FORT WORTH – When Tim Buchanan became the head coach of the Aledo Bearcats football team two decades ago, he began to build one of the best programs the state has ever seen.
Now, four state championships later, the Bearcats are what every program strives to be – and that includes coach Scotty Pugh’s Granbury Pirates.
While the Pirates have quite a way to go to match Aledo’s resume, they have matched the Bearcats win-for-win this season. Both teams stand 8-0 with two games left in the regular season.
That, however, will not be the case after Friday night. The Pirates and Bearcats square off in Bearcat Stadium at 7:30 p.m., with the winner likely going on to capture the District 7-4A championship.
“I just told our kids this is a huge week, an opportunity for us to play the best team in the state,” said Pugh. “We’re not on their level yet. We’re on the rise.”
The Pirates would certainly take a meteoric leap if they could go onto the turf of the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 4A team and pull off the upset. Aledo’s closest contest of the season was a season-opening 44-3 win over Highland Park.
Since then, the Bearcats have a pair of 42-point wins, a 61-point win, two 77-point romps and a 91-0 shellacking that brought about a bullying complaint against Buchanan by a parent from Western Hills (it was dropped last week). Their closest win in district was last week’s 59-13 dismantling of Southwest.
In the meantime, all the Pirates have done is keep pace with the Bearcats, though the scores haven’t been as dominant. Still, Granbury hasn’t been shy about putting points on the board, averaging nearly 40 for the season.
Both teams have solid, efficient quarterbacks leading their success. Granbury’s Ryan Suitt has thrown for over 1,760 yards with 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Aledo’s Luke Bishop has 18 TD passes and has yet to throw an interception, but he will be facing one of his biggest challenges in Pirate defensive back Kevin Hennard, who had two interceptions against Trimble Tech (three for the season).
Suitt tuned up for the showdown by throwing three touchdown passes against Trimble Tech. Running back Malik Allen also threw a surprise touchdown pass against his former team, connecting with Skylar Baskin for a 54-yard score on the Pirates’ first play of the game.
“We knew they were going be expecting a run, and when I saw them collapse on defense, I saw my boy Skylar,” said Allen. “I’ve been begging coach to let me do some trick plays.”
Pugh understands his team will enter the game as underdogs and need more than trick plays to hand the Bearcats their first loss.
“You approach this from the standpoint that we have to play a perfect ballgame or it will be as ugly as it has been for everyone else,” he said.
IMPORTANT – BUT NOT BIGGEST
The Pirates can make mighty big noise by going to Aledo and coming home with a win, but is not the most important game of the season, said Pugh.
“We’re definitely not going to put all our eggs in the basket,” Pugh said. “We’re hoping to play several more games in the playoffs, and those are going to be more important.”
Aledo is headed to the Division II playoffs (small school), while Granbury is bound for Division I (big school). The only way this game can have an effect on the Pirates’ postseason is if they win and Southwest defeats Arlington Heights.
Otherwise, next week’s game against Heights in Granbury could play a much bigger role in playoff seeding as the winner could be the No. 1 seed in the big school division.
GRAY EXPECTED BACK
Pugh said defensive back Landon Gray should return to the lineup against Aledo after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. He was the team’s leading tackler through the first six games with 58.
Pugh said Gray could have played against Trimble Tech, but he wanted to rest him an extra week before Aledo.
CAME OUT THROWING
The Pirates came out throwing from the first play, Allen’s touchdown pass to Baskin. They only ran eight times in the first half for 7 yards, and only 28 times in the game for 83 yards. The leading rusher was Bryce Ables with 44 yards on 10 carries after coming off the bench in the second half.
“We felt like we had a few things we needed to work on, and I was very pleased with what we did,” said Pugh.
Following Baskin’s TD catch from Allen, Suitt connected with Brendan King for a 16-yard score, and later a 21-yard TD. Suitt and Nick Doughty also connected for a 12-yard TD pass, and Allen had a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
THEN AND NOW
It took 19 games before Pugh got his first victory as a head coach. Since then, the Pirates have gone 27-16 and are going to the playoffs for a fourth straight season – something done only once before in school history (1965-68).
Over the course of last season and this one, they are 15-4.
And now, they are taking a spotless record to Aledo Friday. Even Pugh acknowledged that it’s hard to believe the program he inherited – one that went 7-43 from 2005-09 (and four of those wins came in the 2006 season) – has reached this status.
“I’d have lost a lot of money if I’d bet on this a few years ago,” said Pugh with a laugh.
A LOOK AT 8-4A
Trying to figure out who the Pirates’ bidistrict opponent will be from used to be as simple as whomever won between Cleburne and Crowley, the two largest schools in the district. Now, however, the only thing certain is it won’t be Everman, the smallest school – which is tied with Crowley for the district lead at 4-1.
Cleburne, Waco and Burleson are all tied for third at 3-2. Waco is the fourth-largest school, and Burleson is fifth. Right behind is Burleson Centennial at 2-3, the third largest school.
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PIRATES 35, BULLDOGS 12
Granbury 21 14 0 0 – 35
Trimble Tech 0 6 0 0 – 12
G – Skylar Baskin 54 pass from Malik Allen (Josh Garcia kick)
G – Brendan King 16 pass from Ryan Suitt (Garcia kick)
G – Nick Doughty 12 pass from Suitt (Garcia kick)
G – Allen 1 run (Jacob Rose kick)
TT – Daylon Tarkington 61 run (kick failed)
G – King 21 pass from Suitt (Rose kick)
TT – Tarkington 2 run (kick failed)
First downs 13 12
Rushes-yards 28-83 43-143
Passing yards 217 93
Passes 9-19-1 7-16-2
Punts-avg. 2-33.5 2-41.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 10-82 8-70
Granbury – Bryce Ables 10-44, Travis Donahue 3-20, Eugene Geis 4-15.
Trimble Tech – Tarkington 29-173, Noah Soto 2-3.
Granbury – Suitt 8-13-0, 163 yards; Allen 1-1-0, 54 yards.
Trimble Tech – Austin Davis 7-16-2, 93 yards.
Granbury – Jacob Rose 3-72, Baskin 1-54, King 2-37, Allen 1-29, Doughty 2-25.
Trimble Tech – Ron Whitfield 1-51, Reggie Powell 2-22, Marquis Hill 1-13.
Dirk Glenn 16, Dakota Doucet 10.
Granbury – Kevin Hennard 2.