The Aledo Bearcats (4-1, 3-0) showed their mettle versus the visiting Midlothian Panthers Friday night at Bearcat Stadium, coming away with a hard-fought 34-28 OT win versus the District 5-5A, D-II opponent.
Trailing 28-21 with time winding down in the fourth quarter, Aledo’s offense drove 68 yards in eight plays, capping off the march with a 15-yard TD pass and catch from senior quarterback Jake Bishop to senior wideout Money Parks to force overtime.
Midlothian’s offense took over to start the extra frame at Aledo’s 25-yard line, reaching the Bearcats’ 13-yard line minutes later.
Threatening to score (and put a stop to Aledo’s then 85-district game district win streak in the process), the Panthers instead found themselves on the wrong side of a devastating turnover.
Bearcats’ junior cornerback Demarco Roberts stripped the ball from Panthers’ slotback Jeremy McCoy, before fellow Aledo defender and senior safety Nathen Fingar scooped the loose ball and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown for the win.
Aledo Head Coach Buchanan said his team had gone over and worked on overtime rules and procedures before Friday’s contest, adding that the time spent on the subject paid dividends.
“One of the goods things is, during our inter-squad scrimmage, we actually had game officials there and we did a couple of overtime periods to show our guys how overtime went, because you go for years sometimes without having an overtime,” Buchanan said.
“The staff and I actually talked to them [Friday] before they went back on the field to let them know that, if we create a turnover it would increase our chances to win if they had a chance to scoop and score, or have a pick six, it ended the game immediately. And who would have thought, three minutes later, we were gonna get a ball that bounced right into the hands of one of our faster kids.”
Buchanan praised the heads up play of both Roberts and Fingar, as well as the resiliency of his defense as a whole.
“First Demarco made a great play defeating the block, getting to the pitch man and knocking the ball down and then a perfect bounce to Nathen, him being the baseball player he is, he fielded the bounce perfect and took it to the house.
“Anytime you face a wishbone, flex bone type football team, you know that if they’re good, which Midlothian is, it’s gonna be a physical game. Their offensive linemen are really good, their backs are really good blockers and their fullback ran extremely hard, so it was a very physical game.
“I think our defense was on the field for 37 out of 48 minutes and we did not have one defensive player ask to come out of the game or ever want to come out. That said a lot about how tough our kids are. That is what was so impressive to me.”
It was not only the Bearcat defense that came through in the clutch.
Buchanan said Bishop and the offense’s proficiency on that final drive of regulation was vital to the team’s win.
“Jake Bishop does a really good job of leading our offense,” Buchanan said.
“He knew what we needed to do, he knew how much time we had to do it. We practice it every week. And he didn’t make one mistake in that two-minute offense, and I’m not sure any player made a mistake during that two-minute offense. It was perfectly executed by Jake and Coach Jones, so it worked just like we planned.
“Anytime that plan comes together, it’s nice.”
Aledo and Midlothian each put up seven points in the first quarter, before Midlothian went on a 14-7 run in the second frame to go up, 21-14 at halftime.
The teams traded touchdowns once more in the third quarter, before the Bearcats’ defense clamped down in the final frame holding the Panthers scoreless, giving the former’s offense the chance it needed to tie the game and force OT.
Bishop finished 12-of-16 for 180 yards, three touchdowns an a pick.
Roberts paced the Bearcats’ backfield with 36 yards and a score on five carries.
Junior slotback JoJo Earle led Aledo’s receiving corps, hauling in six receptions for 99 yards and a score.
Senior linebacker Weston Reese and sophomore safety Bryan Allen Jr. led Aledo in tackles, with each contributing 12 (solo).
The Bearcats play the Burleson Elks (51, 3-1) in a District 5-5A, D-II game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Burleson Stadium.