High School: District 5-4A

5-4A co-leader Birdville depending on seniors

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
10:01
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The 18-8 season record of District 5-4A boys basketball co-leader North Richland Hills Birdville is a bit deceptive.

Of the Hawks’ eight defeats, seven have come at the hands of Class 5A opponents. That includes three losses to current District 7-5A leader Keller Fossil Ridge, by margins of seven, six and one.

[+] EnlargeJimmy King
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comJimmy King is averaging 8.8 points per game and leads Birdville with 5.8 assists a game.
Tuesday’s 51-46 loss to fellow 5-4A co-leader Trophy Club Byron Nelson was Birdville’s first defeat this season at the hands of a team in its own classification.

The Hawks depend heavily on group of seniors that is long on experience and shooting ability and short on height.

“When people see us walk in the gym, we don’t impress them,’’ said coach Jeff Fitch. “Four of our starters are no taller than six feet. But with this group of kids, if I gave them the day off, they’d go to the recreation center to play basketball. They are gym rats.’’

Four of the five starters -- Jimmy King, Cris Sawyer, Jalen Murphy and Aaron Esslinger -- have been teammates since middle school.

*King (5-foot-11) was a first-team all-district selection last year and is third in scoring with an 8.8 average. He leads in assists with 5.5 per game.

*Sawyer (5-foot-11) was second-team all-district a year ago and is the leading scorer with a 12.5 average. Fitch calls him the best pure 3-point shooter he’s coached.

*Murphy (5-foot-9) averages 8.0 points per game and is second to Sawyer in 3-pointers.

*Esslinger (6-foot) is second in scoring with a 12.2 average and is coming off games of 29 and 21 points. Fitch said over the last year Esslinger is the most improved of the group.

Aaron Hughes, a 6-foot-7 post, rounds out the starting five and leads the team in rebounding (5.9 per game).

“Even though we lack a lot of size, these guys know how to make the extra pass and do the little things that give us a chance to win," said Fitch, who learned his trade as an assistant under Tommy Newman at Euless Trinity. "When you have four guys that can shoot the 3s, that’s a big equalizer."

Birdville (7-1 in 5-4A) hosts Azle at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Five-guard formula working well for Aledo girls

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
11:18
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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.”

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – Thanks to a 258-yard, seven-touchdown performance by Johnathan Gray, Aledo was able to take down Birdville 67-42 and claim at least a share of the District 5-4A title.

Gray moved into second place nationally in career touchdowns, passing T.A. McLendon of Albemarle (N.C.) with 183.

But so much flies under the radar when the top running back recruit in the nation hits the field.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comJohnathan Gray spends plenty of time in the end zone, adding seven touchdowns to his career ledger Thursday night.
Take, for instance, the play of Aledo quarterback Matthew Bishop. On the stat sheet he only completed five passes for 67 yards, but his 35 yards rushing came mostly off pulled read-options that kept Birdville’s defense on its heels to keep it from completely keying in on Gray.

“Matt keeps the team together, being smart with his passes, pulling the ball and reading the play,” Gray said. “When people try to swarm and look at me and kill me, that’s when he has the capability to pull it and take off for 20 yards.”

Also hidden behind Gray’s monster scoring night was the play of Birdville’s quarterback and running back tandem. E.A. Northey, the quarterback, ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Xavier Turner rushed for 177 yards.

Aledo’s defensive front was porous at times, allowing Birdville to pick up big yards off running the same read-option Aledo was successful running.

Northey’s highlight moment came in the second, when he rolled out on a 1-yard keeper and reached to just barely stretch the ball across the goal line while being hit, which brought his team to within 28-21 with just over a minute left to play in the half.

“They had a good plan and a good attack,” Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. “I told one of the college scouts in pregame, ‘Here’s a tip for you. You need to watch Xavier Turner for Birdville. He’s a really good player. He may not be Johnathan Gray yet, but he’s going to be a Johnathan Gray type player before it’s all over.’”

