When Guyer coach John Walsh puts together his nondistrict schedule every two years, it’s done with a lot of thought and planning.
In the current alignment, the Wildcats have played three Class 5A teams to tune up for District 5-4A play. Last season, the Wildcats started the season 0-2 before reeling off 14 straight wins en route to a Class 4A Division I state championship.
Heading into their final nondistrict game tonight against Flower Mound Marcus, the Wildcats (1-1) are one step ahead of last year’s pace with a chance to have a winning record before opening district play Sept. 27 at Azle.
As far as Walsh is concerned, tonight’s game against the Marauders (1-1) is the last in a master plan to get his team ready for anything it might see in district play — and in December.
“When we schedule [nondistrict games], we look at the mentality of a program and we look at schemes,” Walsh said. “We try to get a little bit of everything.”
With Marcus, there is no question what the Wildcats expect to see, and it’s basically a mirror image of themselves.
“Because of their commitment to the fronts and being a power football team, we love playing Marcus,” Walsh said. “Cedar Hill brings the speed factor, Colleyville Heritage brings the spread [offense] element and then we can hone it back in before opening week and go toe to toe in the trenches.
“They bring it, and we feel like we bring it.”
So far this season, No. 3 Guyer has relied heavily on the running game, as quarterback Jerrod Heard and running back D.J. Breedlove each have averaged better than 100 yards per game. That success has come behind a makeshift offensive line that has seen eight players see time and one starter yet to hit the field, due to injuries.
“Our O-line has been moving people around,” said Breedlove, who scored three touchdowns in last week’s emotional win over Heritage. “They’ve been switching out people, but they’ve been doing a really good job.
“I trust them no matter who’s up there. I know they’re going to make holes for me, Anthony [Taylor] and Jerrod.”
Running room likely will be harder to come by for the Wildcats against a Marcus defense that Breedlove said was the most physical his team saw a year ago, even considering playoff games with Aledo and Georgetown. Guyer still managed to eclipse 300 yards on the ground against the Marauders in a 27-14 win.
“That’s why we play them, just in case we’re going to run into it again [in the playoffs], but I don’t think we will because they’re very physical,” Breedlove said. “They fly to the ball. They’re physical whatever they do. If they’re filling in a gap, they’re blowing it up. They flow to the ball and get there and try to get it out of your hands and make that big play.”
The physical nature of play translates to Marcus’ offense, as well. The Marauders boast perhaps the biggest offensive line Guyer will face this season and a quality running back in Mark Demery, who’s averaged 120 yards per game through two weeks.
But the Marauders will be without starting quarterback Cole Erwin, who suffered a season-ending injury for the second straight year in last week’s loss to Arlington, and will rely on backup Taylor Gibbs, whom Walsh said he was impressed with in Marcus’ spring game.
Walsh said he feels for the injured quarterback, who is the son of Marcus head coach Bryan Erwin.
“It just breaks my heart because Cole is a great kid and a great leader for their program,” Walsh said. “I think they’re more prepared this year than they were last year, though, because Cole took very few reps in the spring. I went to the spring game, and the kid who’s going to play Friday night is a tall kid and he’s a good QB.”
Gibbs likely will lean on his running backs and offensive line to give the Marauders a chance, but Guyer junior defensive tackle Carl Thompson said if he and his teammates up front do their job, the Wildcats will be 2-1 heading into an off week.
“They’re big up front, and it’s going to be a good game,” Thompson said. “It’ll be the best offensive line we’ve seen so far. They think they’re just going to run the ball down our throats, though. That’s not going to happen, because we’re more physical than them. We’re the most physical team in the state of Texas.”
That judgment will be made tonight, and that’s the main reason Walsh and Erwin like playing each other. Walsh said he is looking forward to seeing how his team responds to a physical challenge such as Marcus with a full three days of preparation — Guyer’s first three-day practice week of the season.
“Mentally they should be prepared for their assignment,” Walsh said. “I want them playing as fast as they can play and not worrying about or thinking about their assignment. This is a different offense we’re facing, but I want them playing fast and see if things come naturally.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.