It doesn’t take a lot of statistical research to figure out that this week’s Class 4A Division I semifinal will pit Guyer against the best offense it’s seen this season.
Fortunately for Guyer’s defensive players, they know their offensive teammates will be the best group Tyler John Tyler has seen as well.
So, prepare for a shootout when the teams meet at 7:30 tonight in Midlothian for the right to play in next week’s state championship game at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium.
The Lions (13-1) have speed across the board offensively and are led by quarterback Greg Ward’s 51 total touchdowns and 3,651 passing yards. He’s also rushed for a team-high 752 yards.
Guyer linebacker Terence Belton has heard all the speculation about how the game might unfold into a high-scoring affair in which the winning team might get only a couple of defensive stops.
“Our defense has been called out, and being the middle linebacker of our defense, I don’t like hearing that,” Belton said. “Especially after those first two games of the year [against Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage] when we had all those points [54 in each game] put up on us. It just pretty much [makes us mad] now. We just have to use that as motivation, knowing it’ll rest on our shoulders.”
Belton is confident his offense will put up a lot of points but said he will be relying on his defense to again come up with a few key stops to make the difference.
In last week’s state quarterfinal victory over another strong offensive team, Birdville, the Wildcats’ defense came up with two key stops at the start of the second half and kept the Hawks off the scoreboard in the third quarter as Guyer scored a 52-42 win.
If the Wildcats can get key stops again, Belton likes their chances of playing in their second state championship game in three years.
“It’s going to pretty much come down to us stopping them,” Belton said. “We know our offense will put up points. They’ll have big plays and we know that, but we have to stop them more times than they stop us.”
The Wildcats (12-2) are coming off a season-high 428 rushing yards in last week’s win over Birdville that saw them put up 600 total yards.
Quarterback Jerrod Heard threw for 172 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 171 and two scores. Tailback D.J. Breedlove opened the game with an 84-yard touchdown run and posted 158 yards, while fellow running back Richard Whitaker had 86 yards and a score. Breedlove is 64 yards shy of becoming Guyer’s third 1,000-yard rusher this year, and it’s that punishing ground game that has the Wildcats believing they can neutralize the Lions’ high-flying, quick-hitting passing attack.
“It’s really comforting knowing you can run the ball, because I still think if you run it and stop the run you have a chance to win any ballgame,” Guyer coach John Walsh said.
Aside from the wealth of talent Guyer has in the backfield, Walsh gave a lot of credit to the recent play of senior receiver Ellis Jefferson, a 6-4, 200-pound matchup nightmare who’s committed to Arizona State.
“I think a big reason why we did run so well last week, and have been all through the playoffs, is that we kept Jefferson involved early,” Walsh said. “When he’s going and you have to account for him, it really allows us to work the different facets of our run offense. Between Jerrod and letting those two tailbacks get involved, it causes problems for a defense. It’s nice to know we can hang our hat on a good rushing game.”
Of course, the driving force behind Guyer’s running game that is averaging more than 320 rushing yards per game is its offensive line, one that Walsh said would be his best yet before the season began.
His prophecy has proven true, and he credits that to the intelligence of each player up front.
“I feel like we’ve really jelled together and we know what each other is going to do, so it makes it a lot easier,” left tackle Bryan Barrett said. “All we have to do is keep our heads up and make sure we see everything. When we come off the field, we know the adjustment before the coaches even say it. We usually get things fixed before they say it. That’s how we get games like last week.”
The Wildcats’ running game is anything but simple, involving many blocking schemes and not just the idea of lining up and mashing opponents with toss-sweeps and isolation.
The offensive line is fully healthy and intact for the first sustained period all season, and Heard said he feels well-equipped to chew up big chunks of yardage on the ground.
“It’s probably the smartest offensive line I’ve ever been around,” Heard said. “They know exactly what’s going on all the time. For a line like them, you can tell them a scheme one day and they’ll click, and then by Friday it’ll be on and poppin’. I couldn’t ask for a better group there.”
While the Wildcats will try to keep Ward and his arsenal of weapons off the field as much as possible, Walsh said Guyer won’t revert to a ground-and-pound style that Amarillo employed against it in the third round.
“We’re not going to try to go three yards and a cloud of dust,” Walsh said. “When we run a running play, we’re trying to hit home runs too. A lot of that depends on how good the defense is too. Aledo made us use some clock. They were ‘bend don’t break,’ and then sometimes we’ll go 70 yards in four plays without throwing the ball.
“As long as we’re in the end zone, I don’t care how long it takes us to get there. I won’t be watching the play clock when we have the ball.”
And if the Wildcats can run the ball as effectively as they have been recently — averaging 333.25 yards per game in the postseason — and have their defense come up with those crucial stops, Heard sees himself back on the sideline at Cowboys Stadium for the first time this season facing the Georgetown-Leander Rouse winner.
“It’s definitely motivation for me,” said Heard, who was a freshman when Guyer fell to Cibolo Steele 24-21 in the 2010 Class 5A Division II final in Arlington. “Every time I get to step out on the field to practice I think of that. It’s definitely motivation to get back there and get that first ring for Guyer. That’s what I’m working on.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
TALE OF THE TAPE
A look at what is sure to be a showdown between two of the best offenses in the state, Guyer and Tyler John Tyler.
Points per game
Points allowed per game
Rush yards per game
Pass yards per game