By the time Guyer hit the practice field for the first time after its season-opening 54-28 loss to Cedar Hill, the memories of that embarrassing defeat were long gone from the players’ minds.
After an inexperienced defense that returned two full-time starters from last season was outmatched by Cedar Hill’s wealth of talented athletes, and after the Guyer offense fell off a ledge in the second half, the Wildcats had a good week of practice and got ready to face explosive Colleyville Heritage (1-0) tonight at 7 at Southlake’s Dragon Stadium.
“The losses this time of year are not losses that should affect practice the next week,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “You lose a district game and it lingers, but a nondistrict game, it’s not lingering. We know where we’re at. We’ve got to get better. Are we all disappointed? Yes. Were we all embarrassed about the performance in the second half? Yes. I think practice has been real sharp the last two days, though.”
The game is being played at Dragon Stadium because the lights are under repair at Heritage’s home stadium, Mustang-Panther Stadium in Grapevine. Guyer, which dropped from the top spot to No. 7 in The Associated Press Class 4A poll following last week’s loss, is 5-0 all-time at Dragon Stadium.
The Guyer defense will have to find a way to slow Heritage quarterback Cody Thomas, who has committed to Oklahoma and threw for 265 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers’ 20-2 win over Duncanville.
That means yet another stiff challenge for a unit whose returning starters are both safeties — Tavi Sanches and John Schilleci, who committed to North Texas after starting at cornerback last season.
While Heritage might not have the athletes of Cedar Hill, the Panthers have a lot of solid receivers, as four had at least four catches last week.
The Panthers run a true spread offense, spreading the ball around to four receivers evenly, and at times use an even rotation of four running backs.
“They use the entire field,” Walsh said. “You pull up their stats, and they involve a lot of people. They remind me of Coppell — you can’t tell who’s their stud. They all look the same, and they’re all pretty darn good.
“On that side of the ball we’ll be underdogs again, but we planned on playing that role for the first few weeks.”
Middle linebacker Terence Belton, a first-year Guyer starter, said the key to facing a team like the Panthers that has so many weapons is to be sure everyone on the unit mans their position.
“We just have to do what we have to do to stop them — fly around and guard our position,” Belton said. “[Thomas] has a great arm and he can put the ball where he wants to. If we get pressure on him and our secondary stays on their men, we’ll be fine.”
While Walsh knows his young defense will have its share of struggles early in the season, he expects more out of his offense — a unit loaded with returning talent, both on the line and at the skill positions.
The Wildcats are led by quarterback Jerrod Heard, a Texas commit who threw for 118 yards and rushed for 62 with two scores on the ground in the loss to Cedar Hill.
While the plan last week was to keep the ball on the ground and try to keep the Longhorns’ explosive offense off the field, Guyer plans to open up the offense a bit more this week and try to use weapons like wide receiver Ellis Jefferson more than just the two times he touched the ball last week.
“We’re going to be all over the place,” Heard said. “It’s going to be on the ground, in the air — everywhere. It’s going to be fun.”
A lot of that versatility will ride on the legs of junior running back D.J. Breedlove, who rushed for a team-high 75 yards last week, most of which came in the first half before Guyer was forced to abandon its run-first plan.
Breedlove said he’s seen some good players on the defensive side of the ball while watching film of the Panthers, most notably their two starting inside linebackers. He said he expects to see some of the same 5-3 defensive front they ran in last week’s defensive shutout of Duncanville. But he doesn’t expect them to be able to stay in the eight-man front for long.
“We’re going to have to force them to get out of it,” Breedlove said. “They’ll have to guard [receivers] Josh Harris and [Ellis Jefferson], and once they start keying in on them that’s going to open up the run game and make plenty of room for me to go home with it. It’s gonna be fun.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .