Gray and Aledo battle Birdville on national TV

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


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