The second week of Texas high school football state championships got off to a historic start as Aledo earned a state-record 10th state championship in a 56-21 win over Crosby in the 5A Division II state title game.
Aledo running back DeMarco Roberts was the main man offensively for the Bearcats on the night as he finished with 31 carries for 254 yards and six touchdowns along with Offensive MVP honors.
“Number one, he understands that none of that happens without our offensive line,” Aledo head coach Tim Buchanan said. “Those six guys on that offensive line there are really good football players and do a great job of finding ways to get him into the second level.”
For Crosby, the Cougars capped off a 12-4 season with an impressive playoff run that earned Crosby its first state title berth in sixty years.
“Obviously, the sting of this one is very present right now to these kids but one day they are going to really look back at what they accomplished. These kids brought a community together, and they brought a community together in times of turmoil for our country,” Crosby head coach Jerry Prieto said. “They’re champions. Man, these kids are champions. What they did goes far beyond the football field and will have longer-lasting impacts than this one football game would ever have.”
The Cougars actually got off to a dream start in this one. After winning the toss and choosing to receive, Crosby drove 75 yards in 11 plays and took a 7-0 lead as Deniquez Dunn found Jaylen Herman on a slant route for a nine-yard score just three minutes into the game.
Aledo answered just ninety seconds later as Alabama commit JoJo Earle turned a simple out route into a 74-yard touchdown, evading tacklers down the sideline as he used his lightning-quick speed to race off for the score.
However, Crosby was undeterred. After Aledo committed a roughing the kicker penalty and gifted Crosby an automatic first down, the Cougars took full advantage as Reggie Branch plunged into the end zone from two yards out on a direct snap to give Crosby a 14-7 lead with five minutes still left in the first quarter.
Branch and Dunn were the playmakers on the night for Crosby as Dunn threw for 169 yards and a touchdown and added 113 yards rushing on the ground, while Branch finished with 74 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving on four catches.
However, from there, the momentum swung completely to Aledo as the Bearcats went on a 42-0 run.
“Our kids kind of got used to the speed of the game. It’s hard to simulate guys that can run like Crosby does. [Branch] and [Dunn] are fabulous football players. And they’re a really good football team,” Buchanan said. “We had to make a few little adjustments and it worked. We were able to shut them down.”
Offensively, DeMarco Roberts kept the streak of offensive scores going as he took a handoff around the left end and sprinted 32 yards for the score to knot the game up at 14.
On the next Aledo drive, a game-changing play came with the Bearcats facing 4th-and-12. With the Crosby rush bearing down on him, punter Clay Murador took off for an impromptu 21-yard gain to move the chains for Aledo. Roberts then used the second chance provided by his punter and finished off the drive yet again with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle to give Aledo its first lead of the night.
“[Crosby] had blocked several punts [this season] and we knew that they would come after us. Clay Murador is the fastest kid at Aledo High School. As a freshman last year, he could outrun everybody,” Buchanan said. “What we talked about is if he saw the rush coming and he did not feel that he could get the punt off, then he should take it around the left side. I’m saying that was probably the play that changed the game right there.”
Proceedings continued to go Aledo’s way as Cap Mooney came up with an interception, which Roberts promptly turned into points on a 25-yard touchdown run that extended Aledo’s advantage to 28-14 with just under six minutes to go in the second quarter.
Roberts then added two more touchdown runs on either side of halftime, one from 20 yards and another from one yard out, to give Aledo a comfortable 42-14 lead with seven minutes still to play in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with more Aledo scoring as Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi hit his receiver Brian Fleming on an out route for a 20-yard score to grow the Aledo lead to 35.
Fowler-Nicolosi finished the playoffs with seven touchdowns and no interceptions despite being a mid-season move in from California.
“Brayden has a really high football IQ and a really good arm. As he learned our offense, he got better and better every week. The first game that he played in at the varsity level, we had to take him out and introduce him to the offensive linemen. They didn’t know his name. He had been at the school for about five and a half, six weeks and he had played on the JV,” Buchanan said. “For him to do what he has done as a quarterback in our offense, which is a pretty complicated offense, is very remarkable for a kid.”
Dunn then finished off a Crosby drive with a seven-yard quarterback keeper to end the 42-0 Aledo run before Roberts found paydirt for the final time on the day on a 54-yard touchdown run with just over nine minutes to go as Aledo tied a bow on its 56-21 victory.
For Crosby, this will be a season that goes down in school history despite all the challenges the team faced playing during a pandemic.
“We worked hard for it, so it all made sense in the end. We grinded our tails off. We had a bad COVID outbreak that kind of set us back. We missed a whole bunch of workouts to work out with each other, but we still found a way to put in the work,” Dunn said. “Just us coming together and making a long playoff run was special for the community and us as a whole. And we really enjoyed the run that we had.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the record-setting 10th state title, Aledo earned its ninth state title in just twelve years and has now won three state titles in a row.
It was a memorable way for the Bearcats to cap off a unique Texas high school football season that almost never was.
“Early in the summer and the spring, we had thought that there was a possibility that we probably won’t get to play. For the seniors, it was depressing. But getting to play this season has been awesome,” Aledo senior defensive end Caden Anderson said. “Going to win a state championship in this type of year, it’s indescribable.”