When the Guyer Wildcats burst onto the scene in 2008 with a trip to the Class 4A Division I semifinals, they did so with a dominant run defense that picked up slack when then-sophomore J.W. Walsh missed a handful of games in the middle of district play.
That season, after Guyer had gone 1-19 in its first two seasons of existence, the Wildcats allowed a paltry 96.3 yards per game on the ground, controlling tempo and the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Five seasons later, it appears the dominant run defense of those “old days” of Guyer football is back, just as Guyer’s coaches knew it would be after a disappointing year for the defense in 2012.
Need evidence? Just look at the last three games the defending Class 4A Division I state champions have played, two of which came against Class 5A competition.
“Back in 2008 our defensive line was as impressive a bunch as I’ve seen,” said Brian Valenzuela, who has coached Guyer’s defensive line since the program’s inception in 2006. “But I think, as far as the stats are concerned, [this three-game stretch is] pretty unprecedented.
It started with a game against Colleyville Heritage — a Guyer win that was later forfeited for use of an ineligible player — when the Wildcats gave up a grand total of one rushing yard on 27 carries.
The next week, against power-running Flower Mound Marcus, which boasts a big, physical offensive line, Guyer allowed just 37 yards on 31 carries.
That was followed by a similar performance in Guyer’s district opener against Azle, when the Hornets managed 38 yards on 34 carries.
Cedar Hill was only able to rack up 95 yards on 33 carries in Guyer’s season opener.
“We take a lot of pride about how we’ve been stopping the run,” Guyer defensive end Thomas Ferguson said. “It’s like we have to keep it that way. We’d better do it every week. Now that we know we can do it, we put more pressure on ourselves to do it. We set the bar really high.”
The Marcus game, in particular, was a feather in the cap of the Wildcats’ starting defensive line, which entered the season with more experience behind returning starters Ferguson and Carl Thompson, who both were first-year starters on the line a year ago. Along with Isiah Correa and Derek Watson, the foursome has dominated opponents up front this year.
“That’s really when it set in,” said Ferguson, the lone senior in the group. “Heritage wasn’t a big run team anyway, but that’s what [the Marauders] do. For us to shut them down was awesome. We were really happy after that. We look at it like, ‘When are we going to see another team like Marcus that runs like that?’ It was good to be able to shut them down.”
Guyer has had its fair share of big-time defensive linemen over the years — players such as Spencer Wilson, former Parade All-American Taylor Bible, current San Diego State defensive lineman Dan Kottman and Oklahoma State defensive end Jimmy Bean.
But one thing that makes this year’s unit special, including “fifth man” Dharrius Timmons and offensive lineman turned tight end/defensive tackle Blake Timmons, who will make his season debut tonight against Denton, is the fact that they can all do just about everything.
Ferguson is the standout and probably the most well-rounded of the bunch, but every player has his role and they all complement each other to make a final product that has allowed an average of 42.8 rushing yards per game in four games this season.
“They’re still a work in progress, but on the field they complement each other so well,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “Thomas is a little bit of everything. He’s seasoned. We can do clinic tapes on how we want our defensive line to play with him. He can run-stop and recognize pass-rush.
“Carl’s the most noticeable because he’s more dynamic and is extremely quick off the ball and makes plays. Isiah kind of slips everyone’s mind, but he’s drawing double teams and he’s just violent down there. He’s more of a run stopper, but he’s definitely the most violent. Watson is the pass-rushing guy that’s got to work on stopping the run. We want them all to do both really well, but that’s why we have 16 games to play this year — to get them to that point.”
Thompson, a junior defensive tackle, said having Correa by his side makes things easy on him. Never one to clamor for the spotlight, Correa gets plenty of praise from his teammates for doing the dirty work, and he’s good at it.
“He’s big,” Thompson said of Correa. “He’s huge. He eats up blocks so when you have to double-team him, the rest of us can run free.
“It sets me up for one-on-one blocks, and you can’t really one-on-one block me because I’m probably going to make a play. If you double-team me, then those other guys will make plays. We’re all playmakers. We can all take on double teams too. We can all do it all.”
That’s bad news for opposing offenses, especially when it comes to running the football.
With Ferguson and the 6-foot-4, rangy Watson on the ends and Correa and Thompson inside, running room has been hard to come by this year, as the stats show. Through four games, Guyer’s opponents have managed a miniscule 1.37 yards per carry.
“There’s really nowhere to run,” Valenzuela said, “and that’s what makes it fun as a defensive line coach.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.