High School: Aledo

3 area HS stars are national award finalists

July, 10, 2012

Aledo's Johnathan Gray, South Grand Prairie's Abraham Hall and Mansfield Legacy's Shelbi Vaughn are up for the 10th annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards, which will be handed out tonight.

Gray is a boys finalist after being named the national football player of the year following a record-setting career that included the most touchdowns in high school history.

Hall was named the nation's top boys track and field athlete after winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes at the UIL Class 5A state meet. His season-best times would have challenged for gold medals in the 2012 NCAA outdoor championships.

Vaughn is a girls finalist for being named track and field athlete of the year after breaking the national high school discus record by 8 1/2 feet.

The award ceremony can be seen live on ESPN3 tonight at 8:40 p.m. CT, and the winners will be recognized at Wednesday night's ESPYs ceremony on ESPN.

Five-star running back Johnathan Gray of Aledo broke more records in high school than an embattled music store employee.

Now the nation's top running back and No. 2 overall player in 2012 is turning his attention to doing more of the same for the Longhorns as the most-hyped recruit to come to Texas since Vince Young in 2002.

How much of an opportunity will he get next season with two solid backs already in Austin in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron? What are his personal goals for next season, thoughts on running the Wildhorn and dusting off the Wishbone?

Gray answers those questions and more in a Q&A with HornsNation.

ESPNHS NEXT highlights trio of area athletes

May, 15, 2012

Three area athletes are among those highlighted in the ESPNHS NEXT feature, which spotlights players destined for greatness.

Aledo running back Johnathan Gray, who is headed for Texas, is on the list. So are Seth Jones and Kellyn Acosta of Plano.

Here's what ESPNHS has to say about these future stars:
Kellyn Acosta, soccer
Acosta is part of the next generation for U.S. soccer. The athletic defender from Plano, Texas, is rated as the nation's top player in the Class of 2013, and he has already proved he can produce on the biggest stages. Acosta made the U.S. U-17 men's national team last season and worked his way into the starting lineup for the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, and it may only be a matter of time before he's starring for the men's national team at the 2018 World Cup. Or maybe even 2014 …

Johnathan Gray, football
Texas Longhorns fans are getting antsy. A 13-12 record over the past two years for a team used to greatness will do that. But there is a silver -- or should we say Gray? -- lining to all this. The down years didn't scare off Gray, the record-setting running back from Aledo (Aledo, Texas). The No. 2 player in the 2012 ESPN 150, Gray became the nation's all-time leader in touchdowns scored with 205. Expect him to be Texas' most dynamic playmaker since Vince Young. Can a trip back to a BCS bowl be far behind?

Seth Jones, ice hockey
Jones is built like a basketball player (6-foot-3) -- his dad, after all, is former NBA stalwart Popeye Jones. But Seth prefers to do work on the ice. A member of Team USA's Under-18 Worlds squad and one of North America's top prospects, Jones decided last week to bypass college and play for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. In 2013, the two-way defenseman could potentially be selected first overall in the NHL draft. The 17-year-old from Plano, Texas, might be raising the Stanley Cup before long.

Boys: Trimble Tech soars past Aledo in opener

February, 21, 2012
HALTOM CITY, Texas -- Chasten King scored all of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to spark Trimble Tech's 61-39 win over Aledo on Tuesday night in the Class 4A Region I bi-district playoffs.

King said he just followed head coach Wendell Ivory's halftime advice to keep shooting.

Boys brackets: 5A »   4A »
Girls brackets: 5A »   4A »
State tournament: Girls » Boys »
"We were off the first half, and he said to just keep shooting," King said. "We never quit. We kept shooting."

Bulldogs' head coach Wendell Ivory said King's shot selection was the key in the fourth quarter.

"Don't get me wrong, that's a tribute to Aledo's defense," Ivory said. "As their legs got a little bit weary, they couldn't close out on him like they did in the first half. He was able to get some good looks at the basket."

The two teams traded baskets throughout the first half before Trimble Tech's Julius Harris hit a pair of free throws to go up 23-21 at the break.

Aledo's zone defense shut down Tech's shooters in the third, but Trimble Tech's Damarian Gipson hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left to light a spark in the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs forward Jal Deng added a dunk under the basket to start a 13-3 run in the fourth to go up 48-30. The Bearcats never recovered.

