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Bearcats outrun Jackrabbits for 29th straight win

Going for 12th state title


In any sport a simple rule is: it's impossible to make up a deficit if you don't have the ball.

So it was in the third quarter Friday at Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium as the Aledo Bearcats controlled the ball for almost 11 and a half minutes of the 12-minute period. Already holding a 15-point lead at the intermission, they simply wore down Forney en route to a 43-7 victory in their Class 5A Division I state semifinal football contest.

The victory, the Bearcats' (15-0) 29th consecutive dating to the third game of the 2022 season, sends them into their 12th state final since 2009. They will face Comal Smithson Valley (14-1) at 7 p.m. Friday night, Dec. 15, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The Rangers defeated Brownsville Veterans Memorial (12-3) 49-21 to reach their first state final since 2004 and are looking for their first state championship. Aledo is seeking its 12th overall and 11th since 2009, the most of any high school in Texas.

"We ate up the clock going into the wind and that was big," Aledo head coach Robby Jones said. "We did it with the ground game. We talked to the receivers and told them the game called for us to run the ball. They're team players. They understood and want to do whatever it takes to win."

The Bearcats ran 21 offensive plays in the third quarter compared to four for the Jackrabbits (13-2). Quarterback Hauss Hejny threw twice, completing a 45-yard pass to Tyson Timms that set up the third of Davhon Keys' four rushing touchdowns, a 1-yard run.


Jumping out early - again

Of course, it wasn't as if the Bearcats were in jeopardy as they had controlled most of the first half, leading 22-7 at halftime. After forcing a punt they went 46 yards in just four plays, capped by Hawk Patrick-Daniels' 13-yard scoring run, his first of two TD on the night.

The Bearcats went for two points after the first touchdown, with Hejny running the ball in for an 8-0 lead. 

"When they lined up the way they did it was a gimme, especially with a runner like Hauss," Jones said, explaining that doing so can have a psychological effect on an opponent.

"At some point they were going to have to make that up if they had kept scoring with us," he said.

Of course, that was a moot point.

Keys made the score 15-0 on a 1-yard touchdown and added a 6-yard score in the second quarter.

Another giant showing by Keys

Keys reached the end zone from 16 yards out in the fourth quarter to cap the night's scoring. Running out of what is called the Raider formation, a form of Wildcat package in which he is in the backfield, he now has 16 rushing touchdowns this season, 11 of which have come in the postseason.

But Keys, who has signed to play linebacker - his usual standout position - at LSU next season, also had a standout special teams moment. He blocked Forney's second punt of the night, giving Aledo the ball at the Jackrabbits' 22-yard line, ultimately setting up his own touchdown two plays later.


Big night for special teams

Along with blocking a punt, for a second straight week the Bearcats recovered a fumbled squib kickoff that bounced off an opponent. This happened Friday after their first TD of the third quarter when the ball ricocheted off a Forney player only to be recovered by Jake Gillespie at the Jackrabbits' 29. Five plays later Patrick-Daniels scored from a yard out to make the score 36-7.

Jones said the squib kick is regularly worked on in practice because, well, "You never know what's going to happen. You've got to be ready to jump on a loose ball and we were."


Hawk and Hauss lead running game

In last season's run to state Patrick-Daniels and Hejny led the Aledo running attack. They did so again Friday as Patrick-Daniels accounted for an unofficial 185 yards on 27 carries and Hejny gained an unnofficial 130 on 14 totes.

Regular starting running back Ray Guillory was sidelined with a knee injury he aggravated early in a 56-21 Region I final win over Abilene. He has now missed four games and remains questionable for the state championship game.

However, Patrick-Daniels, who moved to wide receiver at the start of this season, has done a more than admirable job returning to running back. After this game he is approaching 800 yards with a dozen TD rushing (and three receiving).

"I'm glad to see Hawk do this," Jones said. "He was the one back there when we won it all last season."

The Bearcats ended the night with an official 444 yards of offense, of which 360 came on the ground.

"We thought they'd come out in a three (man) front, but they came out in a four front, so we had to adjust," offensive lineman Cody Cartwright said.

As a result, Forney's defense was frustrated all night. While they did register one sack, they also surrendered 20 running plays of 6 or more yards, including a dozen of more than 10 yards.


