LUBBOCK — Guyer’s defensive line still has vivid memories of last year’s Class 4A playoff game against Amarillo, and the Wildcats were determined to make sure there would not be a repeat performance by the Sandies.
Guyer’s front four of senior Thomas Ferguson and juniors Derek Watson, Carl Thompson and Isiah Correa effectively shut down the Sandies in the first half Saturday, setting the tone for a 63-21 win over Amarillo in the third round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs at Lowrey Field.
While Guyer’s offense scored virtually at will, the Wildcats’ defense did its job in shutting down an offense that had averaged about 50 points per game in the playoffs, and an offensive scheme that had given the Wildcats fits last year.
“They [the Sandies] knew about our speed on the outside, so we knew they were going to come inside on us with traps,” Ferguson said. “We made some great calls and just stuffed them. Every assignment went right for us. Everything we did went our way. We wanted to get off the field as quickly as we could. We wanted them in third-and-long, and we didn’t want them getting their ground game going.”
At first glance, it might appear as though the Sandies did muster an effective running game, nearly matching the Wildcats in total rushing yards — 295 for Guyer compared with 292 for Amarillo.
But here are the statistics that keyed the Guyer defense:
Amarillo was held to 44 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Sandies were held to four first downs, one by penalty.
The Sandies crossed midfield just once in the first half, and that occurred seconds before intermission.
It was a different story last year. Even though the Wildcats won 38-30 on their way to the state championship, Amarillo’s wing-T offense — a mix of misdirection and short runs — gave the Wildcats fits. At one point, the Sandies put together a 26-play scoring drive, and they eventually outgained Guyer 460-391 in total offense.
That would not be the case Saturday when the game mattered. Guyer’s experienced front four — Ferguson and Thompson were starters in that game while Watson and Correa each had significant playing time — knew what to expect and were prepared.
“We came into this game fully prepared,” Watson said. “We had a hard week of practice and a lot of focus on their offense. We were more comfortable.”
Amarillo did not get a first down until there was 9:40 left in the first half. By halftime, Guyer had a commanding 42-0 lead.
The Sandies did have more success in the second half, mostly against Guyer’s second defense. Deon Lynch scored on a 77-yard run, Anthony Geiger scored from 65 yards, and Kyas Rodriguez added a 75-yard TD. Those three plays accounted for 217 rushing yards.
Lynch became the first runner to rush for more than 100 yards against Guyer this season, finishing with 137 yards on 13 carries.
But the effectiveness of the Guyer defense in the first half was crucial. Guyer head coach John Walsh said his front line was reminded of the 30 points it allowed in last year’s game.
“We challenged them all week to keep them off the field,” Walsh said. “Our experience from last year really helped us in our preparations, and you could see it on the field.”
Thompson said pride was on the line as well.
“We knew if we kept them to three downs we could make things happen,” he said. “They’re a running team, and we were determined to not give up big runs or long drives. It helps that we have gotten better each week. Everyone on the line knows what to do, and we know how to help each other.”