By GREG WEBB
MIDLOTHIAN — At game time on Saturday, the cloudy skies gave way to bright sunshine for the Class 4A, Division II semifinal, as the Aledo Bearcats took the field against the Ennis Lions at Midlothian ISD’s Multi-purpose facility. But the wind out of the north negated any semblance of nice weather, keeping the flags at the south end of the stadium at attention for the entire contest.
The wind would have a dramatic effect on both teams during the match.
After a 0-0 shocking deadlock at the half, the first two scoreless quarters for Aledo this season, the Bearcats came out of the locker room with the wind and an attitude. Both worked out well for the Bearcats.
Ennis fumbled its first two plays from scrimmage to begin the third quarter. The first miscue cost the Lions a few yards — the second cost them the shutout and the game.
Aledo’s first score on the ensuing series, with a 9-yard run by Jess Anders jump, started the Aledo offensive engine. The Bearcats dealt more of the same for the balance of the game as they went on to beat Ennis, 22-6.
The win reserves Aledo its fourth berth in the state finals over the past five years. The Bearcats will meet Brenham at noon on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Aledo played Brenham to win the 4A, Div. II, title in 2009.
With Aledo’s initial score, the Bearcat defense responded in kind, forcing Ennis three-and-outs on their next two offensive series.
Quarterback Luke Bishop was the primary catalyst in Aledo’s next possession, with several carries biting off big chunks of yardage, though the drive hit pay dirt with a 5-yard run by Ryan Newsome. A bad snap left the score at 13-0, but more to come from the Bearcats.
Anders displayed tough running, when the running was indeed tough, and emerged as the workhorse for the Aledo offense. The fleet back, who spent most of the night fighting for yardage after the initial hit, carried the pigskin 30 times and finished the evening with 162 yards.
With the high wind, passing was hampered in both directions, with both teams sticking to the ground game for the most part, though the lone Ennis score in the fourth quarter was on a pass.
Aledo’s opening drive, which began at their own 24-yard line, was a nearly a definitive example of the offensive approach, as well as the result, of both teams in the first half – run the ball and throw sparingly. Eight of the first nine Aledo snaps saw junior quarterback Luke Bishop hand the ball to running back Jess Anders, as the Bearcats methodically marched downfield into the stiff breeze.
Though the drive was methodical, the chunks of yardage the Aledo backs were gaining were significantly smaller than any other game throughout the high-scoring season. The drive stalled deep in Ennis territory on a failed fourth-and-three attempt. The Bearcats had eaten six and a half minutes of the first period and gave up the ball at the Ennis 6-yard line.
Ennis failed to move the ball with consistency in the half, as the Aledo defense was still on the job until the offense could get on track.