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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Experienced Denison takes on young Aledo team

The Denison Yellow Jackets hope experience gives them an advantage over a young Aledo team in a matchup between very similar teams.

Denison (13-1) features nine three-year starters while a handful of sophomores has led Aledo to a 13-1 record and a berth in the Class 4A Division II state semifinals at 2 p.m. Saturday at Denton's C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.

Both teams rely on their top-flight running games and bruising defensive front sevens, but a few more years of seasoning may separate Denison.

"They're mirrors of us offensively," Denison coach Cody White said. "They run the football out of the gun. We're pretty similar. It might be a pretty short game."

Aledo's personnel looks much like Denison's did in 2007 when the Yellow Jackets started nine sophomores. The difference is Denison missed the playoffs that year while Aledo is a win away from the state title game.

"I actually told [Aledo head coach Tim Buchanan] 'You ought to throw this one because you're probably going to win it the next two years,'" White joked. "He said he wouldn't do that, so we're going to have to play."

Sophomores lead the Bearcats as QB Matt Bishop and RB Jonathan Gray account for the majority of Aledo's offensive production. Gray rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns in Aledo's 34-22 win over Everman last week.

Denison took its lumps with QB Jordan Taylor and RB D.J. Jones in 2007, but now benefit from it. Taylor rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns in Denison's 49-35 win over Sulphur Springs while Jones added 168.

Jones and Gray are among the best running backs in the state. Jones holds scholarship offers from Florida, Texas Tech and Texas A&M among others while Gray's natural size and speed make him a potential prospect in 2012.

Both teams excel in run defense, so the back that has the better day may lead his team to victory.

"The strength of our team is our running game and the strength of their defense is their run defense," White said. "That's going to be a huge key to the whole deal."