ARLINGTON - Stephenville did everything right - except win.
The Yellow Jackets (9-3) outgained Aledo (11-1) by 180 yards.
The Stephenville defense made Aledo one dimensional, holding the Bearcats to only 39 passing yards.
Stephenville had a lead in the fourth quarter.
So what went wrong for Stephenville to allow Aledo to celebrate a 26-23 overtime win in the second round of the 4A Division II playoffs at Cowboys Stadium Friday night?
Two things, Stephenville head coach Joseph Gillespie says. Two critical things.
“I thought the biggest deciding factors were field position and turnovers,” Gillespie said. “They had some big returns on special teams to win the field position battle and we didn’t create any turnovers tonight.”
Aledo won with a 13-yard touchdown on an option keeper by Matthew Bishop. He dragged would-be tacklers the final few steps to the end zone to end a classic battle between two storied programs.
The TD bested the field goal hit by Stephenville on its overtime possession. It was one of three field goals by German Chavarria, who hit from 21 and 34 yards in regulation before connecting from 26 in the extra session.
Aledo won its third straight against Stephenville in a budding rivalry that has now come down to the last minute - or overtime in this case - in seven of nine meetings. The Bearcats face Hereford in the Region I semifinals this week.
Stephenville led 20-13 early in the fourth quarter when sophomore Connor Washington scrambled to his right and then heaved a 30-yard pass to senior Cole Stokes in the back of the end zone. It was the second TD connection between Washington and Stokes and capped off an 86-yard drive, one of two long scoring drives on the night by the Jackets.
Their other was a 98-yard march to take a 13-6 lead with only 10 seconds left in the opening half.
Washington and Charlie Riola hooked up for a pair of third down conversions on the second quarter drive, first for 31 yards on third-and-five, and later for 10 yards on third-and nine.
Washington finished 21-37 passing for 206 yards. Riola had a game-high 71 receiving yards on six grabs.
Myles carried the ball three times including once to pick up a third-down conversion, and also had a reception on the drive, which ended with Washington and Stokes hooking up from nine yards out.
Myles racked up 159 yards on 24 carries and 42 yards on eight receptions. He finished his junior season with 1,830 yards on the ground and 469 through the air. Arguably his most impressive stat was 282 carries without a single fumble.
Like heavyweights trading punches, Aledo had an answer every time Stephenville jumped on top.
The Bearcat defense forced Stephenville to punt on the opening possession of the second half, and Aledo needed just five plays to tie the score on an 11-yard pass from Bishop to Trey Ozee, making it 13-13 with 8:29 left in the third.
After Stephenville took the lead again, this time in the fourth, the Bearcats turned to Grey to save the day. The sophomore sensation, who was a workhorse with 171 yards on 31 carries, ripped off a 33-yard sprint, setting up his own 12-yard scoring run to tie it up.
Grey’s performance put him over the 2,000-yard mark in rushing this season. He has now run for 2,057 yards and 38 TDs.
Late in regulation, Aledo had the ball and did everything possible to avoid giving it back to Stephenville, including going for a first down on fourth-and-one at its own 29 with less than a minute left. Ozee gained two yards and the Bearcats ran out the clock.
Needing a field goal in overtime, Aledo coach Tim Buchanan decided he would rather go for it on fourth-and-one again. This time it was Grey with the carry, gaining three yards and a new set of downs. Bishop galloped in for the win on the next play.
“I wasn’t surprised they went for it in overtime because I know Coach Buchanan doesn’t have a lot of faith in his field goal unit,” Gillespie said. “He does have a lot of faith in Johnathan Grey.”
Gillespie said he was surprised, however, when the Bearcats went for it on fourth down at the end of regulation.
Stephenville outgained Aledo 417-237. The Jackets outran the Bearcats 211-198 and out-passed them 206-39.
But Stephenville surrendered a big special teams play - a 93-yard punt return by Cameron Cunningham to put Aledo up 6-0 (the extra point kick failed) - and had to settle for field goals twice in the first half to tie the score.
Stephenville turned the ball over once on an interception by Aledo linebacker Dillon Hawkins. Aledo never gave the ball away.
It appeared the Bearcats had given it away on a kickoff return. After giving a weak fair catch signal, an Aledo return man appeared to muff the high pooch kick from Stephenville, which had just tied the game at 6-6.
The loose ball was recovered by the Jackets, but the officials ruled the play had been blown dead and the ball belonged to Aledo.
“(The official) told me he thought the kid had it (in his possession) long enough to blow the play dead as a fair catch,” Gillespie said of the explanation he received. “I think he was trying to protect (the return man) and didn’t want to tell me it was an inadvertent whistle.”
It proved to be the only time either team put the ball on the field all night.
Gillespie, who is 19-7 overall and 4-2 in the playoffs after two seasons as head coach, shared an emotional moment with his team after the game.
“I told them how much I love them and how much I appreciate all the hard work they have done to take us on this ride,” he said. “There were a lot of people who didn’t give us a chance to do much of anything this year, but we accomplished a lot because these are great young men with great character.”