MIDLOTHIAN — On his television show this week, Tyler John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes said Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard was “the engine that drove the Corvette” for the Wildcats’ offense, but he didn’t stop there.
He also said Heard essentially was a running back that can throw the ball effectively enough, masquerading as a quarterback.
Turns out, in Friday’s Class 4A Division I semifinal, that’s all Heard needed to be as the Wildcats withstood a furious Lions rally to pull out a 57-53 win, putting Guyer in its second state title game in three seasons.
“Yeah, I guess so,” said a laughing Heard about Holmes’ evaluation. “That motivated all of us. We knew what we would try to do on the first drive and start throwing on them and show we could do that too. I think that throwing early really got the running game going.”
The Wildcats ran pass plays on two of their first three offensive snaps, but after that it was all running all the time for Guyer (13-2).
The Wildcats rolled up a school-record 612 rushing yards on 61 carries, spearheaded by Heard’s 35 carries for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Running backs D.J. Breedlove and Richard Whitaker each eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark and scored two touchdowns apiece.
When told about his team’s rushing total, Guyer coach John Walsh initially thought the number was the team’s total offense. Then he was corrected.
“Wow,” Walsh said. “First, what that says is thank goodness for [strength and conditioning coach] Bryan Kegans and that strength program. We live off that weight room and it shows.”
Heard said it was evident early on that the Wildcats would have their way on the ground.
“I can’t ask for a better line,” said Heard after his record-setting day. “They did their job. It was a great game. Everyone put in such good effort in preparation, and we knew we’d beat them up front.”
In the fourth quarter, it seemed Guyer finally had pulled away from the Lions (13-2) when Breedlove ran for a 24-yard touchdown before Guyer’s defense forced a three-and-out to put the ball back in the hands of Heard & Co.
Five plays later, Whitaker gave Guyer a 43-24 lead with a 21-yard touchdown run before the Lions answered on the next play with a 65-yard scoring strike from prolific quarterback Greg Ward to Justice Liggins.
Two plays later, Breedlove scored again from 39 yards out to put Guyer up 50-31 with six minutes to play, seemingly sealing the game.
That’s when the Lions’ magic took over and put some serious fear into the Guyer faithful.
Starting with an 8-yard touchdown pass to DeQuante Woods with 4:58 remaining, the Lions scored 22 consecutive points in 74 seconds, thanks to two beautifully executed onside kicks by Noe Diaz.
Visions of John Tyler’s classic 1994 game against Plano East — which featured four successful late onside kicks by East to take the lead before John Tyler pulled the game out in the end — danced through Walsh’s head when the Lions took a 53-50 lead with 3:44 left.
“I actually thought about that,” Walsh said. “As soon as I thought about it, I erased it. I said, ‘That can’t happen.’
“What I’m proud of is there wasn’t any panic. We stayed and grinded. We knew we had to get the ball one more time and we could get up on them.”
After John Tyler took that lead — its first — the Wildcats put the game back on Heard’s shoulders, but this time he killed the Lions through the air.
In the midst of Guyer’s 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive to put the Wildcats out front for good, Heard was only 2-for-4 passing, but the last attempt kept his team’s state championship dreams alive.
Facing fourth-and-4 from the John Tyler 31, Heard found Ellis Jefferson at the right hash mark 10 yards down the field and placed the ball where only Jefferson could catch it. The catch gave Guyer a first down and extended its hopes. Three plays later, Whitaker scored from 18 yards out to put Guyer up. On John Tyler’s next offensive play, Guyer middle linebacker Terence Belton intercepted Ward — Guyer’s third interception of Ward on the night — to seal the victory.
Ward entered the game with only two interceptions but threw three second-half picks Friday while completing 46 of 64 pass attempts for 544 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 108 yards and a score.
“We executed what the coaches put out there for us,” said Guyer outside linebacker Demontrie Taylor, who also had an interception. “We did what they told us to do, and that’s what happens when you do that — you win.”
Though he wasn’t happy with John Tyler’s late offensive explosion, Walsh said he was pleased with his defense’s overall performance against one of the most prolific offenses in the state.
“I challenged them early,” Walsh said. “Last time we played a proficient pass offense in a playoff game, we had five picks [against Ryan in the 2009 regional final], and we had three tonight against a guy with two all year long. That is pretty good. Other than not finishing, we played pretty dang good defensively against that offense.”
Guyer 57, Tyler John Tyler 53
John Tyler 0 17 0 36 — 53
Guyer 6 14 10 27 — 57
G – Jerrod Heard 4 run (pass failed), 5:58
JT – Porfirio Benitez 26 field goal, 10:20
G – Heard 35 run (Brad Grems kick), 9:15
JT – Darion Flowers 23 pass from Greg Ward (Benitez kick), 8:15
G – Heard 8 run (Grems kick), 4:17
JT – Fred Ross 4 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 1:52
G – Heard 71 run (Grems kick), 11:10
G – Grems 21 field goal, 2:06
JT – Ward 12 run (Benitez kick), 10:42
G – D.J. Breedlove 24 run (run failed), 9:20
G – Richard Whitaker 21 run (Grems kick), 6:51
JT – Justice Liggins 65 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 6:34
G – Breedlove 39 run (Grems kick), 6:00
JT – DeQuante Woods 8 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 4:58
JT – Woods 34 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 4:44
JT – Tyus Bowser 1 run (Bowser run), 3:44
G – Whitaker 18 run (Grems kick), 1:14
First downs 39 28
Rushing 18-127 61-612
Passing yards 544 73
Total yards 671 685
Passes 46-64-3 6-10-1
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Punts-avg. 2-47.0 2-57.5
Penalties-yards 5-35 8-51
Rushing: JT – Greg Ward 12-108, Fred Ross 1-20, DeQuante Woods 4-(-2), Tyus Bowser 1-1. G – Jerrod Heard 35-318, D.J. Breedlove 12-167, Richard Whitaker 11-115, Nate Maki 3-12.
Passing: JT – Greg Ward 46-64-3-544. G – Jerrod Heard 6-10-1-73.
Receiving: JT – Darion Flowers 9-154, Fred Ross 11-143, Justice Liggins 10-146, DeQuante Woods 8-79, Reggie Gipson 7-21, Jeremy Wilson 1-1. G – Ellis Jefferson 4-59, Richard Whitaker 1-8, Preston Thrailkill 1-6.