BURLESON, Texas -- “I’m don’t know if anybody has noticed,’’ Aledo football coach Tim Buchanan said with a wry smile, “but the bigger the game, the better Johnathan Gray plays.’’
Gray, the Bearcats' record-setting senior running back, made believers of Mansfield Summit in Aledo’s surprisingly easy 59-23 Class 4A Division II area playoff victory Friday night in front of 7,500 fans at Burleson Stadium.
Gray carried the ball 34 times for 320 yards and five touchdowns before ceding duties to the backups in the final five minutes. He scored on runs of 27, 34, 30 and 4 yards in the first half and added another 4-yard touchdown in the second half.
“We came out ready to play,’’ Gray said. “It was a team effort both ways.’’
In part because Gray is capable of raising his game in the postseason, Aledo (10-2) won its 14th consecutive playoff game, a streak that began in the first of two consecutive state championship runs in 2009.
Mansfield Summit (10-2) had enough skins on the wall to make it seem that slowing Gray was possible. But the 202-pound Texas commit quickly nixed those thoughts, helping Aledo score on its first six possessions to open a 38-15 halftime lead. Gray had 250 rushing yards by the break.
Aledo quarterback Matthew Bishop twice made touchdown throws on fourth down. Willie Gibson’s nifty job of getting a foot down in the back of the end zone on a 27-yard score when the Aledo lead was only two points was particularly damaging for the Jaguars.
Two touchdown runs by Summit running back Calvin Burns allowed the Jags to get as close as 17-15, but the Aledo defense got the first of three big plays from linebacker Jordan Mittie on a one-on-one tackle of Summit quarterback Ryan Cuevas on fourth down at the Aledo 14. Mittie came up with two of the Bearcats’ three interceptions in the second half.
For Gray, it was another big night as he continued his assault on national career records. Some highlights:
*He pushed his career rushing total to 9,952 yards, jumping from seventh to fifth in the National High School Record Book. He passed the 9,662 by Toby Gerhart (2002-05) of Norco, Calif., and the 9,668 of Terrance Wilkes (2003-06) of Wadley, Ala. Next on Gray’s list is the 10,241 by Toney Baker (2001-04) of Jamestown Ragsdale, N.C.
*With five touchdowns Friday, Gray now has 195 in his career. He is second nationally, nine behind Michael Hart, who played for Nedrow Onondaga, N.Y., and scored 204 touchdowns from 2000-03.
*Gray is also second nationally to Hart in points. With his 30 on Friday, Gray has scored 1,172. Hart finished with 1,246.
*Gray rushed for at least 100 yards for the 47th time in his career.
Aledo advances to meet the winner of a Saturday area playoff between Canyon Randall and El Paso Riverside. Tentative plans have Aledo playing Friday at Sweetwater if Canyon Randall wins, or at Midland if Riverside is the opponent.