ARLINGTON — Guyer senior defensive end Connor Allen was among the Wildcats on the field at Cowboys Stadium soaking in their 48-37 victory over Georgetown in the Class 4A Division I state championship game.
Allen clutched his helmet by the facemask as his other hand cradled the game’s defensive most valuable player trophy. He stopped walking and stood still as everybody swirled around him.
He looked down at the trophy in his right hand, licked his lips and satisfactorily nodded with a slight grin.
The wooden plaque represented Allen’s play as much as it represented the play of Guyer’s entire defense in the second half. The Wildcats forced three turnovers in the half and came up with big plays all day in Guyer’s comeback victory over the Eagles.
“That was the whole ballgame,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “In the first half, our turnovers are what got [momentum] swinging their way — the wrong way.
“The turnovers were huge.”
When Guyer trailed by 16 points in the third quarter, as the Wildcats’ offense countered after Guyer was momentarily staggered, the defense came up with key stops to keep the Eagles from inflicting further damage.
After quarterback Jerrod Heard scored on a 17-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 10, Guyer stopped Georgetown on fourth-and-1 at the Guyer 31.
Heard scored another touchdown, and after a muffed kickoff by Eagles senior Matt Sanchez, Georgetown was trapped inside its 10-yard line with Guyer hungry to retake the lead.
On third-and-6, Georgetown quarterback Jake Hubenak scrambled in the backfield. Allen leveled him. Hubenak fumbled the ball and Guyer linebacker Demontrie Taylor recovered it at the Georgetown 5-yard line, setting Guyer up for the go-ahead touchdown.
“It’s just what we needed,” Allen said of the fumble. “It felt great. We needed the ball back and we needed to score.”
Allen came up with another huge play on another fourth-and-1 later in the fourth quarter. Allen stonewalled Eagle running back Tyler Moody for another key stop.
“We tried running the football on third-and-short and fourth-and-short again,” Georgetown coach Jason Dean said. “A couple of different times we got stuffed. They just wore us out up front.”
Georgetown converted three of nine third downs in the second half after converting on seven of 10 chances in the first half.
As clutch as Guyer’s defensive line was in the third quarter, the Wildcats came up with two key interceptions to secure Guyer’s first team state championship and the third football title for a Denton high school.
After Guyer’s go-ahead touchdown, Hubenak and the Eagles were driving down the field and poised to retake the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Wildcats senior lineman Dominic Pickering sacked Hubenak and junior defensive back Will Sanders intercepted Hubenak one yard from the Guyer goal line, momentarily holding off the Eagles.
Georgetown’s hope of winning its first state title was clipped for good when senior linebacker Terence Belton intercepted Hubenak in the middle of the field with 1:49 remaining. Belton bounced off the turf and ran toward the Guyer sideline with his left hand raised triumphantly in the air.
“It just felt like a video game almost,” Belton said of the moment. “After I grabbed it, it was sort of like ‘We did it.’ It was just unreal.”
After the game, as Guyer was clearing out of its locker room, Allen reached up to the nameplate taped above his locker. He made an attempt at grabbing it but couldn’t because he hurt his leg on that crucial fourth-down stop.
A teammate hopped up and ripped it down to give it to Allen. He clutched that along with the plaque as he made his way out of the locker room.
“I’ve never felt anything like that in my life,” Allen said of the victory. “It’s so much work and effort that we’ve all put into this. We wanted it so much. We earned it.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.