Charles Hill finished with 14 points for the Bulldogs, including two high-flying dunks in the third quarter. Gipson chipped in 12 points.

Aledo's Matt Bishop led the Bearcats with 14 points.

Trimble Tech takes on the winner of Mansfield Summit and Kileen in the area playoffs.

UIL divides Fort Worth 4A teams into 2 districts

February, 2, 2012
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas - Breaking up wasn’t all that traumatic for the 10 Fort Worth ISD schools that constituted District 6-4A in the last alignment. It has been six years since at least 10 Fort Worth 4A schools weren’t crammed into one district.

The new District 6-4A will contain five Fort Worth ISD schools: Carter-Riverside, Dunbar, Eastern Hills, North Side and Polytechnic. They will be joined by Birdville the three Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD schools -- Saginaw, Fort Worth Boswell and Fort Worth Chisholm Trail -- to form a nine-team district.

Six Fort Worth teams will move to District 7-4A: Arlington Heights, South Hills, Southwest, Trimble Tech, Western Hills and O.D. Wyatt. They will be joined by Aledo and Granbury to form an eight-team district.

Wyatt football coach Zachary Criss is not sad to see the change.

“With nine district games, you have only one nondistrict game,’’ Criss said. “You have to be careful about scheduling because you don’t want to play somebody tough with the district opener the following week. The old district didn’t help teams get ready for the playoffs because you could go three or four weeks without real competition. That’s not good.’’

With one of his extra nondistrict games, Criss has scheduled Arlington Sam Houston, coached by older brother Anthony Criss, for Zero Week.

Anthony and Zachary say “Criss Bowl’’ does not do the game justice.

“Criss Extravaganza,’’ they say, is more like it.

Recruiting notes: Garland QB switches to Baylor

January, 23, 2012
With national signing day coming up next week, there's been plenty of recent recruiting news

If you have ESPN.com Insider access, the best place for updates about area football recruits is Damon Sayles' Midlands Region blog.

Here is some of the latest news from Sayles about local players:

Johnathan Gray up to No. 2 in final ESPNU 150

January, 19, 2012

Aledo running back Johnathan Gray moved up three spots to No. 2 in the final ESPNU 150 recruiting rankings, which were released Thursday.

That gives the Dallas-Fort Worth area the top two recruits in the nation. Denton Ryan defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., who is committed to Florida State but has been weighing other options, remains at No. 1. Gray is committed to Texas. National signing day is Feb. 1.

Find the final ESPNU 150 here.

Five-guard formula working well for Aledo girls

January, 18, 2012
With its lineup of five guards, the Aledo girls basketball team depends on full-court defense and an up-tempo style to wear down opponents.

[+] EnlargeMallory Powell
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.com Junior Mallory Powell is averaging a team-leading 17.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for Aledo.
Coach Rusty Johnson’s formula is working well for the Lady Bearcats (22-4), winners of 11 straight games. Aledo leads District 5-4A with an 8-0 record and is ranked No. 4 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 4A Top 10.

“We’re fortunate to have excellent guards, and my philosophy is to have my best players on the floor,’’ said Johnson. “We have enough height with Mallory Powell to defend the post. Offensively, we have a dribble-drive mindset.’’

Powell (5-foot-10) is the only junior on the varsity roster and the team’s leading scorer at 17.6 points per game. The all-state selection from a season ago also leads the team in rebounds with 7.6 per game. And she draws fouls, as 118 trips to the free throw line attest.

Alyssa Dry, a 5-foot-8 freshman point guard, tops the team in assists and is second in scoring with 14.5 points per game.

“Point guard is not an easy position for a freshman, but Alyssa has stepped in and delivered a lot of firepower,’’ Johnson said.

Senior Alanna Martin, a four-year starter, was the district’s defensive player of the year a year ago and averages 8.9 points. Sophomore Megan Wood and senior Caileen Tallant round out the starting five.

Although Hannah Loftin is not a starter, the 5-foot-6 senior is a key contributor. She is third on the squad in scoring with a 9.2 average and had a team-leading 21 points (on seven 3-pointers) in Tuesday’s 60-51 victory at Birdville.