But when it was all said and done, it was all about Gray, who after all the records and scores had a rare experience Thursday: playing time in the fourth quarter.

“We’d prefer that he not, but with the way they were scoring points we had to,” Buchanan said. "It was great to see he still had the energy left and didn’t run out of gas.”
No. 3 ALEDO (6-2, 5-0 5-5A) at BIRDVILLE (7-1, 4-1)
7 p.m. Thursday at Birdville Fine Arts/Athletic Complex


TV: ESPNU

When we saw them last: Aledo crushed Azle 49-3 on a balanced rushing/receiving performance by record-setting running back and Texas commit Johnathan Gray. Birdville took care of business against Fort Worth Boswell, winning 31-10.

2010 result: Aledo had no trouble with Birdville, winning 40-17, en route to its 4A state championship in 2010. In addition to another stellar performance from Gray (313 yards, six TDs), Michael Mann had a standout game at receiver, tallying 102 yards on six catches.

What’s at stake: The District 5-4A title. Aledo would wrap up at least a share of the title with a win. If Birdville is able to pull off the victory, District 5-4A could be heading to a three-way tie among Aledo, Birdville and Trophy Club Byron Nelson, which accounted for Birdville’s only loss of the season.

Key matchup: Whoever wants to step up and try and control Gray. Even in Aledo’s two losses this year, Gray rushed for at least 200 yards multiple touchdowns. Birdville is going to have to match Aledo score for score in a shootout, which is much easier said than done, but Birdville has put up no fewer than 21 points in every game this year.

Players to watch: Beyond Gray, both quarterbacks are very talented players. Birdville’s E.A. Northey can dish the ball around in the short and mid-range game well and also leads the team in rushing with just over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Aledo’s Matthew Bishop has taken a back seat to Gray the past two seasons but is looking at a 2,000-yard passing season and has racked up 16 touchdowns through the air. Bishop’s passing threat has helped Gray put up the video-game numbers he boasts every week.

Prediction: Aledo 43, Birdville 21

Aledo RB Gray continues record book assault

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
10:01
PM CT
Eight games into the 2011 football season, Aledo running back Johnathan Gray continues his steady climb up the ladder in the National High School Sports Record Book.

If Gray and the Bearcats return to the Class 4A Division II state championship game for the third straight season, that would provide eight more games for Gray to continue his assault.

With 1,990 rushing yards so far this season, the 5-10, 202-pound Texas Longhorns commit has increased his career total to 8,993 yards, placing him 12th nationally. He recently passed NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith’s high school total of 8,804 yards. Smith attended Pensacola (Fla.) Escambia in 1983-86.

The career rushing record belongs to Texas native Ken Hall, who totaled 11,232 yards while playing for Sugar Land in 1950-53.

Gray broke Hall’s single season state touchdown record a year ago, scoring eight in the state finals to finish with 59. Hall’s 57 touchdowns in 1953 had stood as a state record for 57 years. The national single-season touchdown record is 71.

Catching Hall in career rushing seems beyond Gray‘s grasp, even if Aledo were to go to the state finals. Gray would need to rush for an average of 280 yards per game for eight games, six against playoff opponents. But then again, Hall’s record of 57 touchdowns seemed unbreakable with one game to go last year.

Gray has a better chance at becoming the national career leader in touchdowns.

With 41 so far this season, Gray has 176 for his career, third best all time nationally. He needs two more to catch the No. 2 mark set by T.A. McLendon at Albemarle (N.C.) in 1999-2001.

To catch national record holder Micheal Hart, Gray needs 28 more touchdowns. Gray is averaging five per game so far this season. Hart finished his career at Nedrow (N.Y.) Onondaga with 204 touchdowns in 2000-03.

You can see Gray in action Thursday night when the District 5-4A game between Aledo (6-2, 5-0) and Birdville (7-1, 4-1) is televised on ESPNU starting a 7 p.m. CT.

