As the Aledo Bearcats reach the midpoint of the 2023 football season they will return home to face Saginaw (0-4, 0-2) for homecoming.
It will be the first homecoming in the stadium now named after the legendary coach who was part of so many homecomings with the Bearcats. Now it is his handpicked successor, Robby Jones, who will be on the sidelines as the head coach in Tim Buchanan Stadium.
“It’s my first time as head coach at homecoming, first homecoming at Tim Buchanan Stadium, and we got the Steve Wood sign up (on the fieldhouse), a lot of firsts,” Jones said. “Those guys are going to have their names up their for a long time and it is well deserved. I’m honored to know them and to have worked with both.”
Of course, Jones is no stranger to the stadium, having been Buchanan's assistant for two decades before taking the helm. He was the offensive coordinator since 2009.
The Bearcats (4-0, 2-0 in District 3-5A Division I) will host a Saginaw team (0-4, 0-2) that has, to put it mildly, struggled in recent seasons. The Rough Riders are 2-31 since 2020 after reaching the playoffs with a 7-4 record in 2019.
In fact, in the three seasons prior to 2019 the Rough Riders were 5-25.
In other words, life has basically not been good for the Rough Riders and their faithful for quite some time. Their most recent setback was 40 at home to Denton Ryan on Friday, Sept. 15.
On that same night, the Bearcats were decimating Azle 50-7 on the Hornets' own turf. It was the 113th consecutive district victory for Aledo dating to the 2007 season.
But Jones believes this year’s version of the Rough Riders is better than last season’s and there is more than meets the eye.
“It’s not like they’re a horrific football team,” he said. “They started out against Denton Ryan forcing them into a three-and-out and punt. That’s not a way we want to start against them.”
The homecoming parade in Aledo, like many places, is a big thing. This year was no exception as fans lined the side of the streets for the floats and festivities, which included Bearcats players and coaches at the lead.
“I’m going to say that’s one of the biggest crowds we’ve had at a homecoming parade,” Jones said. “They were lined from the beginning of the ninth grade (campus) all around the high school. There were so many little kids there.”
There is still plenty to come with homecoming activities, including the crowning of the queen at halftime of Friday’s game.
For the first time this season the offense and defense played a complete game in Aledo’s win at Azle, Jones said. The offense hung a half a hundred on the Hornets and the defense clamped down on them like no other time this season.
“It was good to see both sides of the ball playing so well,” Jones said. “But that’s what we expect from our guys. It’s the first time this year they’ve both played the way they are capable of playing.”
In the first two games of the season the offense grabbed the spotlight as the Bearcats outscored their opponents 98-80. In the past two weeks, the defense has risen up and they have outscored their opponents 88-20.
Every quarterback has a go-to guy, such as Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce or Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. For Aledo quarterback Hauss Hejny that player was Jalen Pope in 2022.
And this season it appears to be becoming wide receiver Trace Clarkson. He leads all receivers with 18 catches for 335 yards and three touchdowns.
This past week Clarkson hauled in five passes for 146 yards, including a pair of Hejny touchdowns.
“They’ve established a familiarity and they work well together,” Jones said. “It’s kind of like Jalen last year and you saw how that worked out.”
Hejny was the MVP of the state championship game, a 52-14 win over College Station, while Pope set one state record with eight catches for 229 yards and tied another with three touchdown catches.
Wide receiver Kadon Finley is expected to be back in the lineup against Saginaw after having missed last week with an injury. Finley has three catches for 25 yards so far this season after having a standout freshman campaign with 26 catches for 417 yards and six TD.
Finley and Colton McCoy will likely see rotating time. McCoy has impressed this season with 11 catches for 222 yards and a TD.
“He’s not listed as a starter, but he plays like one,” Jones said of McCoy, adding, “And it’ll be really nice to have Kadon back out there with his talent.”
McCoy is coming off his best game of the season with six catches for 113 yards and a TD at Azle.
The Bearcats have never lost to the Rough Riders, owning a 5-0 record in the series. The teams first met in 2008 and that was the closest contest the two have played to date, with Aledo winning 22-7.
The Bearcats followed with wins of 55-10 in 2009, 70-7 in 2016, 52-7 in 2017 and 73-7 last season. That's a total score of 272-38, an average of 54.4-7.6.
In the five seasons the Bearcats have defeated the Rough Riders Aledo has a combined record of 71-5. The Bearcats have also won three state championships and played for another in those seasons.
In 2009, 2016 and last season the Bearcats won state titles after downing Saginaw in the regular season. They finished second in 2017.
The only time Aledo did not reach a state final after a win over Saginaw in the regular season was 2008. They finished 11-1 and reached the second round of the postseason.
The Bearcats are still at the Class 5A Division I state rankings in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Also from District 5-5A, Denton Ryan remained No. 6 this week.
Throughout all high schools in the state, Aledo is fifth, behind only defending 6A Division I state champion Duncanville, defending 6A Division II champion DeSoto, Humble Atascocita and Houston North Shore.
Nationally, the Bearcats are No. 35.
Last week's results
Aledo 50, Azle 7
Burleson Centennial 33, The Colony 14
Denton Ryan 40, Saginaw 0
Northwest 45, Brewer 7
South Hills bye
Thursday, Sept. 21
The Colony at Ryan
Friday, Sept. 22, all games at 7 p.m.
Saginaw at Aledo
South Hills at Centennial
Azle at Brewer
Aledo 2-0 (4-0)
Centennial 2-0 (4-0)
Ryan 2-0 (3-0)
Northwest 1-1 (3-1)
The Colony 1-1 (1-3)
Brewer 0-1 (1-2)
Azle 0-2 (1-3)
Saginaw 0-2 (0-4)
South Hills 0-2 (0-4)
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