“Hannah was all-district last year, but she seems to be more comfortable coming off the bench,’’ the coach said. “She could be starting, and I’ve talked to her about it. All she wants to do is win.’’

Johnson, in his third season as head coach, said Aledo had lofty goals this season with several returnees from last season’s 30-3 team. The 2010-11 Lady Bearcats were eliminated in a 59-52 overtime loss to Stephenville in the area round. Aledo was without senior star Logan Mittie for most of that defeat after she suffered a first-quarter injury.

“We had a pretty good run last season and our focus now is taking care of district,’’ Johnson said. “We have six seniors, but we’re still a young team. We’ve got things going in the right direction.’’

Aledo goes for consecutive district win No. 23 at 6 p.m. Friday with a road game at Fort Worth Brewer.
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- Birdville guard Jalen Murphy had the hot hand for the Hawks on Tuesday night, helping his team extend its winning streak in District 5-4A with an 82-64 win over Aledo.

As is the sign of any player on a shooting streak, even the tough shots that came off Murphy’s hand managed to bounce around anything and everything to finish through the net.

“My follow-through kind of was off at the beginning, so I put my backspin on it and it went off the backboard and went in,” Murphy said. “All shooters look for that little hot spot they have on the court, and I found a few in the corners and on the wing.”

[+] EnlargeAaron Esslinger
Travis L. Brown/ESPN.comAaron Esslinger's night included a slam dunk that pumped his Birdville teammates up.
Murphy led his team in scoring with 22 points and was one of five Hawks to finish with double-digits in scoring.

The Hawks (17-7, 6-0) have spent this season implementing a new defense that came in handy against an Aledo (14-8, 3-3) squad that thrives on slashing to the basket.

The new strategy is simply a help-side man-to-man defense that is packed together in the lane to prevent teams from scoring high-percentage baskets off penetration.

It was obvious from the beginning of the game that the defense was going to be a problem for Aledo as Birdville held its opponents to just one point for the majority of the first quarter.

“Early in the game, we did a nice job of packing it in,” Birdville coach Jeff Fitch said. “We felt like to be successful against these guys, we had to stop their penetration because they’re good at that. Most of the game, we were pleased with our defense.”

Also aiding Birdville in the first half were the three quick fouls taken by Aledo scoring threat Matthew Bishop, who was also the school's quarterback. The fouls kept Bishop on and off the bench throughout the first half, which never allowed him to find his touch.

Coming out of the halftime break with a 37-22 lead, Birdville continued its onslaught in the third, scoring several breakaway layups off turnovers and steals. Six-foot guard Aaron Esslinger put away the flashiest of these open-court scores, getting way up to slam down two for the Hawks.

“That really got me pumped up,” Murphy said.

As time wound down in the third frame, Bishop and Aledo wasn’t quite ready to say die.

After a whistle for a foul, Bishop walked over to the Aledo coaches on the bench, shook his fingers and said, “I’m feeling it now,” with a smile. The offensive game plan shifted in Bishop’s direction and his words would be verified by his shot, hitting three 3s in the final minutes of the game.

Bishop would finish the night second on his team in scoring with 13 points.

“I didn’t play that good and didn’t play much in the first half,” Bishop said. “Our team played hard but we have to play a little better to compete with them.”

Aledo’s Taylor Johnson led his team in scoring with a 27-point performance, with Bishop right behind thanks to his second-half scoring burst.

As the hallway point in district looms just one game away, Birdville holds the edge in District 5-4A in the Hawks’ quest for the school’s first boys basketball district title.

Moving past Tuesday’s victory over Aldeo, Birdville will have two of the biggest tests remaining on its district schedule. First is a match with Keller Timber Creek, who sat third in the district race coming into Tuesday and is motivated to win by leadership from the school’s first-ever senior graduating class.

The following Tuesday, Birdville faces second-place Trophy Club Byron Nelson -- a team Birdville just beat in a four-overtime thriller in Birdville’s gym.

The road ahead of Birdville remains tough, but Fitch said if his team can string together wins like Tuesday night’s, they should remain in good shape.

“It’s a good district and very even district and we just hope the shots keep falling for us,” Fitch said.

