Before a recent trend of high-powered offenses and five-wide passing attacks, conventional thought in football had long been that the team with more time of possession has the upper hand.
As Guyer’s travels to West Texas for today’s Class 4A Division I third-round playoff game against Amarillo, it almost will be like the Wildcats are traveling back in time.
The Wildcats (10-2) will meet the Sandies (10-2) at 2 p.m. today at Midland’s Grande Communications Stadium and will face a wing-T offense for the first time in school history.
“It is misdirection all the way,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “It is wing-T, old school. It’s tough, and we’ve never seen it. That scares me.”
The Sandies will go into the game against Guyer’s high-octane offense with one goal in mind: keeping Wildcat quarterback Jerrod Heard and his teammates off the field as much as possible.
“The less time they have it in their hands is going to be a benefit for us,” Amarillo coach Mel Maxfield said. “It’s not going to be an easy task either, because defensively they’re as fundamentally sound a defense as I’ve seen. They have the same explosiveness on defense that they have on offense. It’s no accident they have had the success they’ve had in the past and this year. They’re a very well-coached team and have great athletes.”
The Guyer defense has not always appeared that way this season. Early in the year when the Wildcats were breaking in nine new defensive starters, they gave up 108 points in their first two games to Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage.
Maxfield said he knows better than to pay attention to those numbers.
“Whatever problems they might have had early on defense isn’t showing up in the films we got,” Maxfield said. “Anytime you look at their schedule and who they’ve played, I think you have to take that into consideration.
“Zero Week and Week 1 isn’t real indicative of what your team is going to be about. You can tell they’re hitting on all cylinders right now.”
That showed in last week’s area-round win over three-time defending state champion Aledo. Guyer held the Bearcats to 16 points through three quarters before allowing two touchdowns in the final minutes of a 42-30 win.
The upward trend for Guyer’s defense started Oct. 26 when Guyer held a run-heavy Wichita Falls Rider offense — albeit without star quarterback J.T. Barrett — to 138 yards on 35 carries. Rider is still alive in the 4A Division II playoffs with its physical brand of football.
“We definitely have improved,” Guyer defensive end Connor Allen said. “We’re getting a lot better every week. From the Rider game, that was really our first big game with an actual team. That was a big boost for our confidence on defense, and I think we just kept rolling on from there.”
The key to stopping Amarillo’s throwback offense today and helping Heard & Co. stay on the field will be to simply read keys and for everyone to be responsible for their respective assignments.
And while Allen said he has respect for what Amarillo does, he also has no doubt his unit is up to the task.
“From what I’ve seen on film, it just looks like a bunch of chaos,” Allen said. “They get real tight and they pull real close. It’s completely different than anything we’ve seen. But our defense has kind of been built to go against that type of deal pretty well. We should have success up front.”
Walsh said that even though the Sandies are known as a running team, they are plenty capable of throwing the ball and can lull teams to sleep running before going over the top for big passing plays.
Amarillo quarterback Gabriel Rodriguez has thrown for 1,112 yards and 17 touchdowns, 13 of which have gone to top target Ryan Sluder, who caught the go-ahead score in last week’s 30-20 win over El Paso Chapin.
“He has a great target out there, and when he bootlegs out, he’s good,” Walsh said of Rodriguez. “They won the last game throwing the ball. They didn’t run real great against Chapin, and their big plays were throwing the ball.”
That occasional big play is what scares opposing defenses, and Allen said that if he and his teammates on the defensive line can eliminate the run threat, it will make guarding against the pass much easier.
“We have to be pretty careful because our safeties have to check the pass and the run at the same time,” Allen said. “As a defensive line, if we can shut it [the run] down completely maybe we can give our secondary some breathing room and some easy reads.
“If our line stuffs it up so good where we don’t really need them [safeties] there, we can just count on them being back there the whole time.”
Sounds like a successful formula for holding the Sandies in check and keeping the Wildcats’ offense on the field. Sounds like music to Walsh’s ears.
“It’s really imperative,” Walsh said of keeping his offense on the field. “That’s the basis of their offense. They can get three first downs and you’ve played good defense and you make them punt, and it’s been six minutes. They want to get into the fourth quarter with a scoring chance.
“I’ve told our defensive staff that I take a lot of pride as an offensive play caller to go on 14-play drives to keep y’all rested, but this week we need a reversal. I need them to take pride in getting our butt back out there, because that’s [Amarillo’s] game. That’s definitely what the game plan is.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.