MESQUITE — John Tyler marched out onto E.H. Hanby Stadium's field and staked its claim at the center circle minutes before kickoff.
Then Cujo waited.
Aledo senior Jess Anders saw the Lions and told his teammates to wait until the last second to make their way onto the field.
Then the Bearcats showed why they've won four state titles in the last five years.
Top-ranked Aledo rushed for 373 yards, and five different players ran for touchdowns as the Bearcats stopped the Lions cold, 44-14, in the Class 5A Division I state semifinals before some 10,000 fans on Saturday.
"They came out and they tried to take up the whole field thinking they were going to intimidate us or something," Anders said after rushing for 118 yards and a score. "So I grabbed the team, I was like, ‘Hey everybody, let's go ahead and let's get in the locker room and we're going to come out here and when the game starts we're going to have to let our game play speak for itself.'"
Aledo (14-1) will face Temple, which defeated Austin Vandegrift 76-35 Saturday night, in the state championship game at noon Saturday from AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
John Tyler (12-3) ended its season in the state semifinals for the third time in four years.
"You're going to always be disappointed when you don't get to where you felt like they played to be," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. "We just didn't make enough plays on offense, defense and special teams to pull this game out."
The Bearcats controlled the game from the start, and did it with the two things Holmes had said all year he hoped would carry Cujo to a title: defense and run game.
Aledo ran the ball 61 times at a rate of 6.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Luke Bishop gashed JT for 140 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, primarily utilizing the read option. Isaiah Mallory added 92 yards and a touchdown while Ryan Newsome and Jonathan Esquivel also scored.
Defensively, the Bearcats smothered JT senior Jeremy Wilson, who came into the game 284 yards shy of Earl Campbell's single-season school rushing record. Wilson toted nine times for 24 yards, by far his lowest total of the season as he finished with 2,124 total yards, 1,776 coming on the ground.
"You make sure that you don't let the 2,000-yard guy get those yards on you," Holmes said. "I think they've done a great job. The scheme that they had on defense was fundamentally sound and it kept us from making plays with Jeremy."
Geovari McCollister completed 10 of 20 passes for 95 yards while running for 96 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions. The senior quarterback's second touchdown run set a school record for points in a season with 651, passing the 2011 mark of 645.
McCollister graduates with 7,424 total yards in two years as the John Tyler signal-caller.
"We'll be remembered like Greg (Ward) and them were remembered," McCollister said. "They made it to the semifinals, we made it to the semifinals. We didn't finish the deal, they didn't finish the deal. We had fun and we broke records, but at the same time it didn't end like it was supposed to end."
McCollister was picked off twice by Aledo senior Johnathan Durham, the Bearcats' only returning defensive starter from last year's 16-0 squad.
The first came on the Lions' third drive after two three-and-outs to start the game. McCollister threw it deep to Bryson Smith, who grabbed the ball along with Durham, but the officials gave Aledo the ball at the 6.
"On the 50-50 ball like that, the benefit of the doubt always goes to the offense, that's why I was surprised when it went to the defense," McCollister said. "But as a quarterback you've got to let that go and move on to the next play."
The Bearcats then drove down 83 yards and booted a 28-yard field goal to go up 10-0, JT's largest deficit since trailing 17-7 against Texas High in the bi-district playoffs, a game the Lions came back to win 58-23.
There was no Cujo rally this time.
"We played the No. 1 team in the state; they're a worthy opponent," McCollister said. "They wouldn't be here if they weren't any good.
"Some calls didn't go our way, some plays didn't go our way, some balls didn't bounce our way, it just happens like that sometimes. We lost the game, my career at John Tyler's over. I had fun while it lasted, it just gets like that."
At every turn, Aledo's defense stuffed the JT offense. The Lions finished with 221 total yards, a season-low coming a week after they put up a season-high 715 in the state quarterfinals.
