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Aledo QB Bishop shouldn't be underestimated

12/16/2011

Aledo's Matthew Bishop was nowhere to be found among 12 quarterbacks receiving recognition on the Associated Press’ Class 4A All-State football team released this week.

Quarterbacks putting up gaudy statistics while playing in offenses specifically designed for passing tend to dominate all-star teams.

That’s not the way that Aledo, with Johnathan Gray in the backfield, rolls.

But ask Bearcats coach Tim Buchanan or Aledo fans and they’ll tell you they wouldn’t trade Bishop, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior, for any quarterback on the all-state list.

"For those all-state teams, all they look at is stats,'' Buchanan said. "And the guys that throw it 60 times a game are the ones that make it.''

Bishop and the Bearcats (13-2) will attempt to win a third straight state title when they face Manvel (15-0) in the Class 4A Division II championship game at noon Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Class 5A state championship games will follow at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Most of the pregame attention falls on Gray, the AP offensive player of the year who has a chance to break national records for rushing touchdowns and points. But when defenses focus too much on Gray, that’s when Bishop goes to work.

The Bearcats have a 41-2 record over three seasons with Bishop as a starter. In playoff games during that span, Bishop is 16-0, including five wins this season. Of course, it hasn't hurt that Gray is there to receive handoffs and run for 204 touchdowns.

Bishop’s statistics paint a picture of the kind of quarterback former University of Texas coach Darrell Royal won so many games with in the 1960s and 70s -- guys like Duke Carlisle, Bill Bradley, James Street and Marty Akins -- that might not fit the mold of an NFL quarterback but were at their best in the clutch, utilizing varied skills.

As a passer, Bishop often is overlooked. He owns a 66.8 career completion percentage and has thrown for a 7,875 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career. He’s reduced his interception total each season while raising his passing yardage.

"Matt is the most accurate passer I've ever coached,'' Buchanan said. "Look at the games when the other team has slowed down Johnathan and Matt has had 300 yard passing games. I remember that game against Stephenville in the playoffs last year when he threw clutch fourth-down passes, improvising on both. We wouldn't have won that game without those plays.''

As a ball carrier, Bishop isn’t going to be mistaken for Gray, but he has 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns over his career and has a knack of knowing how to get to the first-down marker.

It was as a runner on a two-point conversion in his sophomore season that Bishop experienced his most devastating moment as a Bearcat. In the final minutes of a state semifinal victory over Denison, Bishop suffered broken collarbone and had to miss the state championship victory over Brenham the following week.

Bishop got his chance to play in a state final last year, completing 9-of-12 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in Aledo’s 69-34 defeat of La Marque. The quarterback also carried nine times for 54 yards in that game.

In Saturday's title game, Bishop will try to avoid 6-foot-3, 245-pound Manvel defensive end Taiwan Johnson, who is being recruited by Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma State, among others. Johnson has 11 sacks (five in the playoffs) and 86 tackles.

If Aledo can prevail, a third state championship ring for Bishop should more than make up for an all-state snub.