Girls: Aledo 70, Birdville 61: Aledo’s girls squad (17-3, 8-0) put on a shooting clinic Tuesday, hitting 10 shots from beyond the arc.

Aledo guard Hannah Loftin led the instructional, tallying five of the 3-balls with three falling in the fourth quarter.

Aledo’s full-court, zone press gave Birdville (12-13, 3-5) fits throughout the game, forcing several turnovers that became points in the first half.

Loftin led her team in scoring with 19 points, followed by Alyssa Dry with 16. Dry hit four of the team’s 10 3-pointers.

“That’s one of the things we do. We’re a jump-shooting team and a 3-point shooting team. We try to shoot 25-30 3’s a game. Them playing the defense that they were allowed that to happen and one of our shooters [Loftin] got hot.”

Tarleton State tops Aledo quarterback's list

January, 17, 2012
After four years of living in the shadow of record-breaking running back Johnathan Gray, Aledo quarterback Matthew Bishop will have the opportunity to shine at the collegiate level next fall.

However, the question of where that might be still remains with National Signing Day just around the corner Feb 1.

Bishop's focus now lies on the Aledo basketball team, but he said he is remaining in contact with several schools on the NCAA Division II level, including Tarleton State in nearby Stephenville.

"I'm not sure yet, but I'm keeping in contact with a lot of DII schools, but probably the top choice is Tarleton," Bishop said after Aledo's 82-64 loss to Birdville on Tuesday.

Bishop said he will make his decision on National Signing Day.

Bishop ran Aledo's read-option offense extremely well, throwing for 2,986 yards and 32 touchdowns and running for 550 yards and eight touchdowns his senior year.

Former NFL RB Bettis surprises Aledo's Gray

January, 13, 2012

At his photo shoot for the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year, Texas recruit Johnathan Gray of Aledo is surprised by NFL great Jerome Bettis.

Aledo star running back Johnathan Gray left the third quarter of Thursday's Under Armour All-American game with what appeared to be an injury to his right leg.

Gray confirmed the injury as a high ankle sprain via twitter shortly after the game.
@JGray32: Yes high ankle sprang. Well could be worse. $itiswhatitis$

Gray was his Highlight (Black) team's only offensive spark in the first half of a game that would end in a rout by the Blur (White) team, 49-16.

Gray was a common check-down target for the Highlight team quarterbacks, picking up 24 yards receiving in the first half.

The highlight of Gray's night was a 33-yard catch just inside the sideline that was brought back because of a holding penalty on DeSoto's Curtis Riser. Gray spun around and pulled in the underthrown ball just over a defender's head, dragging his heels inbounds as he fell out of play.

Gray will have several months through the remainder of his last semester in high school to heal his injured ankle before moving to Austin to play for Texas.

MVPs: Southlake Carroll's Hill, Aledo's Gray

January, 4, 2012

Class 5A: QB Kenny Hill, Southlake Carroll

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior quarterback embodied the “never quit’’ spirit of the 16-0 Class 5A Division I state champion Dragons.

Dec. 27: Coaches of the year
Dec. 28: Games of the year
Dec. 29: Newcomers of the year
Dec. 30: Best of the rest
Jan. 2: Defensive POYs
Jan. 3: Offensive POYs
Jan. 4: MVPs
Five times in the playoffs, including the 36-29 state championship victory over Fort Bend Hightower, Carroll was forced to come from behind. And whether it was with his arm or his powerful runs, Hill was leading the way.

Hill completed 63 percent of his 386 passes for 2,942 yards and 25 touchdowns. He carried the ball 281 times for 1,385 yards and 24 scores.

In the state title game in front over 42,000 at Cowboys Stadium, Hill threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more as the Dragons rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to win the school’s first state title since 2006.

Even more miraculous was the comeback engineered by Hill and company in the 28-24 state semifinal win over Dallas Skyline when the quarterback rushed for two touchdowns in the final 1:07.

Hill led Southlake Carroll to the fourth round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs a year ago and was named ESPNDallas.com’s Class 5A top newcomer. He is the son of former major league pitcher Ken Hill.

Class 4A: RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo

The record-setting 5-foot-11, 202-pound running back capped his high school career by helping the Bearcats win their third straight Class 4A Division II state title.

