During the Sept. 15 post-game handshake, Mansfield Legacy football players said they would see Aledo again. That meant the playoffs.
Mind you, it wasn’t meant as a threat. They were just saying how eager they were for another opportunity to play the state’s No. 1 team. Aledo emerged from that slugfest at Bearcat Stadium with a 24-3 victory.
“I watched that game this weekend,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “It was probably as physical and as old-school of a game as anyone could see. There were a lot of licks delivered by both teams.”
Circumstances needed to line up for Saturday’s rematch to even happen. Legacy played in the Division I bracket last year, but landed in Division II this year when Mansfield Summit made the post season.
Aledo and Legacy both have survived postseason scares, too. Aledo needed a late interception to withstand Abilene Cooper 34-31 in the regional round. Legacy scored late to defeat Frisco Lone Star, 24-20, last week in the state quarterfinals.
Saturday’s winner meets College Station (12-2) or Austin McCallum (14-0) in the state championship game at 11 a.m. Dec. 23 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
This is the third meeting between these programs in the last 15 months. Aledo won last year’s Week 3 game, 59-41. The 2016 Bearcats would go on to win their sixth state championship in eight years.
“We let our players and community know, ‘There they are. What do you think?’ We competed our tails off in those two games,” Legacy coach Chris Melson said. “You put your kids up against those types of programs because you want to be that type of program in your own way.”
There are times when I don’t know how I’m going to get up and get the snap. But I pull myself up and do it. You get it done if you have the heart and care of your team to get it done.
Legacy quarterback Jalen Catalon, on being a two-way player
These powers are similar, yet both have changed since their September meeting.
Each has a dominant defense. Both have been labeled state-championship caliber for good reason. They have heavyweight defensive fronts.
Legacy junior nose guard Enoch Jackson and junior defensive tackle Taurean Carter typically demand double teams. Aledo senior nose guard James Williams is a four-year starter, and junior defensive end Colt Ellison is a pass rush threat on every snap.
Aledo limits opponents to 252 yards and 12 points a game. Legacy’s defense yields 19 points, but has recorded 39 sacks and 29 turnovers.
In that first meeting, both offenses were different.
Well, MeClellan’s back and he’s rushed for 822 yards and 13 touchdowns in the playoffs alone. Catalon’s been the full-time starter since mid-October, accounting for 2,000 total offensive yards and 26 TDs. He’s also still the all-state safety of a year ago.
“It’s tiring,” said Catalon, who played 150 snaps in the regional round against North Forney. “There are times when I don’t know how I’m going to get up and get the snap. But I pull myself up and do it. You get it done if you have the heart and care of your team to get it done.”
Wood said that his defenses have never traditionally put a spy on a player like Catalon. The strategy is for all 11 defenders to stay disciplined and in their lanes and not try to be a hero.
Respect from each sideline toward the other is profound. This isn’t about payback or continuing the reign. There isn’t time for that. This is for playing for the right to play in the state championship game.
“We’re hoping for the same result,” Aledo’s Williams said. “We just have to have a good week of practice, have a game plan and try to execute it Saturday.”