JUSTIN — When Guyer head coach John Walsh woke up Friday morning and heard wind gusts, he probably was not incredibly happy.
When the weather forecasts predicted sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts up to 30 mph, an entire week of preparation likely went out the window.
All week, he talked about the need to diversify his offense and throw the ball to keep a strong Aledo defense off balance. Turns out, it didn’t matter.
Guyer (10-2), the No. 7 team in the final Associated Press Class 4A poll, ran the ball at will en route to a 42-30 win over No. 3 Aledo, snapping the Bearcats’ 19-game playoff win streak that included three straight Class 4A Division II state championships.
“Our guys up front really rose to the challenge,” Walsh said. “Wind always brings doubt to the passing game, whether you get it done or not, and it scares me more than anyone. We should probably call more passes when it’s windy, but we’ve always taken great pride in the ability to handle the wind on the ground. Our backs and line did a great job.”
Guyer advances to the Class 4A Division I Region I semifinals, where it will meet the winner of today’s Amarillo-El Paso Chapin game. That game is set for next Saturday at 3 p.m. at Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium.
Guyer raced out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead with the wind at its back as Aledo mustered just one first down in the quarter. The Wildcats finished the first half with a 21-7 lead that was preserved by a late interception deep in Guyer territory by safety Tavi Sanches.
The Wildcats racked up 134 yards on the ground in the first half with 113 through the air — mostly coming on a brilliant, one-handed 70-yard touchdown reception by Josh Harris in the final seconds of Guyer having the wind at its back during the first quarter.
By the time the game was over, the Wildcats amassed 325 rushing yards on 54 carries and spread the wealth nicely.
Junior running back D.J. Breedlove highlighted the running game with 167 yards on 21 carries, while senior Richard Whitaker put up 84 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Junior quarterback Jerrod Heard rushed 21 times for 103 yards and three scores while passing for 146 yards on 8-of-10 passing.
“Our line did a great job making holes for us today,” Heard said. “We just need little holes and we make that cut, and then we go. We had great running lanes today.”
The game’s key drive came early in the second half when Guyer started with the ball and the wind in its face and went three-and-out, forcing a punting situation from the Wildcats’ 29-yard line.
Punter Tanner Hunt missed a bad snap and chased the ball back into the Guyer end zone, falling on it for a safety to pull Aledo (10-2) to within 21-9 just minutes into the second half.
After the safety kick into the stiff wind, Aledo got its best starting field position of the day, to that point, at its own 41-yard line but Guyer’s defense forced a three-and-out thanks to a big stop for minus-6 yards by Connor Allen.
Aledo’s 43-yard punt put Guyer at its own 25-yard line with the wind in the Wildcats’ faces.
But that didn’t matter.
The Wildcats marched 75 yards in 10 plays — all but one on the ground — and perhaps more importantly kept the ball out of the Bearcats’ hands for nearly five minutes with the wind at Aledo’s back. The drive ended with a 7-yard touchdown run from Heard on what was a busted play that Heard improvised on and scored to give Guyer a 28-9 lead with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter.
“That [drive] was the difference, right there,” Walsh said. “There’s always championship drives, and I think we talked about that last week. I always look for pivotal drives that springboard not only the game, but the whole postseason. Those kind of drives — when something bad happens and you take it right back down like that — are huge. That’s momentum for the game and for the season.”
Aledo head coach Tim Buchanan said he was proud of the way his defense played, but ultimately the Guyer offense just took its toll.
“I felt like our defense hung in there with a very high-powered offense,” Buchanan said. “I thought our defense played a pretty good game until they just got completely worn out.”
Guyer center Zach Colpean said the win over a powerhouse like Aledo will do nothing but motivate the Wildcats to continue their level of play moving forward.
“They were the three-time [defending] state champion and we just wanted to go out there and show, ‘Hey we can be that team,’” Colpean said. “If we just play like this — we have great momentum right now — if we keep going like this, I think we have a great chance.”
And after knocking off the three-time defending state champions early in the playoffs, allowing Guyer to play deeper into the postseason than last year’s second-round exit, Walsh is confident moving forward, too. But he admitted that wasn’t always the case.
“It’s scary,” Walsh said of Aledo’s tradition and impressive playoff win streak coming into the game. “It scared me all week long. I thought we had some good matchups, but just knowing what [Buchanan] and that team bring to the table had me nervous all the way up until halftime. That mystique is a big deal.”
Walsh said it was an accomplishment to advance further into the playoffs this season and play a game in December — something the Wildcats failed to do last year when they lost to Mansfield in the second round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs. But he knows this year’s team has bigger goals in mind.
“Good football teams peak at the right time, and I think we’re doing that,” Walsh said. “Last year I thought we were too immature to hit this kind of peak, but I think this group understands what it takes. We have a goal in mind and that’s to get to Dec. 22 [when the 4A Division I title game is scheduled at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium], and right now the road to Midland is in our way.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guyer 42, Aledo 30
Guyer 21 0 14 7 — 42
Aledo 0 7 9 14 — 30
G — Jerrod Heard 5 run (Brad Grems kick), 5:44
G — Richard Whitaker 15 run (Grems kick), 1:43
G — Josh Harris 70 pass from Heard (Grems kick), 0:17
A — Willie Gibson 15 pass from Pate Davis (Chance Nevarez kick), 5:51
A — safety, Tanner hunt tackled in end zone, 10:41
G — Heard 7 run (Grems kick), 4:17
A — Gibson 77 pass from Davis (Nevarez kick), 3:55
G — Heard 12 run (Grems kick), 1:36
G — Whitaker 14 run (Grems kick), 9:00
A — Caleb Frysinger 11 pass from Davis (Nevarez kick), 7:25
A — Gibson 24 pass from Davis (Nevarez kick), 1:02
First downs 24 11
Rushing-yards 54-325 25-110
Passing yards 146 256
Total yards 471 366
Passing 8-10-0 13-30-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-0
Punts-avg. 2-15.0 5-33.4
Penalties-yards 3-30 3-25
Rushing — G: Jerrod Heard 21-103, Richard Whitaker 10-84, D.J. Breedlove 21-167, Nate Maki 1-0, TEAM 1-(-29). A: Pate Davis 12-46, Jess Anders 13-64.
Passing — G: Jerrod Heard 8-10-0-146. A: Pate Davis 13-30-1-256.
Receiving — G: Ellis Jefferson 4-47, Josh Harris 3-90, D.J. Breedlove 1-9. A: Willie Gibson 5-157, Taco Anderson 1-11, Caleb Frysinger 5-56, Jess Anders 1-28, John Whatley 1-4.