Other recent Gray accomplishments:

*Became only the third player nationally to break the career 1,000-point barrier. Gray has scored 1,052 points, 194 behind Hart, the leader.

*Tied a state record last week with his 43rd career 100-yard rushing game, placing him fourth nationally. The national record is 55 by Kevin Parks Jr. of Mount Ulla (N.C.) West Rowan in 2006-2009. With three more 100-yard games, Gray will move past Emmitt Smith, who had 45.

National High School Career Scoring Records*
1,246 - Michael Hart (Nedrow Onondaga, N.Y.; 2000-03)
1,076 - T.A. McLendon (Albemarle, N.C.; 1999-2001)
1,052 - Johnathan Gray (Aledo; 2008-11)
952 - Brett Law (Sheridan, Ind.; 1986-89)
924 - Kevin Grady, Jr. (East Grand Rapids, Mich.; 2001-04)
899 - Ken Hall (Sugar Land, Texas; 1950-53)

National High School Touchdown Records*
204 - Michael Hart (Nedrow Onondaga, N.Y.; 2000-03)
178 - T.A. McLendon (Albemarle, N.C. 1999-2001)
176 - Johnathan Gray (Aledo, TX; 2008-11)
160 - Terrance Wilkes (Wadley, Ala.; 2003-06)

National High School Career Rushing Records*
11,232 - Ken Hall (Sugar Land, Texas; 1950-53)
11,045 - Michael Hart (Nedrow Onondaga, N.Y.; 2000-03)
10,895 - Kevin Parks Jr. (Mount Ulla West Rowan, N.C.; 2006-09)
10,241 - Toney Baker (Jamestown Ragsdale, N.C.; 2001-04)
9,668 - Terrance Wilkes (Wadley, Ala.; 2003-06)
9,662 - Toby Gerhart (Norco, Calif.; 2002-05)
9,442 - Troy Fleming (Franklin Battle Ground Academy, Tenn.; 1995-98)
9,426 - Tyrell Sutton (Akron Archbishop Hoban, OH; 2001-04)
9,193 - Brad Hocker (Archie, MO; 1988-91)
9,076 - Demetris Summers (Lexington, SC; 1999-2002)
9,004 - T.A. McLendon (Albemarle, NC; 1999-2001)
8,993 - Johnathan Gray (Aledo; 2008-11)

*National High School Sports Record Book

State, national records in reach of Aledo's Gray

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
7:35
PM CT
Before Johnathan Gray trades his No. 32 Aledo Bearcats jersey for University of Texas burnt orange, his name will figure prominently in the state and national record books.

Records started coming Gray’s way when he was a sophomore in 2009 and equaled the state mark for most 100-plus-yard rushing games in a season with 16. He shares the record with three others.

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comAledo's Johnathan Gray has a chance to become the nation's most prolific high school rusher of all time.
Gray demonstrated a flair for dramatic last year when he set the state record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 59 by scoring eight times in Aledo’s 69-34 victory over La Marque in the Class 4A Division II state title game. Gray, who finished with 325 yards that night, broke the 57-year-old record of 57 touchdowns set by Ken Hall of Sugar Land.

Gray broke the state career touchdown record of 146 in this season’s second game and is up to 160 (tied for third nationally) after scoring seven times in last week’s 83-21 demolition of Springtown.

If Aledo reaches the state championship game, like it has the last two seasons, Gray would need to average four touchdowns per game to match the national career record of 204 (Michael Hart, Nedrow Onondaga, N.Y., 2000-03). He's averaging five per game so far in 2011, with 25 through five contests.

With 1,379 yards so far this season, Gray has worked his way to sixth on the state career rushing list with 8,382 yards. He is only 473 yards shy of No. 3 Wes Danaher of Corpus Christi Calallen (1992-1995).

