With four weeks to go before champions are crowned for this high school football season, there isn’t one head coach with a team still playing after Thanksgiving who wants to talk about what’s beyond or what might be.
But after Aledo rolled up 597 yards of offense against a good Grapevine team in last week’s area round, the evaluations are underway on whether this Bearcats team — strikingly similar to the 2014 state champion version — can start putting in orders for title rings.
“I understand why everyone starts all that, but I’m only thinking about Abilene Cooper,” Aledo coach Steve Wood said. “If you start getting ahead of yourself or thinking about things down the road, you run a serious risk of not being prepared.
“That’s all we can control right now.”
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Still, the Bearcats had perhaps their most complete and efficient game of the season Friday in the 51-7 win over the Mustangs.
Considering that same Grapevine team beat Cooper 61-7 in the second week of the season, it speaks volumes as to how this week might go as well.
But Aledo’s success, while mirroring the achievement thus far of the 2014 team, is fundamentally different. That year was also Wood’s first as head coach, when he moved up from defensive coordinator after Tim Buchanan became Aledo’s full-time athletic director.
“I think somebody can make a case that we’re defensively similar to the 2014 team,” Wood said. “But that’s more inline with having a strong senior class and young guys that they look up to that leadership and fill in where they’re needed. We have that again this year.”
The 2016 Bearcats have three running backs, Jase McClellan (139 carries 1,018 yards, 15 touchdowns), Michael Jordan (88-938, 14 TDs) and Donald Evans (111-845, 20 TDs), set to go over the 1,000-yard mark if the Bearcats continue this playoff run.
That’s kept quarterback Dillon Davis (44 carries, 336 yards) in the pocket more, a distinct difference from when quarterback Luke Bishop was considered more of a dual threat in the Bearcats’ offense in 2014.
Davis has also benefited from a solid receivers corps.
Logan Bridges, who played at running back for most of his sub-varsity career, leads the team in yards (892) and yardage per catch (22.3). Wood said his conversion has been a key factor in Aledo’s consistent play.
“When he came to that position, he wasn’t using his speed well and wasn’t a great route runner,” Wood said of Bridges, who has caught 11 touchdown passes. “Once he understood that and started relaxing, he kind of figured out it was a fun deal and it’s made all the difference for us.”
Davis also has Preston Jefferis (33 receptions, 772 yards, 9 TDs) and Hunter Rosson (43-790, 10 TDs) to round out the main threats in the passing game.
“We tend to throw it downfield more now and we had good receivers then, but these guys have really upped their game from where they were a year ago,” Wood said. “I feel like those guys have made all the difference.
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“They’ve built confidence over time and if you really want to compare us to the 2014 team, I think that’s probably one of the bigger differences.”
Class 5A Division II
Aledo (12-0) vs. Abilene Cooper (8-4), 1 p.m. Friday, Shotwell Stadium, Abilene