MESQUITE -- There may have been questions about the Aledo Bearcats' chances of defending last season's state championship coming into Saturday afternoon's Class 5A Division I semifinal.

Those odds look pretty good now.

Behind a powerful rushing attack and stifling defensive front, top-ranked Aledo made sure it would have the opportunity to defend its title next week with a resounding 44-14 defeat of John Tyler at E.H. Hanby Stadium.

Aledo (14-1) will meet either Temple or Austin Vandergrift at noon Saturday for the championship from Arlington's AT&T Stadium. One more win would give the Bearcats their fifth state crown in six seasons.

John Tyler (12-3), meanwhile, suffered its third semifinal loss in the last four years.

Aledo quarterback Luke Bishop (4) tries to shake free of John Tyler's Jordan Owens during their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,

"(Nobody) makes it to the sixth round if they're just mediocre," said John Tyler coach Ricklan Holmes. "Aledo is a (well-coached) team; they're a traditional, winning team just like us. The best team won today."

Aledo opened up a 17-point halftime lead with two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half, and never looked back.

The Bearcats rolled up 377 rushing yards, the most John Tyler's defense allowed all season. Aledo quarterback Luke Bishop and running back Jess Anders each eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground, while the duo of running back Isaiah Mallory and receiver Ryan Newsome teamed for more than 100 yards as well.

Bishop led the way with 137 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, gaining most of his yardage on read-option keeps. He was also an efficient 4-of-6 passing for 59 yards and a touchdown. Anders, a UTSA commit, added 117 yards and a score on 19 attempts, and caught two passes for 41 yards and another touchdown.

Just as impressive was Aledo's defense, which shut down a John Tyler offense coming off a 64-point, 726-yard performance a week before in the quarterfinals. The Bearcats forced four turnovers and limited John Tyler to season-lows in both points and total yards (222).

John Tyler's Duntayviun Gross (19) looks for room to run on a kickoff return during the Lions' 44-14 loss to Aledo in their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,

"That's what happens when guys are where they're supposed to be," Holmes said of Aledo's defensive performance. "And then, they make plays. That's what football's all about: doing your job and doing it well. And they did a phenomenal job today."

John Tyler senior running back Jeremy Wilson, who entered Saturday needing 284 yards to surpass Earl Campbell's school record for most rushing yards in a season, managed only 24 yards on seven carries. He had one run of more than four yards on the day.

"You make sure you don't let that 2,000-yard back get those yards on you," Holmes said. "I think they did a great job with the scheme that they had on defense. It was fundamentally sound and it kept us from making plays with Jeremy."

Most of JT's offense was provided by senior quarterback Geovari McCollister, who struggled through the air with 96 yards and two interceptions but accounted for a team-high 95 yards and both Lions touchdowns on 12 rushing attempts.

"He's a dual-threat quarterback," Holmes said of McCollister. 'He didn't have a lot of success with his arm today, but he used his feet to get us out of some bad situations, and put us in position to make some plays. We just didn't capitalize on them."

John Tyler running back Jeremy Wilson (1) is met by a wall of Aledo defenders during their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,

John Tyler will part ways with 30 seniors, including four that have committed to Division I college programs -- defensive back Isaac Warren (Purdue), receivers Rodney Bendy (North Texas) and Nick Cain (ULM) and McCollister (Central Arkansas). With National Signing Day still several weeks away, a few more FBS or FCS offers could make their way to JT athletes.

"This class of seniors had a lot of class about themselves," Holmes said. "They were leaders, they showed a lot of heart, and that's the reason we're at the point we are today. It has nothing to do with what I think I know, it has nothing to do with what my coaches think they know. It has to do with how these kids play. And for 15 weeks, they've been playing pretty hard.

"Now, we move on to the next chapter in their lives, which is making sure they have a home to go to next year, whether that's a college or university."

John Tyler's first two drives went three-and-out and sandwiched a 27-yard touchdown run by Newsome, who lined up at quarterback, that capped a six-play, 63-yard march that gave Aledo a 7-0 lead.

Aledo was then stopped on downs at the Lions' 33, but on third-and-long, McCollister's deep pass intended for Bryson Smith was intercepted by Aledo senior cornerback and Texas State commit Johnathan Durham at the Bearcats' 6-yard line. It appeared as if Smith and Durham came down with simultaneous possession, but the official ruled in Aledo's favor.

