Just as last week’s game against Amarillo proved to Guyer, when the playoffs get down to the last few rounds, teams likely will have to prepare for something they have yet to see.
Most recently, it was clock-grinding wing-T offense of the Amarillo Sandies. The Wildcats’ first-round opponent, Saginaw, was a rarity for Guyer with a 4-3 defense.
When Guyer plays Birdville today for the right to play in next week’s Class 4A Division I state semifinals, the Wildcats will see the biggest players in the trenches they’ve seen all year.
“What makes this group scary is on both sides of the ball it’s the biggest kids in the trenches we’ve faced,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “And when I say big, I mean big. It’s 280-[pound] guys all across the board.”
Just like every team the Wildcats have faced in the playoffs with the exception of Amarillo, the Hawks (13-0) run a 4-3. And just like Guyer’s area-round opponent, Aledo, they don’t make their name with defensive speed.
“They’re big inside,” Guyer center Zach Colpean said. “We haven’t seen that much this year. I think we can hold out, though. They don’t do much, so if we can get our hands on them I think we’ll be fine. They’re just big guys that sit in their gaps.
“It’s fun to go against someone that’s a little heavier. They might not be able to do as much, but it takes a little more effort to move them off the ball.”
Aledo’s defense played a gap-control defense, as well, relying more on standing its ground than chasing players all over the field like many of the speedy defenses Guyer has seen this year.
Against Aledo, Guyer played its best all-around game of the season and jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead before cruising to a 42-30 victory.
So now the Wildcats (11-2) must get out of the mind-set of seeing a fast defense like Amarillo employed and back to battling an immovable object.
“It’s different to see,” Walsh said. “That’s what makes it a little curious. Last week, they [Amarillo] were 200 pounds but they were all over the place. These guys believe in what they do. It’s similar to Aledo. They weren’t sideline-to-sideline either. They were a gap-control defense. It’s the same defense, and I thought we handled Aledo fine.”
In fact, Guyer did everything fine against Aledo, which entered the game as the three-time defending state champion. Over the past week, the Wildcats have been trying to catch the lightning in a bottle they had heading into the Aledo game, and they say they’ve done it.
“We didn’t feel like we had a great week of practice last week,” Colpean said. “It was good, but it wasn’t like it was for Aledo. We’ve been trying to fix that, and as of now I think we’ve done that. We’ve had some great practices and it feels like we’re going to play Aledo again. It’s been fun and energetic, and we’re executing.”
Birdville’s undefeated record includes wins over common opponents. Birdville beat Saginaw 35-14 in district play and topped Guyer’s district foe Azle 55-45 to open the playoffs. The Wildcats easily dispatched Saginaw in the first round and led Azle 42-0 early in the second quarter of a district win.
Guyer linebacker Terrell Singleton just sees an undefeated team looming, and he wants to change that.
“You always want to take an undefeated team off,” Singleton said. “It looks like they’re better than us, but we want to take them off.”
Singleton will be one of many Guyer defenders tasked with slowing a prolific, balanced Birdville offense that is led by running back Xavier Turner (1,440 rushing yards, 29 touchdowns) and quarterback Justin Martin (3,407 total yards, 43 touchdowns).
“They’re a well-rounded offense,” Singleton said. “They have a good running back and their quarterback is good too. Their wide receivers aren’t bad either, and they have some good tackles. They’re just well-rounded.”
But he said it all goes as Turner goes.
“That’s who they try to get the ball to,” Singleton said. “He gets it going and gets everyone on the offense going.”
Singleton said his defense takes pride in being able to stop the run, and this week will have to be no different if the Wildcats want to advance to play Tyler John Tyler, which beat Frisco Centennial on Friday night.
“That’s what we want to do,” Singleton said. “Our coaches are challenging us to stop him [Turner]. If we can do that, we can eliminate most of their offense and make them one-dimensional and go from there.”
If Guyer wins, it will play John Tyler at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Midlothian.
While the Hawks have been balanced offensively throughout the season, Guyer has made no secret where its offensive strength lies. The Wildcats have averaged just shy of 300 yards per game on the ground, led by Texas-bound quarterback Jerrod Heard’s 1,510 rushing yards and 24 scores.
Running back Richard Whitaker is just shy of 1,000 yards and fellow running back D.J. Breedlove is approaching 800.
Despite that, Walsh insists a team will come along that will force the Wildcats to throw the ball to win a game.
“I know there will be a time when you have to use it [the pass],” Walsh said. “I’m still a believer that, yeah, you might get lucky and just go 16 weeks of just pounding the ball, but I still think someone is going to show up and make you have to do other things.
“I’ve scripted my first 20 first and second downs, and it’s still 50-50 [run and pass]. Whether it goes that way is a question because if I see we can expose something, I’m going to keep exposing it.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.