CEDAR HILL — Guyer was mere inches from pulling off a comeback in a game that looked lost at halftime in Thursday night’s season opener against Cedar Hill.
But one play after sophomore linebacker Michael Carrillo appeared to have tipped a pass up in the air and caught it while falling to the ground for a Guyer interception near Cedar Hill’s 30-yard line, the Longhorns put the game on ice with a 71-yard catch-and-run by Denvre Daniels as Cedar Hill knocked off Guyer 38-28 at Longhorn Stadium.
In a game featuring two teams that played on the 2012 season’s final day — Guyer was the Class 4A Division I champion while Cedar Hill fell to Katy in the 5A Division II final — it appeared only the Longhorns were going to shine as they raced out to a 24-7 halftime lead and scored on the first possession of the second half to take a 31-7 lead.
For the second straight season, Cedar Hill’s speed and athleticism proved to be too much for Guyer, at least early on. Last year, the Longhorns pulled off a 54-28 season-opening win over Guyer in which they scored all 54 of their points over the final three quarters with several big plays.
“It’s my fear every time we play these guys,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “It’s a double-edged sword though, because it makes us so much better. We’re not going to see anyone as fast as them until maybe playoff time. It shocked us, and we weren’t ready for it, but we got used to it as the game progressed.”
Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard, who verbally committed to Texas and is rated as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, struggled in the first half, rushing for just 24 yards on eight carries. But it was his passing game that killed the Wildcats early as he threw two first-half interceptions deep in Cedar Hill territory, including one in the end zone that would have pulled Guyer to within 10 points at halftime.
“Jerrod wasn’t good in the first half,” Walsh said. “He wasn’t good running the football or throwing the football. It looked like they were corralling us because he wasn’t getting downhill. He came out of the gates a little slow, but he responded in the second half.”
Heard rebounded after halftime, finishing with 103 yards on 18 carries and completing 12 of 18 passes for 179 yards and the two first-half interceptions.
The Guyer ground game was on par with its traditional dominance, as running back D.J. Breedlove added 129 yards and two scores and fellow tailback Anthony Taylor rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns behind a makeshift offensive line with three players making their first varsity start.
The Wildcats roared back from the 31-7 deficit with just more than nine minutes to play in the third quarter and were a ball slipping through Carrillo’s fingertips away from having great field position with just less than four minutes to play in the game and a 31-28 deficit.
“Two things there — we were fighting our tails off [in the second half],” Walsh said. “Everybody’s trying to make a play at the end of the game to win, and we thought we did. Second thing, we need to get instant replay in high school football.”
While it was Daniels who iced the game for the Longhorns after the near-interception, it was junior wide receiver Demarkus Lodge who tormented Guyer in the first half.
In the first half, Guyer’s defense struggled to stop the Longhorns on third down. On the Longhorns’ final three scoring drives of the opening half, they overcame third-and-long and used their explosive athleticism to build a lead.
With Guyer trailing 3-0, Lodge caught a 50-yard bomb up the middle on third-and-9 and the Longhorns scored on the next play.
Lodge entered the season with six career catches for 59 yards and no touchdowns but is expected to be a standout receiver and has garnered scholarship offers from the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
On the Longhorns’ next drive, Cedar Hill quarterback Justin McMillan handled a bad snap and lofted a ball in Lodge’s direction that he wrestled down over double coverage in the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. Lodge finished the game with six catches for 146 yards and a score, with 108 of those and the touchdown in the first half.
“I saw him this summer at 7-on-7, and he’s a guy that warrants a double-team,” Walsh said. “We’re not going to double-team in nondistrict. We’re going to make our guys play. In a playoff game, he wouldn’t have got to us because we would’ve had two on him. They might’ve gotten us somewhere else, but he’s a dang good football player — maybe the best in the state of Texas out wide.”
The second half told a different story for both teams, as it was Guyer going on long drives and keeping Cedar Hill’s defense on the field to outgain the Longhorns 475-352, including 296 yards on the ground.
“It’s kind of the tale of two halves,” Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said. “I was really excited about the first half. We know it’s there. But we have to keep getting better.”
Walsh felt the same way, but with the opposite perspective, as his team nearly pulled off the comeback.
“I jokingly said to our coaches at halftime that if we win this game I’ll be spooked,” Walsh said. “We’re always better after they [the Longhorns] teach us some lessons. I’m not glad we lost, but we’ll definitely take it knowing we’ll be better next week [against Colleyville Heritage].”
As for being spooked, Walsh said the difference between his team after Thursday’s loss and last year’s state championship team after its 54-28 loss in the 2012 opener is too large to describe, and that’s a good thing for Guyer.
“It’s scary,” Walsh said. “It’s night and day. Last year, I wasn’t sure how physical we could be. I wasn’t sure how good we could be on defense. I had no confidence in our secondary. Right now, I’m confident about our whole football team. I’m excited about where we’re going.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Cedar Hill 38, Guyer 28
CH — Brooks Ralph 32 FG
CH — Larry Hill 3 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Damarkus Lodge 45 pass from Justin McMillan (Brooks Ralph kick)
G — DJ Breedlove 5 run (Brad Grems kick)
CH — Larry Hill 2 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
CH — Larry Hill 1 run (Brooks Ralph kick)
G — Anthony Taylor 1 run (Jerrod Heard run)
G — Anthony Taylor 5 run (pass failed)
G — DJ Breedlove 2 run (Brad Grems kick)
CH — Denvre Daniels 71 pass from Justin McMillan (Brooks Ralph kick)
Rushing — CH: Larry Hill 16-38, Justin McMillan 7-25, Peter Lewis 5-16, Devon Murdock 1-3, Denvre Daniels 4-2, Team Stat 1--6, G: DJ Breedlove 18-129, Jerrod Heard 18-103, Anthony Taylor 9-71, David Haynes 1--2, Adam Scott 1--5.
Passing — CH: Justin McMillan 10-16-0-274, G: Jerrod Heard 12-18-2-179.
Receiving — CH: Damarkus Lodge 6-146, Denvre Daniels 2-88, Devon Murdock 1-41, Jaidron Hurd 1-(-1), G: Alex Honey 4-98, Tyler Smith 3-61, DJ Breedlove 2-17, David Haynes 2-7, Anthony Taylor 1--4.