ARLINGTON — There will be many unforgettable images from Saturday’s Class 4A Division I state championship game.
But the transcendent one is a no-brainer.
After Guyer defensive end Connor Allen’s crushing blow on Georgetown quarterback Jake Hubenak forced a fumble that set up the Wildcats’ offense on the Georgetown 5-yard line late in the third quarter, junior quarterback Jerrod Heard went to work and led Guyer to a come-from-behind 48-37 victory for the school’s first team state championship.
On the first play after the fumble, Heard took a quarterback counter around the left end, brushed off two would-be tacklers and got near the Georgetown 2, where he met Eagles defensive back Mason Alexander.
Heard won the battle, bowling over Alexander and lunging into the end zone to give Guyer (14-2) its first lead since the second quarter as the Wildcats came from 16 points down in the third quarter.
“Their outside linebacker got in tight, so I took it out wide,” Heard said. “I was determined to get in the end zone.”
On the day, Heard was part of all seven Guyer touchdowns — rushing for five and throwing for two to Ellis Jefferson — en route to winning offensive most valuable player honors. But that punishing 5-yard run is what lit the Wildcats’ fire, especially after his celebration — the “Superman,” made famous by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
“I just let it all out and played for my team right there; I was definitely happy,” Heard said. “That was the first time I’ve run someone over like that to get into the end zone. I always talk about doing it, but to actually do it at Cowboys Stadium and get in there, that was really exciting.”
Heard finished with 143 rushing yards on 24 carries and went 8-for-13 for 189 passing yards and the two scores to Jefferson, whose last high school reception was a 71-yard touchdown catch to start the fourth quarter and give the Wildcats a 41-30 lead.
“It’s a really good way to go out,” said Jefferson, who finished with seven catches for a season-high 176 yards. “I knew the ball was going to come to me because of how their defense set up. I was real excited when the safety stepped up, and I just went past him.”
The second half saw Guyer’s offense hitting on all cylinders, unlike its first-half performance. Guyer was held to 14 points and trailed at halftime for the first time since its season opener against Cedar Hill.
The Wildcats also committed two key turnovers — both Richard Whitaker fumbles — one in the first half and the other on their opening possession of the second half, the latter of which led to the Eagles (15-1) taking a 30-14 lead with less than nine minutes to play in the third quarter.
“We just grinded,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “There was no panic. We talked about it as a staff and as a team. We knew it was a four-quarter ballgame. No matter what happened in the first two quarters, we knew we’d be in a grind for those next two. We are always confident.”
Whitaker redeemed himself by rushing for 97 yards, but there was no doubt the story of Guyer’s second-half offensive surge was Heard.
The junior, who has orally committed to Texas, ran for three third-quarter touchdowns in less than five minutes before his long touchdown pass to Jefferson gave the Wildcats 27 consecutive points in less than eight minutes.
“He’s excellent,” Georgetown coach Jason Dean said of Heard. “We knew that coming into the game. He’s a dang good football player. But that’s the best offensive line we’ve faced all year long, and we knew that coming in. That kid doesn’t make it happen all by himself.”
The Wildcats’ ground game, which rushed for more than 600 yards in last week’s win over Tyler John Tyler, was bottled up in the first half by a big, strong Georgetown front seven.
The Wildcats managed just 69 rushing yards in the first half before finishing the game with 300 yards on the ground.
“I think they knew running the ball in the first half was going to be difficult,” Dean said. “They got out of doing it a little bit, and we put some pressure on them and got some big stops. In the second half, they just bowed their necks and said, ‘Dadgummit, we’re a running football team,’ and they did just that.”
Heard had 33 rushing yards at halftime before going off for 110 in the second, and Walsh said his emphatic run to put Guyer back into the lead near the end of the third quarter was, emotionally speaking, just what his team needed.
“He’s run physical all year, but that was just isolated in space and it just generated a lot of momentum on our sideline to see him do that,” Walsh said. “You need reasons to start believing, and that was one of those. He said, ‘Hey, get on my back. I’m taking this.’”
One of the first people to meet Heard on the sideline after the run was his quarterbacking mentor, Walsh’s son, J.W. Walsh, who was a three-year starter at Guyer who lost in the Class 5A Division II title game in 2010.
“It made my day when I saw him,” Heard said. “I actually wanted to play harder because he was here.”
Heard was a freshman that year, but the two have been friends for much longer, as Heard would travel with the team as early as seventh grade so he could learn and be groomed by the current Oklahoma State quarterback.
“I have no words for how good he is,” J.W. Walsh said. “That kid is unbelievable. He has completely grown up since the last time I watched him. He is an animal. He’s unreal.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.