By Sean Collins Dallas Morning News 12:07 PM on Jan 6, 2021
The Aledo football players were skeptical when Tim Buchanan arrived as the school’s new head coach in 1993. These were players who had a new coach every year, and sometimes one wouldn’t even stay for that long.
When Buchanan had his Aledo gear and whistle, he wasn’t thinking about the prospect of winning state championships or going on dominant streaks that would make Aledo what it is today — a Texas high school football powerhouse with eight state titles in a decade and a chance to claim its 10th with a championship this January.
That hardly crossed his mind.
He was the fifth head coach in four years. One of them only stayed for two days.
“I spent more time trying to build trust in the kids, that they would trust that I was going to be here,” Buchanan said. “They never had a coach stay, and most of them hadn’t had a coach stay through January in their high school careers. They didn’t think I was going to be around.”
He was at the Aledo fieldhouse every day except Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. And when the kids finally came around, they didn’t do anything special. Each day was simply about showing up and working hard.
Now Aledo is the gold standard for high school football in Texas, tied with Richland Springs for the most state titles in state history. Championships in 1998, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019 followed Buchanan’s strategy of implementing trust and consistency.
Now Aledo (11-1) has a semifinal game against Wichita Falls Rider (11-2) in the District 5AII semifinals for a crack at another state title game.
Even today, with powerhouse athletes and a target on their backs as the team to beat each year, Buchanan’s methods haven’t changed much. Buchanan did leave coaching in 2014 to swap roles with Steve Wood and become the district athletic director. Buchanan returned to his role, exchanging with Wood again and becoming head coach in 2019.
He won a championship the same year, and can make it three straight with another this season.
“We haven’t brought up a three-peat one time with our kids this year. We don’t even talk about winning,” Buchanan said. “Cleaning out the locker, picking up trash, blocking and tackling. That’s what we talk about instead of winning state championships. If you spend all your time worried about winning, I promise you, that’s not how you win football games.”
Here’s a closer look at Aledo’s nine championships, and what was memorable about each of those runs:
1998, 3AI: Aledo 14, Cuero 7
The first of many to come. Aledo came out on top of a low-scoring championship game against Cuero 23 years ago to claim its first state title. Matt Saunders secured the championship with a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. While it would take nearly a decade to return to glory, Aledo’s championship history started here.
2009, 4AII: Aledo 35, Brenham 21
Heard of Johnathan Gray? These next few years should help out. He really made a splash as a sophomore running back in this championship game, rushing for 252 yards and four touchdowns to clinch a second state championship. Gray sparked an Aledo run that would result in three straight state titles and an eventual dynasty.
2010, 4AII: Aledo 69, La Marque 34
Gray was far from finished. Actually, he doubled his touchdown numbers in his second state championship trip, finishing with 320 yards and eight touchdowns on 29 carries. Gray was a buzzsaw all season, finishing the year with 59 touchdowns, breaking a record that was held by Kenneth Hall of Sugar Land in 1953.
2011, 4AII: Aledo 49, Manvel 28
As if Gray and Aledo had much to prove in a three-peat title run. Gray recorded 241 yards and a touchdown in this rendition of an Aledo state championship. But most notably, Gray concluded his high school career by setting a national record of 205 touchdowns. He went on to play as a Longhorn, and scored 17 touchdowns wearing burnt orange. He finished his high school career as the state’s second leading rusher (10,889 yards, just 343 yards shy of Hall’s all-time mark).
2013, 4AII: Aledo 38, Brenham 10
Buchanan got his fifth state championship as Aledo’s head coach, and his defense was a brick wall this time against a Brenham team that fell in the same game to Aledo before. Brenham was on a 14-game winning streak before Aledo snapped it in the championship game. Aledo linebacker Tyson Mauser had a fumble recovery and an interception in the game
2014, 5AI: Aledo 49, Temple 45
Credit to Temple. It gave Aledo a tougher game than the previous three championships. Aledo quarterback Luke Bishop had a day, registering 122 passing yards, two touchdowns through the air, 169 yards on the ground and two more rushing touchdowns. The difference in this one was two Aledo interceptions, which sealed back-to-back rings.
2016, 5AII: Aledo 24, Corpus Christi Calallen 16
“Defense is always in the shadows, and that’s OK,” Aledo linebacker Rhett Harris told The News’ Greg Riddle in 2016. Aledo had five sacks to secure the team’s first championship in, well, two years. This was championship number seven, and Aledo was suddenly one trophy short of the state record. Of course, that record would belong to Aledo soon.
2018, 5AII: Aledo 55, Fort Bend Marshall 19
The people love a comeback story. Aledo lost to College Station in the state championship game in 2017, so it had to wait a whole season to tie the state record for most titles. Aledo answered with a fury, dominating its way to a 16-0 season. It was up 28-12 at halftime and broke the game open in the second half to secure its seventh ring in 10 years.
2019, 5AII: Aledo 45, Fort Bend Marshall 42
History. It was only 21 years prior to Aledo’s ninth 11-man state championship that Buchanan got his team on the right path. Fort Bend Marshall had to suffer a heart-breaker, reviving itself after losing big in 2018 and nearly completing a comeback to spoil Aledo’s record.
2020-21, 5AII: vs. Wichita Falls Rider in state semifinals
We don’t know the end result yet, but we can put the run into perspective. Aledo is one win over Rider in the state semifinals away from another trip to the title game. Winning another ring would mean a 10th championship in 12 seasons. When talking about Michael Jordan, one of the most impressive feats is speaking about the second three-peat. Aledo could have one too.