When Guyer and Saginaw began varsity football in 2006, the new programs decided to play each other in nondistrict play, and it wasn’t only for the obvious reason.
Both coaching staffs were littered with young coaches who had West Texas roots and West Texas philosophies in the age of high-flying passing offenses, and the two teams matched up well.
Tonight when the two teams hit the field at Justin’s Northwest ISD Stadium in the Class 4A Division I bi-district round, they will be playing for the eighth time in their eight years of varsity football. Only two of those games were sure things, when they were District 7-5A bunkmates in 2010 and 2011.
“We were just new schools, so we played each other, and then we ended up in the same district and now it’s just been catching them in the playoffs,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “One way or another, we’re just going to play them, it seems like.
“They’re similar in philosophy. They have some West Texas roots like we do. They run the ball and do a lot of formations, and their defense is based on stopping the run with a four-man front. There’s a lot of similarities.”
Guyer (8-2), No. 7 in the final Associated Press Class 4A poll, began its six-game postseason run last year with a 42-14 win over Saginaw (5-5) in the bi-district round at Northwest ISD Stadium en route to the 4A Division I state title.
Despite the large margin of victory, Guyer was far from in the driver’s seat early on.
Guyer lost two first-half fumbles, including one by quarterback Jerrod Heard, and led just 14-7 before going up 21-7 with under a minute to play in the half. After the game, Walsh wasn’t happy.
Some of that rust could have had to do with closing the regular season with blowout wins over Wichita Falls and Fort Worth Brewer, the same scenario that played out this year heading into tonight’s game.
“We’ve talked about coasting through at the end and then all the sudden it’s go time,” Walsh said. “I think Jerrod is a lot more mature quarterback right now than he was exactly one year ago. He was still trying to figure things out then. He understands it all right now. That first half last year was maybe the worst half of his career. I think he remembers that. He’ll handle it better.”
Heard most likely will have to throw the ball to keep the Rough Riders’ defense honest. The Texas-bound quarterback expects Saginaw to load the box and try to contain Guyer’s standout ground attack that averages 356.7 yards per game.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they do that, but we can throw the ball,” Heard said. “We’re even better than last year. It’ll be interesting to see what they do.”
For the first time all year, Guyer has no injured players and will have everyone at its disposal. The Wildcats will get back the services of speedy slot receiver Adam Scott, who has been out since the district opener. He will add to what has become a deep receiving corps.
“We don’t have the big [Division I] caliber guy, but we have more of the all-around guys who can do their job,” Heard said. “Instead of having one guy, we have multiple guys who can hurt you.”
While Saginaw will try to stop the Wildcats from running the ball, Guyer will welcome the Rough Riders to do just that.
Saginaw is a run-first team, averaging 220.9 rushing yards per game — 100 more yards than its passing output — and there is no better run defense in the area than Guyer’s.
The Wildcats have held opponents to 49.7 rushing yards per game — the best number in Dallas-Fort Worth, regardless of classification, by more than 30 yards.
“Being an offensive guy, I don’t mess with the defense too much,” Walsh said. “But as I’m watching the game progress, I always see that moment when the opposing team just gives up on the run and goes to other parts of their offense. When you can make someone one-dimensional, it makes things a lot easier.”
Senior linebacker Demontrie Taylor, a Colorado State pledge, said he expects the Rough Riders to take shots with their passing game, most likely deep and most likely to leading receiver Austin Wright, who leads the team with 627 yards and nine receiving touchdowns.
“We have to watch their deep passes,” Taylor said. “They do a lot with [Wright], like streak routes and stop-and-goes. They have good receivers, so I don’t think they’ll stick to the running game. Of course we can stop the run, but they’ll pass the ball because [Wright] is pretty fast and their quarterback [John Polston] is OK.”
Taylor said the biggest thing he’s looking for this week is to continue dominating opponents like Guyer did in its previous two games heading into the playoffs, when he was sitting on the bench. He said the entire team is guarded against another letdown like it had in the first half of last year’s game against their familiar opponent.
“We always have the same mentality — that we’re going to dominate,” Taylor said. “If we would’ve cruised the whole season knowing we’re playing some bad teams, then we’re going to lose when we play a good team. That’s why we go so hard and score so many points on those teams. We have to keep that same dominating mentality the whole time, and we’ve done a good job of that.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.