In Aledo’s 48-28 victory over Manvel in the state final, Gray gave the crowd of over 43,000 at Cowboys Stadium a treat by breaking the national high school career record for touchdowns with 205.

Aledo rebounded from a 1-2 start to win its final 13 games.

Gray, who announced his commitment to the University of Texas four months before his senior season, rushed for 3,905 yards on 346 carries, scoring 65 touchdowns. He added 567 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 28 catches.

For his high school career, Gray finished No. 3 on the career rushing list with 10,908 yards and finished second in career points with 1,232.

He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

Gray was ESPNDallas.com’s Class 4A offensive player of the year last season. He is the son of former Texas Tech running back James Gray.
The little stories that arose during the 2011 high school football season are what made it so memorable. Here are some of the ESPNDallas.com high school team's picks for "Best of the Rest" awards commemorating those stories.

Best 2-way player: Sabian Holmes. Holmes was Southlake Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill's No. 1 option in the Dragon's pass game throughout the season and tallied 138 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown in the 5A Division I state championship. He also was a reliable defensive back and made a touchdown-saving, diving swat late in the title game that became one of the key plays that allowed Carroll to win its eighth state football championship.

Best individual performance: Robbie Rhodes. The Fort Worth Southwest receiver tied a national record and set a state record when he scored eight touchdowns in a 66-21 win over Fort Worth Arlington Heights. He had 10 catches for a state-record 390 yards.

Dec. 27: Coaches of the year
Dec. 28: Games of the year
Dec. 29: Newcomers of the year
Dec. 30: Best of the rest
Jan. 2: Defensive POYs
Jan. 3: Offensive POYs
Jan. 4: MVPs
Honorable mention: Wesley Harris. The Southwest quarterback also broke the state record for touchdown passes with nine in the same game.

Best matchup on paper: Johnathan Gray vs. Cameron Washington. Two 3,000-yard rushers met for the first time in the playoffs when Gray and Aledo faced off against Washington and Corsicana in the 4A Division II state semifinal. The game turned out to be not nearly as great as it was billed because of the effort of Aledo’s defense to hold Washington to just 91 yards. Gray tallied 218 yards and claimed his 204th career touchdown, tying the national record.

Best milestone: 300 wins. Highland Park coach Randy Allen earned win No. 300 when his Scots beat Richardson J.J. Pearce 41-27 at Highlander Stadium. The win tied Allen for 10th all-time in the state with Gregory-Portland’s Ray Akins.

Best school districts: Arlington, Mansfield and Frisco ISDs had a lot of work still left to do long after the regular season ended as each sent two schools into the third round of the playoffs. Two Keller ISD schools made the playoffs in the always-tough District 7-5A. Mesquite ISD sent three teams into the playoffs and not many would have expected the Mesquite Skeeters to be the only team left alive in the 5A Division I region semifinals.

Best revenge wins: Skyline and Arlington Martin. It took five tries, but Arlington Martin finally ended Euless Trinity’s season early for once, beating the Trojans 19-7 at Trinity’s home stadium, Pennington Field. Skyline and DeSoto met for the fourth straight time in the playoffs and Skyline avenged it’s 38-0 loss to the Eagles last season with a 41-31 win in 2011.

Best under the radar star: Jake Oliver. Oliver of Jesuit had 108 catches for 1,637 yards and 23 touchdowns and was key in Jesuit’s district run after starting quarterback Jack Brezette was lost for the season with a knee injury. Oliver was a finalist for the Tom Landry award.

Slideshow: Images from the state football finals

December, 19, 2011
Southlake Carroll and Aledo made sure a couple of state football championship trophies didn't have to travel far from Cowboys Stadium to their new homes.

Click here for a slideshow of photos capturing the action and scene from last weekend's action.

On the strength of its Class 5A Division I state championship and unbeaten season, Carroll climbed a spot to No. 6 in the latest ESPNHS POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings. Dallas Skyline, which lost to Carroll in the state semifinals, moved up five spots to No. 14 a week after its season ended.

Other Texas teams in the latest FAB 50 include Class 4A Division I state champion Lake Travis (No. 9), 5A Division II champion Spring Dekaney (No. 34), 5A Division II runner-up Cibolo Steele (44), 4A Division II champion Aledo (45) and Arlington Martin (50).