Bishop, Gray lift Aledo to 3rd straight state title

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Championship teams need to have more than one great player.

Manvel forced Aledo to prove it in the Class 4A Division II state title game Saturday, keying heavily on Aledo running back Johnathan Gray.

While the Mavericks succeeded in slowing down Gray, Aledo's supporting cast stepped up, leading the Bearcats to a 49-28 win at Cowboys Stadium.

The victory secured Aledo's third consecutive state title.

"It feels just as sweet as the first [title] did back in 1998," Aledo coach Tim Buchanan said. "It's great to win."

Manvel (15-1) made no secret of its main objective: stopping Gray. And it did a good job of limiting his production, especially in the first half. Long runs of 43 and 50 yards provided the bulk of Gray's 134 first-half yards.

But a player as good as Gray eventually breaks loose. Despite Manvel's stellar effort, Gray wound up with 241 rushing yards and his 205th career touchdown, breaking the national record.

"We really felt like we needed to shut Gray down," Manvel coach Kirk Martin said. "I thought we did a decent job of it. I thought we contained him all right, but he had a good night."

Gray's 37-yard touchdown run gave Aledo (14-2) a 42-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter, pretty much sealing the win.

"It was hard," Gray said. "Those guys are big. The record means a lot. It means our team has worked that much harder than any other team. To break that record, it's a team effort."

With Gray being kept in check for much of the game, quarterback Matthew Bishop (the game's offensive MVP) and his receivers picked up the slack. Bishop threw for 183 yards and three touchdowns to receivers Pate Davis, Willie Gibson and Parker Bradham. Bishop also rushed for two touchdowns.

He was especially good on third down, on which Aledo went 10-for-14. Conversely, Manvel went just 2-for-13, a deficiency that went a long way toward giving Aledo the win.

"That was a complete defense out there," Buchanan said of Manvel. "We had to grind for everything we got. They didn't give us anything. Matt did a great job of scrambling around and finding the open receivers."

Aledo (14-2) jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead thanks to Manvel's struggles on offense. Gibson opened the scoring with a 44-yard touchdown run after a reception on a bubble route. Todd Christian's 70-yard interception for touchdown put Aledo up 14-0 early in the second quarter.

The Mavericks played catchup for the rest of the game, but their stellar third quarter put them in position to spoil Aledo's three-peat bid. They scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives of the second half. Corey Seymour, who had 90 yards receiving and two touchdowns, caught a 29-yard touchdown pass to trim Aledo's lead to 28-21 late in the third quarter. The teams swapped touchdowns again before Gray's touchdown with 6:49 to play solidified the Bearcats' grasp on the championship.

"Toward the third quarter when they started to come back, we got together as an offensive line and got mad and started playing like the way we should," Aledo offensive lineman Michael Wilson said. "We took over."