At this time a year ago, Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard was a 15-year-old sophomore preparing to make his debut as a varsity starter and fill the shoes of the most decorated player in the Wildcats’ brief history, J.W. Walsh, who is now a redshirt freshman at Oklahoma State.
Heard won that debut over Garland, completing 13 of his 16 pass attempts, ran for a touchdown and threw for another, but a key mistake nearly cost his team the game.
With two seconds left, Heard kneeled on the ball on fourth down instead of letting the clock run out, allowing Garland a chance to kick a game-tying field goal, which the Owls missed.
Guyer head coach John Walsh jokingly blames quarterbacks coach Lee Vallejo for the flub, not Heard, but said the Heard who steps on the field at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex tonight for a game against Cedar Hill is vastly different than that 15-year-old.
“A year ago, we had an infant of a quarterback,” Walsh said. “He was a good-looking kid, but as far as a quarterback and knowledge of all the aspects of the game, he was an infant. He’s definitely a young man now.”
Heard has elevated himself into the upper echelon of recruits in the class of 2014 and recently committed to Texas. Tonight, he’ll take the field for the first time as a future Longhorn against a familiar foe.
“It’s a lot different his year,” Heard said. “I’m mature. The game is slower. That’s the good thing. I feel comfortable out there and everyone feels comfortable with me.”
Guyer and Cedar Hill, whose head coaches have become friends since coaching together at the Under Armour All-America game in 2010, are preparing to face off for the fourth time in three seasons. Cedar Hill holds a 2-1 advantage, with Guyer’s lone win coming in the 2010 playoffs.
Even though there is no reason the teams should be rivals — historically or geographically — players say the game ranks right up there with crosstown rivalries such as those with Lake Dallas, Ryan and Denton.
“I honestly feel like Cedar Hill is our rival game out of the whole season,” said senior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson, who has committed to Arizona State. “This is a real big game for me. The last two years we’ve lost by one and three [points], so I just can’t wait to get out there.”
Perhaps it is because the teams are so similar, especially this season when both teams return a bevy of offensive talent and have questions on defense after graduating several key players.
While Walsh expects both offenses to flourish at times in tonight’s game, he said he knows what his defense has to focus on in the Longhorns’ attack, and it’s the player who he said almost single-handedly beat Guyer last year.
In that game, which Cedar Hill won 24-21, Laquvionte Gonzalez, a hybrid running back/wide receiver who has committed to Texas A&M, carried the ball nine times for 49 yards and had six catches for 118 yards with a long catch-and-run touchdown reception.
“They have a guy who can get in space a lot and do damage,” Walsh said of Gonzalez. “With pads on, I bet there’s not a faster guy in the state of Texas. He’s that fast. I don’t know what he runs a 40 [yard dash] in, but when he gets those pads on, he’s the fastest guy I’ve ever had to coach against.”
Guyer safety John Schilleci, who has committed to North Texas, said he and his teammates can handle speed, which the Longhorns have a lot of, but Gonzalez has something special.
“Speed’s one thing,” Schilleci said. “We’ve seen speed, but he moves in a unique way. It’s just weird how quick he gets out of his cuts. We just can’t let him get to open field. We always have to be around him and keep [hitting] him over and over again.”
That speed carries over to the defensive side of the ball for Cedar Hill, most notably up front on the defensive line.
“Defensively, I know their line’s going to be quick and fast,” Heard said. “Every time we’ve played them, they have a quick, athletic line.”
And Walsh said they have a plan in place to combat that defensive speed, and it’s been a successful plan for decades — run right at it.
“That’s an old adage, and that’s what we do good anyway,” Walsh said. “But our quarterback-read game slows things down too, because you can’t just fly around or Jerrod will find creases. Those are two things we have to do a good job of.”
And just like that, Heard has gone from a deer-in-the-headlights 15-year-old to the focal point of an offensive attack expected to carry Guyer in tonight’s season opener.
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .