CORINTH — Most football fans pay closer attention to offense and defense than their favorite team’s kicking game and return game.
Every football coach knows special teams is just as important as offense and defense, and Lake Dallas head coach Michael Young was shown that the hard way Friday night against rival Guyer.
The Wildcats jumped out to a big first-quarter lead thanks to mistake after mistake in the Falcons’ kicking game, and Guyer went on to throttle the Falcons 63-13 to remain perfect in District 5-4A play.
“Our special teams were horrible,” Young said.
It all started when Young elected to defer after winning the coin toss and kick off to start the game. Guyer’s potent offense was immediately put in a short field after Josh Harris returned the opening kick 56 yards, allowing the Wildcats to start the game at the Lake Dallas 34-yard line.
Four plays later, Guyer was in the end zone as Jerrod Heard found Ellis Jefferson on a fade for a 22-yard strike.
“Every team we play, we need to come out with that intensity to jump on top of them and bury them,” Jefferson said after his team jumped out to 21-0 first-quarter lead. “That’s the intensity we came out with tonight.”
It was a stark contrast from last week’s game, which saw the Wildcats (5-2, 4-0) beat Trophy Club Byron Nelson soundly after the teams played a scoreless first quarter.
“I thought it was important we started fast,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “We started slow last week and it was real important to start fast against them and get ahead of the chains and get ahead of the scoreboard and make them try to play catch-up.”
The early offensive explosion continued for Guyer after the Jefferson touchdown, and once again, it was thanks to the Wildcats’ special teams.
Tavi Sanches returned a Lake Dallas punt 48 yards to the Falcons’ 20-yard line. Two plays later, Guyer was in the end zone again on a 1-yard plunge from Richard Whitaker.
Minutes later, Guyer capitalized on another special teams mistake to get another short field as Lake Dallas (3-4, 1-3) tried a fake punt, but Marshall Dominy was stuffed for a 1-yard loss to give Guyer the ball at the Falcons’ 37-yard line.
Five plays later, Heard found tight end Jonathan Pershall on a play-action pass for a 2-yard touchdown to give Guyer a 21-0 lead before the first quarter expired.
“We had to make something happen,” Young said of the failed fake punt attempt. “We weren’t trying to play to a 40-10 game. I think you have to make some plays, and we thought it looked good the way we lined up. They just made a good play.”
Later in the game, the kicking game had another costly mistake as the Falcons’ defense forced a punt after a 14-yard touchdown pass from Dominy to Bryce Williams to pull Lake Dallas within 21-6.
Lake Dallas returner Josh Jackson muffed the 38-yard punt, and Guyer recovered at the Falcons’ 21. It took Guyer three plays to capitalize, scoring on a 6-yard run by sophomore Anthony Taylor, who scored on his first varsity carry after being called up from junior varsity to replace the injured D.J. Breedlove.
After Dominy threw that touchdown pass to Williams, he didn’t return after suffering an apparent concussion as he was seen wandering around the sideline as the first half ended. Young said he would be examined after the game, but he wasn’t seen on the Lake Dallas sideline after halftime.
Aside from the special teams play, Guyer’s rushing attack was the story of the night, as the Wildcats piled up 431 total yards, with all but 45 coming on the ground.
The Wildcats were led by senior running back Richard Whitaker, who usually splits time with Breedlove but got feature-back status Friday night. He took advantage, carrying the ball 15 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor finished with 88 yards on nine carries and three scores, and Heard racked up 121 yards on 11 carries while passing for two scores.
“I’ve said it from Day 1, we are better from tackle to tackle than we’ve ever been at Guyer High School,” Walsh said. “We’re deep at running back, too. That proved true tonight when Anthony came up. Breedlove starts for a reason, but I don’t think we miss a beat.”
The game got chippy in the second half when Guyer tackle Patrick Morris had his helmet ripped off on consecutive plays. On the first of the two plays, he was given a personal foul as Lake Dallas defensive end Graysen Schantz also lost his helmet as the two were tangled up.
On the next play, the two were tangled up again, but Morris’ helmet was the only one to fly off and Schantz, Lake Dallas’ best defensive player, was flagged for a personal foul and ejected from the game with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter. Two plays later, Guyer took a 43-6 lead on a 23-yard touchdown run from Taylor.
“It got too ugly,” Walsh said when asked if he expected to see tempers flare up in such an emotional game. “The officials lost control of it for a little bit, and I probably lost control with them. But we regained our control.”
Later in the game, Guyer added insult to injury when middle linebacker Terence Belton scooped up a fumble from Lake Dallas backup quarterback Brandon Simpson and returned it 20 yards to the end zone to put Guyer up 57-13.
Lake Dallas was held to 228 yards, despite Simpson breaking off some long runs after replacing Dominy, leaving Walsh pleased with his defense’s performance.
“We knew they were going to, but they threw a bunch of different looks at us,” Walsh said. “They did a lot of things they haven’t even shown on film. We prepared our kids for that, knowing they were going to be searching. I was proud of the way we got lined up. A few plays hit us, but we were patient and played great defense tonight.”
Lake Dallas, which has now lost three straight games, will look to rebound Thursday night against last-place Wichita Falls.
Guyer has a much-anticipated matchup with Wichita Falls Rider on Friday night at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex that will likely decide the 5-4A championship, as both teams will enter with perfect district marks.
“When the schedule came out, we felt like it was going to come down to Wichita Falls Rider and Guyer High School,” Walsh said. “We’re there now, and both teams have to take care of business. It’ll be a great Friday night.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is email@example.com .
Guyer 63, Lake Dallas 13
G — Ellis Jefferson 22 pass from Jerrod Heard (Brad Grems kick), 10:13
G — Richard Whitaker 1 run (Grems kick), 4:58
G — Jonathan Pershall 2 pass from Heard (Grems kick), 1:17
LD — Bryce Williams 14 pass from Marshall Dominy (kick blocked), 7:33
G — Anthony Taylor 6 run (Josh Harris pass from Ellis Jefferson), 4:40
G — Whitaker 7 run (Grems kick), 6:46
G — Taylor 23 run (Grems kick), 4:00
LD — Brandon Simpson 2 run (Logan Stewart kick), 11:22
G — Whitaker 2 run (Grems kick), 8:14
G — Terence Belton 20 fumble return (Grems kick), 6:02
G — Taylor 11 run (kick failed), 1:10
Rushing — G: Jerrod Heard 11-121, Richard Whitaker 15-138, Anthony Taylor 9-88, Josh Harris 1-5, Nate Maki 1-7, David Haynes 2-27; LD: Tony Green 12-34, Marshall Dominy 8-8, Ty Boggs 4-(-1), Colton Lively 1-12, Brandon Simpson 16-80, Mark Contreras 4-15.
Passing — G: Jerrod Heard 6-9-0-45; LD: Marshall Dominy 3-5-0-40, Brandon Simpson 5-6-0-40.
Receiving — G: Ellis Jefferson 2-29, Josh Harris 3-14, Jonathan Pershall 1-2; LD: Josh Jackson 1-9, Bryce Williams 6-67, Tony Green 1-4.