Heidi Dutcher/WD Sports

Aledo senior tailback Jase McClellan (9) racked up 179 rushing yards and two scores on 20 carries in the team’s 34-14 win over Red Oak.

The Aledo Bearcats (12-1) held the Red Oak Hawks scoreless through the first three quarters, while senior tailback Jase McClellan carried the load on offense to the tune of 179 yards and two scores (20 carries) as the former defeated the latter, 34-14 in the teams’ Class 5A, D-II regional semifinals game Friday night at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.

Aledo’s defense proved stout in the trenches, reducing what would have been a 100-plus yard rushing  performance by Red Oak into 64 yards, thanks to big plays in the Hawks’ backfield which resulted in two of the latter’s rushers, Dakota Santos and Joshua Ervin each finishing with negative yardage (negative 26 yards and negative 28 yards, respectively).

Bearcats’ Head Coach Tim Buchanan said his team’s defense has come a long way across the board since the team’s regular season opener to now, adding that the improvement was visible in the Red Oak game.

“It’s been a big jump from the game against Denton Guyer to the game against Red Oak,” Buchanan said.

“Our safeties have gotten better every week, Nathen Fingar and B.J. Allen Jr. are extremely confident and understand the defense now which really makes a big difference. 

“Everybody on the defense is playing better, our linebackers are playing better, we finally have a rotation of linebackers that work extremely well including Max Lucas and Weston Reese on the inside along with Luke Reilly and then on the outside, Keenan Hess and Nolan Garcia. We’ve really figured out what each of them do best and are able to get them in games at the right time against the right offense. 

“The defensive front has gotten more mature and are now starting to get off blocks and go make tackles.”

In addition to holding the Hawks’ offense largely in check yardage-wise, the Bearcats’ defense forced two turnovers in the form of an interception (Fingar) and fumble recovery (Allen Jr.).

Even more, Aledo notched four sacks, each coming from a different player (junior Caden Anderson, senior Keenan Hess, senior Logan Thurman and senior Carson Barry).

Buchanan said that pressure on Red Oak’s quarterback proved crucial, adding that his defensive coaching staff came up with an excellent game plan.

“First, our coaches did a really good job of coming up with a scheme to put pressure on their quarterback, because he hadn’t really been pressured a whole lot,” Buchanan said.

“The kids really bought into the scheme, worked hard on it all week and it turned out really good for them Friday night.”

The bounty of defensive stops Aledo forced made way for McClellan, who paced the Bearcats’ offense in yardage and TDs, to take the game over on the offensive side.

Senior quarterback Jake Bishop (7-of-17 for 109 yards) added a score through the air, hitting junior slotback JoJo Earle (five receptions, 60 yards).

Aledo advances and plays the Ennis Lions (12-1) in the state quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ford Center in Frisco.

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