Hall, who played from 1950-53 owns the national and state career rushing records with 11,232 yards. Traylon Shead of Cayuga (2006-2009) is second in the state with 10,298 yards.

If the Bearcats make a championship game run, Gray would become the national career rushing king by averaging 259.1 yards per game. He's averaging 275.8 so far this season.

Gray is within 2,666 yards of the state season rushing record set by Hall, known as the Sugar Land Express, in 12 games in 1953. Gray could reach that mark if Aledo plays 11 more games and he averages 242.4 yards.

Aledo (3-2, 2-0 in District 5-4A), No. 4 in ESPNDallas.com Class 4A Top 10, will host Trophy Club Byron Nelson (4-1, 2-0) 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bearcat Stadium.

Multi-talented QB leads Byron Nelson's big win

September, 27, 2011
9/27/11
7:02
PM CT
Offseason never arrives for Andrew Mitchell.

Fall is football for the Trophy Club Byron Nelson senior quarterback.

When the helmets and shoulder pads are collected and packed away, Mitchell moves over to the gymnasium for basketball, where he is a guard for the Bobcats.

Baseball is the final stop in the spring. Mitchell is a pitcher, catcher and first baseman.

In Nelson’s 28-21 upending of previously unbeaten Birdville on Friday, Mitchell put his versatility on display. He accounted for all four touchdowns with scoring passes and kicked the final two extra points when an injury sidelined the regular kicker.

“He’s great in the classroom, too,‘’ said Nelson coach Brian Polk. “To look at him, you might not think he can do all that he does. When it is time to go, he gets the job done.‘’

The Bobcats trailed Birdville (3-1, 0-1 District 5-4A) by seven points in the fourth quarter when Mitchell, in the face of a blitz on fourth-and-5, hit Dez’Mon Gassaway on a quick slant. The receiver broke a tackle and outran to defenders to pull Nelson within a point. Mitchell kicked the point-after to it, 21-21, and followed with a kickoff into the Birdville end zone.

After a Birdville punt, Mitchell took Nelson on its winning drive, culminating in Mitchell’s fourth scoring pass of the night, 4 yards to Gassaway. He finished with 246 passing yards and 64 rushing yards.

For the season, Mitchell is 45-of-82 passing for 671 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s rushed 35 times for 155 yards. And Mitchell’s success has come despite injuries that have sideline three starters in the offensive line.

Polk praised the defensive play of safety Josh Alderete, linebacker Andrew Dotson and end Halen Haire.

Next for Nelson is its homecoming game against Keller Timber Creek (2-2, 0-1) 7:30 p.m. Friday

Aledo's Gray sets Texas career scoring mark

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
11:05
PM CT
KELLER, Texas -- The price of admission to an Aledo football game these days just about guarantees a chance to witness history.

That was the case again Thursday night as Aledo running back Johnathan Gray became the career scoring leader in Texas and No. 5 in the nation after a five-touchdown performance in a 62-17 rout of Keller Timber Creek (2-2, 0-1).

The Texas commit entered the game with 890 career points and passed Texas high school football legend Ken Hall of Sugar Land, who previously held the No. 5 national spot and state record with 899 career points. Gray (920 points) is now just four points shy of overtaking Kevin Grady Jr. of East Grand Rapids, Michigan for the No. 4 position.

Gray finished the game with just eight carries, but racked up 209 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He also gained 61 yards receiving, including a 48-yard catch-and-run off a screen pass for a score in the second quarter.

Gray had touchdown rushes from 69, 15, 35 and 54 yards out -- all but one coming in the first half.

He finished each electrifying scoring play with a nonchalant ball-flip to the official and a quiet jog to the sideline, yet the state career touchdown leader said running the ball into the end zone is still as exciting as ever.

“If it ever got unexciting, you don’t want to play the game anymore,” Gray said. “There’s nothing more you want to do than get in the end zone.”

