When Richland and Aledo meet up Saturday, it will be a case of David versus Goliath.
The Rebels (11-2) and Bearcats (13-0) play in a Class 5A Division II state quarterfinal game, 2 p.m. at the Ford Center in Frisco.
David, or in this case Richland, is the underdog. Prior to this year, the Rebels haven’t gotten past the area round. Last season, they won their first playoff game in 32 years.
Senior quarterback Drew Trent accounted for five touchdowns as Richland defeated El Paso Parkland 55-21 in last week’s regional round.
“I love that I have an opportunity to do it here,” said Rebels head coach Ged Kates, who’s a 1994 Richland graduate.
“I always believed that Richland could be this, so it’s pretty special to be able to coach and bring it here.”
Aledo is the defending 5A Division II state champion. The Bearcats have won a state title six times in the past eight years.
“We hope we don’t have to beat all the Aledo teams that have come through and won state championships,” Kates said. “We just hope we have to beat this Aledo team with our guys, and I’ll take our guys any time. It’s a special group.”
These Rebels aren’t worried about what happened in past years.
“We know it’s going to be a good test, and I’m excited to play them,” Trent said.
“It’s going to take a team that’s just as driven as they are,” added Richland senior linebacker DaShaun White, a Texas A&M commit. “We’re going to come out swinging, and if they’re not ready, we might surprise them.”
The Bearcats’ quest for a seventh title in nine seasons was put in jeopardy last week against Abilene Cooper, but senior cornerback Giovanni Torres’ interception with 1:23 left preserved a 34-31 win and 29th straight victory.
“We knew it was going to be a tough fourth quarter, and going out on that last drive, we had to make a play,” Torres said.
“Cooper played us tough and it’s going to be like that every week,” Aledo coach Steve Wood added. “Everyone is going to give it their best. We have some things we have to fix, but I’m proud that my kids handled the heat of the battle.”
In three playoff games, Aledo has defeated Wichita Falls Rider, Grapevine and Cooper by a combined 151-74. Richland beat Fort Worth Southwest, Saginaw Boswell and Parkland by a combined 145-73.
Aledo sophomore running back Jase McClellan, an Oklahoma commit, comes in with 1,048 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. He has 621 yards and 10 touchdowns through the playoffs.
“Richland is an athletic team, but we’re athletic and a good team too, so it should be a good game,” said Aledo sophomore quarterback Jake Bishop, who rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown against Cooper.
The season numbers are nearly identical, too. Aledo is averaging 47 points per game to Richland’s 45. The Bearcats are allowing one fewer touchdown on defense than the Rebels.
“This defense keeps looking better week by week, and I can’t give enough credit to the rest of the guys,” White said.
But all these numbers and streaks are out the window.
“I don’t think about it,” said Bishop. “We just take it one game and one week at a time, and go get a win.”