FRISCO — The air was electric last Friday night at The Star (Ford Center) in Frisco, as the powerhouse known as Aledo faced the Lions of Ennis. Probably the best two teams in State of Texas took to the field for the U.I.L. Region Finals (5A – Division II).

And these two tremendous high school football programs did not disappoint. The Lions, after forcing the Bearcats to display an offensive attack of 585 yards in the game, still had to hold onto their tails to the very end, as Ennis played relentlessly up to their final fourth-and-9 pass that fell incomplete, giving Aledo an overtime win by the score of 43-36.

If you truly love to watch high school football in the great State of Texas, then this game was exemplary of what Friday Night Lights is all about. No team that has 585 yards scored against them, should even still be in the hunt at the end of regulation time, yet the Ennis Lions, rebuilding their program in the second year behind returning Head Coach Sam Harrell, were going toe-to-toe with Aledo, the 2018 State Champions, with 8 previous historical No. 1 finishes.

This highly publicized and anticipated match-up against perennial champion Aledo, included the up-and-coming Ennis Lions coached by “Hall of Fame” Coach Sam Harrell, lived-up to the magnitude of its hype. This game had it all from a spectator viewpoint – highs and lows (much like each person’s blood pressure), edge-of-your-seat moments, crowd noise and excitement, adrenaline rushes that caused heart palpitations, some cheering, some booing, general roller-coaster emotions, and then OVERTIME. But in the grand scheme of things, this will be a game that will be well-remembered for many years to come. The Lions truly played with the “heart of a lion”, never giving up.

It was a contest much like the biblical “David and Goliath” story. Aledo was bigger, stronger, more experienced, and well-equipped with an excellent State Title senior quarterback in the form of Jake Bishop (QB rushing – 17 carries for 114 yards), an impressive wide receiver named Jo Jo Earle (9 catches for 128 yards), and a running back workhorse that hit the holes like a high-speed locomotive. This phenomenal runner, Jase McClelland (39 carries for 212 yards) has already committed to the University of Oklahoma. And barring injury, this athletic young man will undoubtedly become well-known in his future days as a successful Sooner running back. This 3-man show of Bishop, Earle, and McClelland put on quite an offensive performance before a huge crowd from both representative cities – Ennis and Aledo.

Ennis had been touted as a good enough defense to give the Bearcats a good fight, but instead, it was the Aledo defense that stood firm all night long against the Lions. However, EHS did get 3 turnovers, to none for Aledo. Unfortunately, Ennis didn’t cash-in much, even after the take-aways, but DB sophomore Devion Beasley did scoop-up a fumble and made a 72-yard touchdown return for the Lions. The halftime scored showed the Maroon and White behind the Bearcats, 26-14. The Lions could have easily folded their tents and headed back to E-Town, but such was not the case with Harrell’s crew.

After some much-needed adjustments during the intermission, the Lions came back onto the field with more zest and determination. Every time that Aledo thought they had the game put away, somehow the Lions would come roaring back and find the end zone themselves. With only 1:05 left in the game, the Lions went to rarely-used wide receiver – Skylan “Nemo” Simmons – and he hauled in a 48-yard pass to tie the game at 36-36. (Simmons caught 2 passes for a total of 59 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game.)

If the exhilarating game wasn’t exciting enough already, it then came time to go to battle in overtime. The Lions won the coin toss and elected to let Aledo take the ball first.

The Bearcats ran three quick plays, but they were suddenly faced with a 4th and 2 situation and their backs up against the OT wall. With confidence, they once again they put the ball into the able hands of RB McClelland, and he made 4 yards for a 1st down. Next, Aledo was flagged for a false start call, so the ball was moved back to the 17-yard line. At 1st and 15, QB Bishop tried to run wide right, but spotted no rushing room, so he reversed the field and found no Lions at home on the left side of the gridiron. Bishop victoriously galloped into the end zone to make the score 42-36, and the P.A.T. was good afterwards. What a miraculous run!

Next, was Ennis’ turn to take their OT shot. On 1st down, QB Collin Drake kept the ball for a 12-yard gain and a new 1st and 10. Drake then tried a QB keeper, but only gained 1 yard. On 2nd, 3rd, and finally 4th downs, Drake tried to hit two different receivers (Azain Brown and Layton Spencer), but the result was the same. On 4th and 9, QB Drake opted to target his favorite receiver of the season – Spencer – but he was closely covered by a Bearcat – and the ball was knocked away and fell helplessly to the ground. Game over, and Aledo had dodged an Ennis bullet, by an OT score of 43-36.

One of the Ennis folk’s signed proclaimed, “Aledo – if you want the crown, then you’ll have to go through E-town”, and that’s what it had literally come down to in this heart-stopping game of a game!

But if you are a Lions fan or a part of Lions Nation, take heart. Run down the 2019 roster and realize how many sophomores and juniors were a large part of the Lions’ success this year. And to the 2019-2020 graduating seniors of this team, please know that you have nothing to hang your head about. Just remember that you were a part of a special group of young men that “almost” beat a many-time State Champion team.

And make no mistake – the 2020 Lions will be back – bigger, better, more experienced, well-coached, and even hungrier next year. Beware…..