MANSFIELD — Guyer running back D.J. Breedlove wasn’t perfect Friday night.
But on a night when the weather and wet footballs caused headaches for both teams, Breedlove did plenty right in helping Guyer to a 42-13 win over Waco in the area round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs at Vernon Newsom Stadium.
Breedlove rushed for 150 yards on 17 carries and scored a touchdown to lead a vaunted Wildcat rushing attack, but he might have won the game with his punt returns, scoring twice from 28 and 97 yards — the shortest and longest punt-return touchdowns in school history.
“We knew all week long that if we got our hands on it, we had a good chance of scoring on those returns,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “They keep their offensive linemen in on punt coverage, and we feel good about D.J. in space.”
Guyer will advance to play the winner of today’s El Paso Chapin-Amarillo game in the regional semifinals at 1 p.m. Nov. 30 at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field.
Down 7-0 after the first quarter, the Wildcats tied the game at 7 with a 7-yard run from quarterback Jerrod Heard, and after the Guyer defense forced a three-and-out on Waco’s ensuing possession, Breedlove went to work.
Waco (8-4) was forced to punt from its 4-yard line into a stiff 20-mph wind, and Breedlove went untouched to score on the return from 28 yards out, giving the Wildcats their first lead with just less than 10 minutes to play in the first half.
Guyer (10-2) struggled offensively for the remainder of the half and overcame a Breedlove fumble deep in its own territory to hold Waco off the board, aside from a 102-yard kickoff return from Tyler Taylor.
The Lions had a chance to reclaim the lead on the first drive of the second half with the wind at their back, but Guyer’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Breedlove made the Lions pay once again while redeeming himself for his two fumbles.
With the wind at his back, Waco quarterback Traynham Moore punted the ball over Breedlove’s head, as the senior running back retreated 30 yards back to his own 3-yard line before picking up the ball and taking off.
He hit a pile of players at the Guyer 25-yard line and emerged from the mess to scamper for a 97-yard touchdown.
Walsh said he was yelling at Breedlove to not field the punt inside his own 5-yard line, but his concern quickly changed to joy.
“I was going to do it regardless,” Breedlove said. “I wanted to make a play for my team because I knew I messed up earlier on that fumble. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team out, and I knew if I just got past their gunners — their fast guys — I could make a big play.”
Waco stayed in the game in the first half with the help of two Guyer turnovers and the big kickoff return for Taylor — his fifth of the season — but Walsh was never concerned as he took his team into the locker room at halftime.
“There was maybe a series in the first half where we didn’t hurt ourselves and they made us punt, but the other times we just kept hurting ourselves and putting the ball on the ground,” Walsh said. “I told them we were going to do some bad things in this weather, but it’s how we react that’s going to decide the game.”
The Wildcats dominated in all three phases in the second half, holding Moore to an 0-for-7 passing clip after passing for 56 yards in the first half and keeping the Lions to just 40 total yards in the second half.
Waco entered the game averaging 46 points per game in its previous five contests but was held scoreless in the second half.
“Defensively, all year long, people haven’t been able to sustain drives,” Walsh said. “They saw us put the ball on the ground [offensively] a little and knew they had to hold the rope a little bit, so they held the rope.”
Heard didn’t have a spectacular game statistically, rushing for 99 yards and a score while going 5-of-6 passing for 26 yards and a touchdown, but Walsh said that was the plan all along.
His touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to Jonathan Pershall, capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive that chewed more than six minutes off the clock and gave Guyer a 28-13 lead.
“We knew going into it we wanted to establish the run, and once we got it rolling, we didn’t need him to throw the ball,” Walsh said.
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Guyer 42, Waco 13
WO — Phillip Roper 3 run (Jason Diaz kick)
DG — Jerrod Heard 7 run (Brad Grems kick)
DG — DJ Breedlove 28 punt return (Brad Grems kick)
WO — Tyler Taylor 102 kickoff return (kick blocked)
DG — DJ Breedlove 97 punt return (Brad Grems kick)
DG — Jonathan Pershall 15 pass from Jerrod Heard (Brad Grems kick)
DG — Anthony Taylor 19 run (Brad Grems kick)
DG — DJ Breedlove 12 run (Brad Grems kick)
Rushing — DG: DJ Breedlove 17-150, Jerrod Heard 17-99, Anthony Taylor 7-57, WO: Phillip Roper 7-29, Adrian West 7-22, Tyler Taylor 1-18, Louis Davis 8-4, Will Richards III 3-2, Deavan Porter 1-(-3), Traynham Moore 12-(-19).
Passing — DG: Jerrod Heard 5-6-0-26, WO: Traynham Moore 6-17-0-56.
Receiving — DG: Jonathan Pershall 1-15, Anthony Taylor 1-12, Issac Singletary 1-1, Adam Scott 2--2, WO: Dwight Worthy 3-28, O.C. Beasley 1-18, Deavan Porter 2-10.