The Bears turned that turnover into three points as Ben Rogers was true on a 28-yard field goal, pushing Aledo's lead to 10-0 in the closing seconds of the quarter.

Duntayviun Gross provided John Tyler with a spark by returning the ensuing kickoff 62 yards to the Aledo 34. Five plays later, McCollister bullied his way over the goal line from 3 yards out, cutting the JT deficit to 10-7 early in the second quarter.

John Tyler quarterback Geovari McCollister is pressured by Aledo defensive tackle James Williams during their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,

Aledo responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, which featured its first two completions of the game and ended with a Bishop 3-yard run on third-and-goal that extended the Bearcats' lead to 17-7 with five minutes to play in the half.

The Bearcats put a cap on a dominant first half by sniffing out and stopping a John Tyler fake-punt attempt near midfield with less than two minutes until halftime, and pushing its lead to 24-7 on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Bishop to Anders with 12 seconds showing on the clock.

Mallory scored on a 9-yard run to finish off Aledo's opening drive of the third quarter, as the Bearcats entered the final period with a 30-7 advantage.

A 34-yard punt return from Gross gave JT great field position to begin the fourth, and McCollister rumbled in for a 9-yard touchdown, cutting Aledo's lead to 30-14 with 9:09 remaining.

But Aledo recovered John Tyler's onside kick and took over at the Lions' 33 after a JT personal-foul penalty. Anders effectively put the game out of reach with a 3-yard scoring run with 4:49 to play.

"I'm going to look back on it as a very successful season," Holmes said. "I see us going back in the right direction that we need to be going in. We took a step back last year, losing in the first round. But to get to where we got to today is a phenomenal feat for the players at John Tyler. And the guys that are 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."

Aledo's Johnathan Durham (5) and John Tyler's Bryson Smith vie for a jump ball that was eventually ruled a Bearcats interception in their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,

No. 1 Aledo 44, No. 9 John Tyler 14

Class 5A Division I Semifinal
At E.H. Hanby Stadium, Mesquite

Aledo                   10    14      6    14    --    44
John Tyler              0      7      0      7    --    14

First Quarter
ALE--Ryan Newsome 27 run (Ben Rogers kick), 7:50.
ALE--FG Rogers 28, :15.
Second Quarter
JT--Geovari McCollister 4 run (Luis Duran kick), 10:55.
ALE--Luke Bishop 3 run (Rogers kick), 5:00.
ALE--Jess Anders 31 pass from Bishop (Rogers kick), :12.
Third Quarter
ALE--Isaiah Mallory 9 run (kick failed), 7:52.
Fourth Quarter
JT--McCollister 9 run (Duran kick), 9:09.
ALE--Anders 3 run (Rogers kick), 4:49.
ALE--Jonathan Esquivel 6 run (Rogers kick), :58.

                                         ALE                  JT
First Downs                          22                  11
Total Yards                         436                222
Rushes-Yards                61-377          27-126
Passing Yards                       59                 96
Comp.-Att.-Int.                 4-6-0         10-20-2
Punts-Avg.                      2-38.5           3-27.7
Fumbles-Lost                       0-0                2-2
Penalties-Yards                   8-65             5-51

RUSHING--Aledo, Luke Bishop 18-137, Jess Anders 19-117, Isaiah Mallory 16-87, Ryan Newsome 5-34, Jonathan Esquivel 1-6, Dillon Davis 2-(-4). John Tyler, Geovari McCollister 12-95, Jeremy Wilson 9-24, Nick Cain 3-4, Pierre Leonard 3-3.
PASSING--Aledo, Bishop 4-6-0--59. John Tyler, McCollister 10-20-2--96.
RECEIVING--Aledo, Anders 2-41, Newsome 1-10, Mallory 1-8. John Tyler, Damion Miller 3-47, Duntayviun Gross 3-37, Cain 3-14, Bryson Smith 1-(-2).

John Tyler's Nick Cain is brought down by Aledo's Jaxson Fletcher (34) during their Class 5A Division I semifinal Saturday in Mesquite. (Rob Graham,