The win in the District 5-4A opener was important for Aledo (2-2, 1-0), which got off to a rough 1-2 start in nondistrict play.

“Taking those two losses to those two good teams -- that’s something you don’t want to do, but it happens,” Gray said. “You’ve just got to take it and progress through the year and make it what it is.”

What it is for Gray, so far, is nothing less than record-breaking, night in and night out, even on a Thursday night that marked his season low in yards in a game.

District 5-4A football season preview

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
12:01
AM CT
DISTRICT 5-4A

  • Aledo (16-0, 7-0), won DII state title. Coach: Tim Buchanan.
  • Azle (2-8, 1-6). Coach: Devon Dorris.
  • Fort Worth Boswell (7-5, 5-2), lost in DI area. Coach: John Abendschan.
  • Fort Worth Brewer (5-5, 3-4). Coach: Paul Sharr.
  • Keller Timber Creek (3-7, 0-7). Coach: Kevin Golden.
  • North Richland Hills Birdville (9-4, 5-2), lost in DI regional semifinal. Coach: Jim Skinner.
  • Springtown (7-4, 5-2), lost in DII bi-district. Coach: Brad Turner.
  • Trophy Club Byron Nelson (1-9, 0-74-6, 2-5). Coach: Brian Polk.
THE BIG QUESTION: How many more state records can Aledo running back Johnathan Gray set?

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Gray
Travis L. Brown/ESPNDallas.comJohnathan Gray, who broke the state record with 59 touchdowns last season, will try to lead Aledo to its third straight state title.
The Texas Longhorn commit broke the state season record for rushing touchdowns with 59 in 2010, while scoring 368 points.

Gray needs 12 overall touchdowns and 13 rushing scores in his senior season to break career state records in both categories.

With 7,003 career yards, Gray needs 3,295 yards to overtake Cayuga’s Traylon Shead (2006-2009) for second place on the state’s all-time rushing list. He needs 4,240 yards to overtake the mark of Sugar Land’s Ken Hall that has stood for better than a half-century.

Gray set state championship game records last year when he rushed for 323 yards and eight touchdowns in Aledo’s 69-34 rout of La Marque.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

RB Johnathan Gray, QB Matthew Bishop, OL Michael Wilson, SS Dayne Davis, Aledo; TE/DE Reese Richards, RB/DB Zach Wood, Azle; RB/CB Jonathan Epps, DL Steven August, Boswell; DE Anthony Washington, OL/DL James De La Rosa, Fort Worth Brewer; DT Mason White, WR Robert Lambe, Keller Timber Creek; RB Tyler Klutts, QB E.A. Northey, DT Nick Poole, NRH Birdville; LB Brandon Emmert, DB Billy Chappell, Springtown; RB Carlos Lowe, OL Ben Balduc, Trophy Club Byron Nelson.

DID YOU KNOW?

Aledo begins the season with a 29-game winning streak seeking its third straight state championship. ... Jonathan Epps of Boswell is one of the most well-rounded players in the district. Last season the running back/defensive back rushed for over 400 yards, had four interceptions and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. ... Birdville running back Tyler Klutts missed a 2,000-yard rushing season by less than 50 yards in 2010. ... Springtown is coming off a seven-win season that equals the best at the school in 12 years. … Trophy Club Byron Nelson won a respectable four games last year in its first varsity season with a roster composed of underclassmen.

PROJECTED PLAYOFF TEAMS

  1. Aledo
  2. North Richland Hills Birdville
  3. Fort Worth Boswell
  4. Springtown

FW Brewer squeezed out of playoff mix in 5-4A

November, 1, 2010
11/01/10
5:09
PM CT
It isn’t Fort Worth Brewer’s position in the standings alone that makes it impossible for the Bears to gain a playoff berth in District 5-4A.

Brewer is only a game behind three teams currently tied for second place with one game remaining.

That’s the good news. The bad news is Brewer’s opponent for the final game of the regular season is 9-0 Aledo, No. 1 in ESPNDallas.com Class 4A area rankings.

