker room when some players suggest following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick and kneeling during the national anthem. Ultimately, the teammates must figure out how to come together and show their solidarity on the field.
‘I knew if labeled that letter a complaint, it would get his attention’
The father of an austistic student writes to the athletic director to “complain” about two football players. But as he reads the father’s words, it becomes clear that this letter is about an unlikely friendship that changed his son’s life forever.
‘Aledo was nothing on the sports scale before he got there’
If you were to trace Aledo’s winning tradition back to one person, it would be Timothy Buchanan, aka Coach Buc. The former head football coach turned athletic director arrived in 1993, but it didn’t take long for him to build a powerhouse football program that has captured six state titles so far.
‘Senior week is probably the most emotional week around here’
Football begins early in Aledo -- around second or third grade. For the boys who played on the peewee fields, the final game at Bearcat Stadium is a bittersweet reminder that they’re growing up and getting ready to leave this football life behind.
‘Go be the hammer, men’
On a week that Aledo royalty -- running back Johnathan Gray -- comes back to Titletown, the Bearcats face one of the toughest tests of the season in a second-round playoff matchup with a talented team from Grapevine.
‘Practicing on Thanksgiving Day. We have a lot to be thankful for’
The road to a state championship is long and for teams that go deep into the Texas high school football playoffs, practicing on the holiday becomes a badge of honor. After the Thanksgiving feast, Aledo travels two hours west to historic Shotwell Stadium in Abilene, to drink in the Friday Night Lights legend.
‘Coach says, you never know when you’re last play is coming’
On a week when Aledo loses its senior safety to a devasting injury, the team draws inspiration from visiting University of Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh, who delivers a rousing pep talk, and from their first-string running back, who steps in to play defense and keep his team’s title hopes alive.