Stout defense again

A team doesn't reach the state final without a good defense, but for a second straight game the Bearcats clamped down on an opponent - especially their running game. A week after holding Abilene to minus 2 rushing yards, they held the Jackrabbits to 77 yards on 23 carries.

Heralded Forney running back Javian Osborne came into the game with almost 2,200 yards and 37 rushing TD. The Bearcats limited him to 49 yards on 13 carries, with 22 of those coming on the Jackrabbits' lone touchdown.

"They're playing lights out, the way they expect our defense to play," Jones said. "The last 15 years we've added an explosive offense. It's a great combination."

The Bearcats also forced three turnovers via interceptions by Ky Howington, Jaden Allen, and Kamron McCoy-Burnside.

Defensive ends Carson Dempsey and Cooper Cyphers each had a sack. 


"I have to give it all to coach (defensive coordinator Brad) McCone," Cyphers said. "When we saw they couldn't run, we knew we could be unstoppable on offense."

More than a third of Forney's runs ended in a loss of yardage or zero gain. They also had two pass completions for zero yards and one for a loss.


Long time, no see

This was the first time Aledo and Forney have played in almost two decades. It was also their first meeting in the playoffs.

The teams met in predistrict play from 2000-05, with Aledo winning four of the six games. The average score was 16-10 in Aledo's favor.

In fact, the last time the teams played, Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium was a year away from opening. Friday's win kept the Bearcats unbeaten in the facility.

Another new foe awaits

For a second time in this postseason the Bearcats will face a team for the first time in their history. Two weeks ago it was Abilene. This time it will Spring Branch Smithson Valley, led by Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor coach Larry Hill, who has more than 300 victories.

While reaching the state final is as familiar to the Bearcats as snow is in Minnesota, this is the  Rangers’ third state final. Along with 2004, they reached in 2001 and 2002.


Class 5A Divison I state semifinal

At Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium

Friday, Dec. 8

Bearcats 43, Jackrabbits 7
Aledo 15 7 14 7 - 43
Forney 0 7 0 0 - 7

A - Hawk Patrick-Daniels 13 run (Hauss Hejny run)
A - Davhon Keys 1 run (Cole Crawford kick)
A - Keys 6 run (Crawford kick)
F - Javian Osborne 22 run (Asher Wall kick)
A - Keys 1 run (Crawford kick)
A - Patrick-Daniels 5 run (Crawford kick)
A - Keys 16 run (Crawford kick)

Unofficial statistics

First downs: Aledo 20, Forney 11.
Rushes-yards: Aledo 51-360, Forney 23-77.
Passing yards: Aledo 84, Forney 129
Caught-thrown-intercepted: Aledo 3-11-2, Forney 12-25-3.
Fumbles-lost: Aledo 0-0, Forney 1-1.
Punts-average: Aledo 2-38.0, Forney 6-27.3.
Penalties-yards: Aledo 5-55, Forney 0-0.
Third-down conversions: Aledo 4-of-9, Forney 6-of-13.
Fourth-down conversions: Aledo 0-of-1, Forney 1-of-2.

Aledo: Patrick-Daniels 27 carries, 185 yards, 2 TD; Hejny 14-130; Keys 7-37, 4 TD; Kaden Winkfield 3-8.
Forney: Javian Osborne 13-49, TD; Kevin Espinal 4-20; Kyle Crawford 5-5; Cameron Carter 1-3.

Aledo: Hejny 3-of-10, 84 yards, 0 TD, 2 interceptions; Gavin Beard 0-1-0.
Forney: Crawford 12-25, 0 TD, 3 interceptions, 129 yards.

Aledo: Tyson Timms 2 catches, 66 yards; Kaydon Finley 1-18.
Forney: Kofi Eduful 3-48, Orin Gee 2-46, Imari Jihiel 4-30, Alex Perrin 1-5, Osborne 2-0.

Defensive interceptions
Aledo: Ky Howington, Jaden Allen, Kamron McCoy-Burnside.
Forney: Joshua Gatlin, Josiah Turner.

Aledo: Carson Dempsey, Cooper Cyphers.
Forney: One by several on same play.

Blocked kicks
Aledo: Keys (punt).


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