Even if Brewer (5-4, 3-3 District 5-4A) were to pull off a gigantic upset, it wouldn’t be enough.

Should either Springtown, Fort Worth Boswell or North Richland Hills Birdville, all with 4-2 district records, lose on Friday all three would still hold the advantage in the first tiebreaker used by District 5-4A, head-to-head results. Brewer lost to all three.

Springtown, Boswell and Birdville wrap up the regular season with home games against teams in the lower half of the standings.

Birdville meets last-place Keller Timber Creek, Boswell faces sixth-place Trophy Club Byron Nelson and Springtown goes against seventh-place Azle in the annual Blacktop Battle of Hwy. 199.

With the largest enrollments of the four qualifiers, Birdville and Boswell will compete in the Division I bracket of the Class 4A playoffs, leaving Aledo a chance to defend its Class 4A Division II state title. Springtown will join Aledo in Division II.

Comeback win has Springtown hopes blooming

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
7:55
PM CT
If the Springtown Porcupines go on to capture a playoff berth, chances are they’ll point to Friday’s 42-41 come-from-behind win over North Richland Hills Birdville as the turning point of the season.

Trailing 35-14, Springtown senior quarterback Caden Cowan orchestrated a second-half comeback that yielded 28 straight points.

Cowan, a three-year starter, threw for 306 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for another score.

The 6-foot left-hander went over the 1,700-yard mark in passing, eclipsing his 2009 total, and his 16 touchdown throws are three more than last year with three games remaining.

Before it could celebrate, Springtown (4-3, 2-2 in District 5-4A) had to stop a two-point bid for the lead by Birdville (5-2, 3-1) with 2:50 remaining. Linebacker Brandon Emmert knocked down the attempted pass.

Springtown is tied for fourth in the 5-4A with Trophy Club Byron Nelson (4-3, 2-2), its opponent in two weeks. The top four finishers will make the playoffs.

On Friday, the Porcupines host Keller Timber Creek, winless in 5-4A and 3-4 overall.

Springtown closes the regular season with the annual Blacktop Battle of Hwy. 199 against Azle.

Aledo, RB Gray roll past Boswell, 63-17

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
11:12
PM CT
ALEDO, Texas -- Ho hum. Another District 5-4A football game, another 60-point plus performance for the Aledo Bearcats.

The No. 1 team in the ESPNDallas.com Class 4A rankings took the foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and still buried Fort Worth Boswell, 63-17, Friday night at Bearcat Stadium.

Aledo (7-0, 4-0 in District 5-4A), extended its winning streak to 20 games.

The Bearcats haven’t lost at home since 2007, a streak that is now at 19 games.

Junior running back Johnathan Gray touched the ball twice in the second half and scored on runs of 61 and 63 yards. He finished with 302 yards on 15 carries and five touchdowns. His final four rushes of the game ended in what in Aledo should be called the “Gray Zone.’’ He has 24 touchdowns this season.

“In the first half it took us awhile to get into the flow of the game,’’ said Gray. “In the second half, we got things going. I credit the blocking of my line and my teammates.’’

Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said his running star is able to avoid tacklers because of two attributes, vision and acceleration.

“Johnathan had shoulder surgery in the off-season and couldn’t do anything for awhile and gained some weight,’’ Buchanan said. “But he’s back at 192 pounds now. He has great acceleration.’’

Buchanan said Aledo’s passing attack forced Boswell to change its defensive game plan with nine defenders near the line of scrimmage. When the Pioneers safeties backed up, Gray found running lanes.

Aledo sent a message by scoring its first offensive play of each half, a 58-yard pass and run from Matthew Bishop to Michael Hornsby 12 seconds into the game and a Gray run of 61 yards in the second half.

Scoring from distance is a Bearcats’ specialty.

