SOUTHLAKE — Guyer’s defensive coaches likely won’t be happy with the way the Wildcats closed Saturday’s state quarterfinal against a potent Birdville offense.
But a look at its performance in the third quarter is all it takes to realize the Wildcats’ defense played a big part in their 52-42 win to advance to the Class 4A Division I semifinals.
After taking a 31-21 lead into halftime, Guyer coach John Walsh told his defense it needed to make one stop, as Birdville started the second half with possession. Instead, the Wildcats made two.
“That’s the key to the game right there,” said Walsh, whose team shut out Birdville in the third quarter. “We told them at halftime that in order to win the game, there had to be a stop as soon as we came out of the locker room, and we got two. They might have scored 42 points, but the defense came through right after half, and that was huge for momentum.”
Guyer (12-2) advances to play Tyler John Tyler (13-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Midlothian for the right to play in the state championship game Dec. 22 at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium. It marks the fourth time in five years Guyer has reached at least the state semifinals.
“The ultimate goal is to win it all, but I’m real proud to say our program has been to the state semifinal four of the last five years, and there’s not many programs that can say that,” Walsh said.
The Wildcats advanced thanks, in large part, to those key defensive stops coming out of halftime — one on a three-and-out and the other coming on fourth-and-15 from the Guyer 21. Six plays later, Guyer extended its lead to 38-21 on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jerrod Heard to Ellis Jefferson, who had set the score up with 49-yard reception on the previous play.
But the story of Guyer’s game, offensively, was the usual suspect: a punishing ground game that rolled up a season-high 428 yards on 40 carries.
Heard led the way with 171 yards on 17 carries, scoring twice, while running back D.J. Breedlove racked up 158 yards and a score on 15 carries.
Breedlove set the tone early as he broke off an 84-yard touchdown run on the game’s third offensive play to give Guyer the early lead.
“I split the secondary, and like [running backs coach Oschlor] Flemming said, I have one guy to beat and that’s the safety, and if I win, that’s a touchdown,” Breedlove said. “I just took that advice and ended up scoring on it.”
Walsh talked all week about the size Birdville (13-1) had up front defensively. It was the biggest defensive front Guyer has seen this year, but it didn’t matter.
“The line just did a really good job, and I just made the most of it,” Breedlove said. “I have the best offensive line. I have a lot of confidence in them. They’re just really good. Their defensive line was good, but they just couldn’t match us up front.”
Heard didn’t do all of his damage on the ground, as the Texas-bound junior completed 11 of 15 pass attempts for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
“When you get in these [playoff] ballgames,” Walsh said, “I try to protect him [Heard] as much as we can, but he’s our stud quarterback and we’re in stud ballgames, and he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing and taking over.”
While the offense stole the show for most of the game, Guyer’s defense got a big boost from junior defensive end Thomas Ferguson, who was matched up with Birdville left tackle Joas Aguilar, who has committed to Texas A&M.
Giving up about 75 pounds to Aguilar, Ferguson had two key third-down sacks that led to Guyer touchdowns on the ensuing drives.
“Ferguson was going against their very best football player,” Walsh said. “That guy’s going to Texas A&M, so for him [Ferguson] to make those drive-stopping plays was huge for us.”
Ultimately, Walsh said, he might not have liked what he saw from his defense in the fourth quarter, but the fact that his team is playing next week will allow him to live with it.
“I think defensively we did a great job at halftime and in the third [quarter] of making adjustments and getting stops,” Walsh said. “They made some timely trick plays that kept them in the game and their offense was tough, even when you’re playing good defense.
“We should’ve closed out better in the fourth. They did a great job executing, and they’re really good offensively. To come out 10 points ahead, I don’t care if it’s 52-42 or 12-2. I don’t care.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Guyer 52, Birdville 42
Guyer 21 10 7 14 — 52
Birdville 7 14 0 21 — 42
G — D.J. Breedlove 84 run (Brad Grems kick), 11:20
G — Jerrod Heard 11 run (Grems kick), 8:08
B — Barrett Shaw 7 pass from Justin Martin (Andrew Tucker kick), 6:08
G — Heard 8 run (Grems kick), 1:07
B — Xavier Turner 2 run (Tucker kick), 9:44
G — Grems 28 field goal, 6:07
G — Ellis Jefferson 43 pass from Heard (Grems kick), 3:19
B — Turner 15 pass from Martin (Tucker kick), 0:46
G — Jefferson 6 pass from Heard (Grems kick), 3:30
B — Turner 35 run (Tucker kick), 11:54
G — Nate Maki 3 pass from Heard (Grems kick), 7:53
B — Barrett Shaw 42 pass from Sam Northey (Tucker kick), 7:36
G — Richard Whitaker 44 run (Grems kick), 7:08
B — Northey 11 pass from Martin (Tucker kick), 4:08
First downs 24 23
Rushing 40-428 35-214
Passing yards 172 247
Total yards 600 461
Passing 11-15-0 20-26-0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Punts-avg. 1-38.0 3-32.3
Penalties-yards 4-36 3-25
Rushing: G — Jerrod Heard 17-171, D.J. Breedlove 15-158, Richard Whitaker 6-86, Nate Maki 1-8, David Haynes 1-5. B — Xavier Turner 19-146, Justin Martin 15-72, Sam Northey 1-(-4).
Passing: G — Jerrod Heard 11-15-0-172. B — Justin Martin 18-24-0-184, Sam Northey 2-2-0-63.
Receiving: G — Ellis Jefferson 6-123, Richard Whitaker 1-(-2), Preston Thrailkill 3-48, Nate Maki 1-3. B — Barrett Shaw 3-65, Collin Basinger 5-62, Dakota Reece 3-25, Xavier Turner 2-26, Sam Northey 6-48, Justin Martin 1-21.