Cedar Park and Aledo will have the honor of opening Baylor’s new $250 million football stadium this fall, when the last two Class 4A, Division II state champions face off in the inaugural game at the 45,000 seat McLane Stadium on Aug. 29.
The two teams officially set their first-ever meeting early last month when UIL realignment for the 2014-15 seasons was announced. Cedar Park coach Joe Willis and Aledo coach Tim Buchanan had both discussed the possibility of playing in Waco, which is just about halfway between the two schools, with hopes of making a matchup at Baylor’s new stadium a reality.
Willis then reached out to the Baylor coaching staff, who recruit heavily in Central Texas, and eventually learned that Baylor coach Art Briles had expressed interest in having McLane Stadium host high school games, continuing a tradition that goes back years at the former home of the Baylor Bears — Lake Travis lost to Cedar Hill on Dec. 14, 2013 in the final game ever at Floyd Casey Stadium.
The two schools are planning to commit to a two-year contract at McLane, with Cedar Park serving as the home team this fall and Aledo having home team honors in 2015.
Last season, Aledo made a historic run to its fifth state football championship — the Bearcats’ fourth 4A-DII title in five years — setting a new record for total points scored in a season (1,023) along the way. The other team to win the 4A-DII title over that five-year period? Cedar Park, with a 17-7 win over Lancaster on Dec. 21, 2012.
Most of the season, fans and sportswriters had predicted the two teams would meet in Arlington for the 2013 state title. For Aledo, blowing through their season with an average margin of victory of more than 60 points, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Bearcats would return to AT&T Stadium to play for another title.
For Cedar Park, which started its 2013 season with a big win over 2012 Class 5A state semifinalist Westlake, a three-point loss on the road at Abilene Cooper didn’t seem to depress hopes of returning to Dallas in the least. After all, the Timberwolves had started their 2012 championship season 0-2 before going on to win 14 straight. Yet, things came to an abrupt end on Nov. 30, with a 28-27 loss to Port Lavaca Calhoun in a hard-fought game that will be remembered more for the last-minute clock management issues than the 47 minutes of play that put the Timberwolves in position to claim victory on a last-second field goal attempt.
This fall, Aledo and Cedar Park will get a chance to start the season in what should be one of the more exciting games in recent memory, as both teams look to start their march back to AT&T Stadium for a shot at yet another state championship.