Bishop’s faking ability enabled the quarterback to break a 54-yard run for the second Aledo touchdown. The quarterback hit Todd Christian on a 45-yard scoring pass late in the first half half.

Boswell (4-3, 3-1) saw its four-game winning streak snapped.

The Pioneers’ offense managed to spar with Aledo at the start, thanks to some big plays by Jacob Stone. The senior quarterback raced 23 yards for a touchdown to cut the Aledo lead to 15-7 at the three-minute mark of the first period.

With either his passing arm or by rush, Stone accounted for the entire 80-yard Boswell drive.

The Pioneers followed it with another long drive keyed by Stone’s 42-yard scramble that led to a 27-yard field goal by Cole Parton to trim the Aledo lead to 22-10.

Boswell receiver Caden MacNeill accounted for Boswell’s only score of the second half, tight-roping the sideline to turn a short pass in the flat into a 57-yard touchdown.

No. 1 Aledo looks to extend win streak

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
9:55
PM CT
Don’t think for a minute the Aledo Bearcats’ 2009 Class 4A Division II state title was an overnight success.

Or a one-time brush with glory.

Long before Johnathan Gray broke a tackle or Matthew Bishop delivered a pinpoint pass, the Bearcats have been building a winning football tradition under coach Tim Buchanan.

Since capturing the Class 3A state title in 1998, the Bearcats have made it to the state semifinals three times.

Yet there are signs the current version may be the best yet.

Aledo (6-0, 3-0), the top-ranked Class 4A team in ESPNDallas.com rankings, will attempt to stretch its winning streak to 20 when it hosts Fort Worth Boswell (4-2, 3-0) in a District 5-4A contest Friday at Bearcat Stadium.

So far, Gray has rushed for 1,232 total yards and 19 touchdowns as an encore to his remarkable 2009 season when he over over 3,300 yards and scored 59 touchdowns.

Bishop, like Gray a junior, has thrown for 1,134 yards and nine touchdowns.

Aledo’s signature win came in Week 2, when it defeated three-time Class 4A state champion Lake Travis, 14-10 on the road, snapping the Cavalier’s 48-game winning streak.

District games for the Bearcats so far have seriously lacked drama. Aledo’s average winning margin has been 54 points as the Bearcats have scored at least 60 points in all three.

Aledo last lost at home in 2007. It’s winning streak at Bearcat Stadium is at 18.

While its recent history with Aledo hasn’t been good (38-12 and 44-0 wins by the Bearcats the last two years,) Boswell can draw on a four-game winning streak it brings into the fray.

The passing of quarterback Jacob Stone has been the Pioneers’ chief weapon. He has thrown for 1,328 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Boswell takes winning streak to No. 1 Aledo

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
6:00
PM CT
Fort Worth Boswell’s four-game winning streak will be put to a test Friday.

The Pioneers (4-2, 3-0 in District 5-4A) travel to Aledo to meet the Bearcats (6-0, 3-0), No. 1 in ESPNDallas.com's Class 4A rankings.

Aledo, the 2009 Class 4A Division II state champion, has won 19 straight games and hasn’t lost at home since 2007.

Boswell’s defense came up with the key play in last week’s 35-33 victory to hold off Springtown. Jeffrey Hutto’s sack caused a fumble that Taylor Simmons recovered to clinch the win.

Cade MacNeill intercepted two passes in the first half, allowing Boswell to build a 21-10 halftime lead.

Boswell’s defense made key plays the in the previous week’s 28-22 victory over Fort Worth Brewer, claiming four fumbles.

Offensively, Boswell has thrived on the arm of quarterback Jacob Stone. The senior has completed 87-of-159 passes for 1,328 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s added 275 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Devin Duke is Stone’s favorite target with 26 catches for 386 yards and four touchdowns.

Aledo is led by junior running back Johnathan Gray (1,125 yards, 19 touchdowns) and junior quarterback Matthew Bishop (1,134 yards, nine touchdowns.)

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