NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas – Thanks to a 258-yard, seven-touchdown performance by Johnathan Gray, Aledo was able to take down Birdville 67-42 and claim at least a share of the District 5-4A title.
Gray moved into second place nationally in career touchdowns, passing T.A. McLendon of Albemarle (N.C.) with 183.
But so much flies under the radar when the top running back recruit in the nation hits the field.
Take, for instance, the play of Aledo quarterback Matthew Bishop. On the stat sheet he only completed five passes for 67 yards, but his 35 yards rushing came mostly off pulled read-options that kept Birdville’s defense on its heels to keep it from completely keying in on Gray.
“Matt keeps the team together, being smart with his passes, pulling the ball and reading the play,” Gray said. “When people try to swarm and look at me and kill me, that’s when he has the capability to pull it and take off for 20 yards.”
Also hidden behind Gray’s monster scoring night was the play of Birdville’s quarterback and running back tandem. E.A. Northey, the quarterback, ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Xavier Turner rushed for 177 yards.
Aledo’s defensive front was porous at times, allowing Birdville to pick up big yards off running the same read-option Aledo was successful running.
Northey’s highlight moment came in the second, when he rolled out on a 1-yard keeper and reached to just barely stretch the ball across the goal line while being hit, which brought his team to within 28-21 with just over a minute left to play in the half.
“They had a good plan and a good attack,” Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. “I told one of the college scouts in pregame, ‘Here’s a tip for you. You need to watch Xavier Turner for Birdville. He’s a really good player. He may not be Johnathan Gray yet, but he’s going to be a Johnathan Gray type player before it’s all over.’”
But when it was all said and done, it was all about Gray, who after all the records and scores had a rare experience Thursday: playing time in the fourth quarter.
“We’d prefer that he not, but with the way they were scoring points we had to,” Buchanan said. "It was great to see he still had the energy left and didn’t run out of gas.”