Last year’s contest between Guyer and Denton really wasn’t much of a contest. The Wildcats shut out the Broncos 62-0, with their offense scoring on their first play from scrimmage and their defense holding Denton to 30 rushing yards and 144 passing yards.
Denton coach Kevin Atkinson says that if the Wildcats’ offense has as much success today as it did last year, his team will be in for a long night.
“If it’s a high-scoring game, we’re in trouble,” Atkinson said. “We’ve got to limit them. Our best defense may be our offense keeping them off the field, so we’ve got to extend drives and get into good down-and-distances. Then when we play defense, we can’t give up big plays and [must] make them drive the ball and hopefully limit them to a field goal.”
Today’s game at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex is the Wildcats’ homecoming game. Guyer coach John Walsh isn’t going to let his team fall into a trap, as he says the Broncos have improved significantly in Atkinson’s second season and have a chance to be a player for a playoff spot out of District 5-4A.
“We’re not going to overlook anybody,” Walsh said. “I think in the preview I said it — and I still stand by it whether people like to hear it not — I think it’s between us, [Wichita Falls] Rider and [Trophy Club] Byron Nelson and I think Azle, Lake Dallas and Denton High are fighting for that last spot.”
Walsh and the Wildcats (2-2, 1-0 district) want to replicate last season’s showing against Denton, but he doesn’t want them looking any further than the first quarter.
“The message is simple,” Walsh said. “We are going to try to do exactly what we did last year — jump on them quick and win the first quarter. We’ll talk about the second quarter when we get there. It’s kind of like the season. You have to take care of the now and take care of what you’re in.”
Last week’s start to the Wildcats’ 41-10, district-opening victory over Azle could have gone much smoother. The Wildcats had just a 7-0 lead after the first quarter but got it together in the second and entered halftime up 28-3.
“We drove the ball the whole length of the field and threw an interception,” Walsh said. “They ran it back, and Azle didn’t move the ball all night. I think we ended up scoring a couple, but it wasn’t quick scores. We started off inefficient in the first half offensively. [The] defense kept giving the ball back to us. We felt like we should have had some more points on the board, and we didn’t.”
Against the Hornets, senior quarterback Jerrod Heard threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns while racking up 69 rushng yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. He threw two interceptions, but Walsh wasn’t concerned.
“The second one was really my bad,” Walsh said. “We should have kneeled it and gone into half. I was feeling a little too cocky, and we were backed up with 40 seconds to go. I got into a formation we’re not usually in, and we actually called the direction he threw the ball to. The first one, he had a lot of confidence in his arm, he tried to fit it in a tight window and they made a good play. We didn’t talk much about it. He’s not a turnover guy, and I’m not concerned about him turning the ball over.”
It’s those tricky, unfamiliar formations that may put Heard into a tight spot that Atkinson thinks the Wildcats plan to use to exploit his defense.
“Their offense is really explosive and there are four or five of them that can score on any play, so we really have to put ourselves in the right positions,” Atkinson said. “First thing we have to do is make sure we are aligned correctly because they will get you misaligned with their formations and take advantage of you. They are pretty crafty.”
The Broncos (2-2, 0-1) were able to intercept the Falcons twice in last week’s 42-28, district-opening loss, but they were unable to score any points off of them or even flip the field position on Lake Dallas, as Denton’s special teams play didn’t do it any favors.
“It’s going to be one of those games where we execute our plan offensively and in all three phases,” Atkinson said. “When we have an opportunity to make a play, we have to make a play. I told them all week: We aren’t going to stop them; they are going to score. Offensively, we have to score too. We have to find a way to slow them down and create a turnover. It’s going to be a big chore, but it’s why you play the game. It’s why it’s not a math exam.”
The most prominent challenge the Broncos’ offense creates for the Wildcats’ defense and Guyer defensive coordinator Derek Ramsey resides in Denton’s passing game.
“The biggest challenge for us is they do a good job with their route combinations and they will pick on your [linebacker] zone-drops,” Ramsey said. “Last year, as well as we played them, they had some success. They didn’t score, but they moved the ball on us through the air. There isn’t one coverage that takes away everything, so you have to mix your coverages up and adjust some of your drops to take away their routes.”
Even though the Wildcats say the threats are in the passing game, Ramsey said it starts with shutting down the Broncos’ ground attack, which posted 133 yards against Lake Dallas.
“Their running game with Xavier Scott — he’s probably one of the better backs they’ve had in a long time,” Ramsey said. “That’s where we start. We game-plan to shut down the run game, and we’re pretty confident in what we do there. Then, you just have to take away the big-ball capabilities of them.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.