Aledo’s playoff march to a fourth straight state championship opened in dominating fashion as the Bearcats shut down Cleburne’s high-powered offense and won the bi-district playoff game at Vernon Newsom Stadium, 45-7.
While the Bearcats put up 45 points on the board, it was the defense that was the story. Cleburne didn’t score until there was 5:24 left in the game. Entering Friday night’s game, the Jackets had not been shut out in the first quarter all season long.
Aledo held the Yellow Jackets to 74 yards rushing and 184 yards passing, well below their season averages.
The game started out competitive enough, however. Aledo took the opening kickoff and moved downfield relatively easy, but the Cleburne defense forced a 31-yard field goal by Chance Nevarez.
After both teams exchanged punts, the Jackets had excellent starting field position near midfield. On the first play of that drive, Cleburne tried to catch Aledo off guard with a wide receiver lateral pass. But Kameron Pickett’s deep pass was intercepted by Brock Parker.
After the interception, Aledo faced a third-and-18 at its own 17-yard line, but quarterback Pate Davis took the draw up the middle for 21 yards and a first down that seemed to turn the tide and demoralize the Jackets’ defense. The Bearcats then marched 75 yards capped off by a 1-yard run from Davis with 10:20 left in the second quarter to take a 10-0 lead.
The Aledo defense again forced a Cleburne punt and the Bearcats capitalized on a 2-yard touchdown run by Jess Anders to take a 17-0 lead. And the rout was on.
Two plays later Cleburne senior quarterback Quade Coward was intercepted by Jordan Mittie, who returned it to the Cleburne 12. Two plays later, the Bearcats went up 24-0 on a 1-yard run by Anders.
Aaron Hinsley scored on a 20-yard fumble return after Coward was sacked and lost the ball with 2:53 left before the half.
Coward, who entered the game with more than 3,000 yards passing, 34 passing touchdowns and only seven interceptions, faced a heavy pass rush from the Bearcats all night. The pressure seemed to get to him as he completed 17-of-30 passes for 184 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Jackets’ biggest play came on the late touchdown, a 61-yard pass from Coward to Khalil Hall, after the game was already decided.
Anders had 15 carries for 79 yards while Davis ran it 13 times for 108 yards. Caleb Frysinger came in during the second half to rush for two touchdowns.
Davis was 7-of-13 for 107 yards passing. Willie Gibson had four receptions for 74 yards.
Aledo will play Denton Guyer in the area round of Class 4A, Division I playoffs at a site and time to be determined. Guyer beat Saginaw, 42-14, to advance.