After McCollister pulled the Lions within 10-7 with a 4-yard plunge, the Bearcats scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the second quarter for a commanding 24-7 lead at the break.
The second score came after Nick Cain made a one-handed grab on fourth-and-3 but was stopped inches short of a first down, giving Aledo the ball with 1:51 on the clock. That defensive stop set up Bishop's lone touchdown pass, a 31-yard strike to Anders with 15 seconds left in the half.
Holmes tweeted at halftime "Second half will be different," but it didn't get any better.
John Tyler pulled within two scores at 30-14 with 9:09 to play, but the Lions ran just two more plays the rest of the game as Aledo had an interception and two fumble recoveries in the final quarter.
The fumbles came on attempted laterals as the JT special teams tried to make something happen. All the Lions managed to do was give the ball back to the Bearcats, who powered in two late touchdowns to seal the 30-point win.
"Don't nobody make it to the fifth round just because they're mediocre," Holmes said. "Aledo is a great team, great-coached team. They're a traditional winning team just like us. The best team played and the best team won today."
Aledo, which won state titles in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013, earned its 77th playoff win in program history. After last year's squad set a national record for points scored (1,023), this year's Bearcats team is making its own mark under a new coach.
"I think they had a little burr under their saddle if you know what I mean," first-year Aledo coach Steve Wood said. "This team has kind of been in the shadow of last year's team and they had something to prove too.
"There's some good football players over there, we're not without football players. They put their mind right and played together as one and that's why good things can happen."
Though unable to return to the state title game for the first time since 2000, Cujo bounced back from last year's disappointing first-round exit to make their fifth deep playoff run in the last six seasons.
The Lions will graduate 30 seniors heading into the 2015 season, including McCollister, Wilson and receivers Nick Cain and Rodney Bendy, who made up the majority of JT's offense.
"(We) had a good season; nothing to bark on or look negatively on," Holmes said. "I'm going to look back on it as a very successful season. I see us going back in the right direction that we need to be going in because we took a step back last year losing in the first round.
"To get to where we got to today is a phenomenal feat for the players that's at John Tyler and the guys that's coming behind them they've got something to feed on and look forward to because the '15 season is just as bright as the '14 season was."
Class 5A Division I State Semifinal
No. 1 Aledo 44, No. 9 John Tyler 14
At E.H. Hanby Stadium
Aledo 10 14 6 14 — 44
John Tyler 0 7 0 7 — 14
ALE—Ryan Newsome 27 run (Ben Rogers), 7:50.
ALE—Rogers 28 FG, 0:15.
JT—Geovari McCollister 4 run (Luis Duran kick), 10:55.
ALE—Luke Bishop 4 run (Rogers kick), 5:00.
ALE—Jess Anders 31 pass from Bishop (Rogers kick), 0:12.
ALE—Isaiah Mallory 9 run (kick blocked), 7:52.
JT—McCollister 10 run (Duran kick), 9:09.
ALE—Anders 3 run (Rogers kick), 4:49.
ALE—Jonathan Esquivel 6 run (Rogers kick), 0:58.
First Downs 26 11
Rushes-Yards 61-373 27-126
Passing Yards 60 95
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-6-0 10-20-2
Punts-Avg. 1-34 3-28.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 7-54 6-60
RUSHING—Aledo, Luke Bishop 18-140, Jess Anders 19-118, Isaiah Mallory 17-92, Ryan Newsome 4-27, Jonathan Esquivel 1-6, Team 2-(-10). John Tyler, Geovari McCollister 12-96, Jeremy Wilson 9-24, Pierre Leonard 3-4, Nick Cain 3-2.
PASSING—Aledo, Bishop 4-6-0—60. John Tyler, McCollister 10-20-2—95.
RECEIVING—Aledo, Anders 2-41, Newsome 1-10, Mallory 1-9. John Tyler, Damion Miller 3-47, Duntayviun Gross 3-38, Cain 3-13, Bryson Smith 1-(-3).