Heading into last season’s third-round playoff matchup with Amarillo, Guyer knew what to expect from watching film but didn’t truly get a taste of the Sandies’ grinding offense until the teams stepped onto the field.
As the teams prepare for a rematch in the same round today at Lubbock’s Lowrey Field, the Wildcats have first-hand experience against a breed of football different than anything they’ve seen anywhere else.
Amarillo (7-5) employs an old-fashioned wing-T offense, based on misdirection, deception and lots of short runs. Last season, Guyer’s defense suffered through a 26-play scoring drive as the Wildcats held on for a 38-30 win en route to the Class 4A Division I state championship.
“All I remember about that game is just being extremely tired,” Guyer defensive end Thomas Ferguson said. “They had that long drive, and we were just dead out there. That’s how they kept themselves in the game. Their defense is their offense — having the ball and not letting us score. I was very tired.”
Guyer coach John Walsh didn’t have much sympathy for his defensive players as he watched them give up pass after pass to a team known for the run. The Sandies passed for 243 yards and outgained Guyer 460-391, even though the Wildcats held a two-score lead throughout most of the game.
“Last year it was our own fault because we did a great job of stopping the run game and we were letting them get us with play-action on third down,” Walsh said. “That was our own fault. Amarillo, they’ve done that all year long, and against us they’ll want to keep our offense off the field and grind out first downs.”
Against the run, the Wildcats (10-2) have been a force all season, allowing just 62.8 yards per game on the ground. They’ve allowed only two teams to rush for 100 yards — Wichita Falls Rider and Saginaw — and have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
So the Sandies’ running game is not the main concern for Walsh. That would be Amarillo’s passing game on what is expected to be a lot of third-and-medium plays.
“It’s going to be hard to keep them in third-and-long, because the way their offense is designed is to get in third-and-5 a lot, and that’s if you play good defense,” Walsh said. “We feel like we’ll be in third-and-5 a lot, but we just have to be disciplined and read our keys. We just have to perform better on third downs and get ourselves off the field.”
Amarillo’s offense is on a roll in its two playoff wins over Lubbock Monterey and El Paso Chapin, as the Sandies have scored touchdowns on 14 of their last 15 postseason possessions.
Ferguson said having met up with the unique offense a year ago gives the Wildcats an advantage they didn’t have going into last year’s meeting.
“It’s hard to get used to and it’s an adjustment, but once we practice it we’ll be good,” Ferguson said earlier this week. “The key is third downs, really. If we just stop them on third down, we’ll be OK. Last year we had a problem with the play-action, and I think we’ll be better in the secondary this year.
“We’re definitely more prepared. Last year we were prepared, but this year we know their game plan better so we’ll be good on the play-action.”
The Wildcats’ offense is on a roll of its own, having scored two touchdowns in each of the final three quarters of last week’s 42-14 win over Waco after being shut out in the first quarter.
In that game, Guyer fumbled the ball five times, losing two, thanks in part to adverse weather conditions on a near-freezing night with a thick mist and 25 mph north winds.
Temperatures today in Lubbock are forecast in the 60s with a sunny sky, and Guyer senior quarterback Jerrod Heard said his unit will be good to go.
“If you can play through what we played in last Friday, you can probably do a lot,” Heard said. “We’re going to West Texas, so it’ll probably be windy and who knows what else, but as long as it’s not raining again, we’ll be all fine.”
Heard also said the nature of Amarillo’s offense puts a little more pressure on him to get his team in the end zone on each possession in order to get Guyer into the regional final for the fifth time in six seasons.
“Every time we get the ball we have to go score,” Heard said. “Our boys understand that and can do that pretty well. That’s the game plan. We just have to play our game and not turn the ball over.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.