DJ Breedlove has been a part of a lot of big games for the Guyer football team.
A varsity running back since his sophomore season, Breedlove has seen more than the normal workload thanks to some deep playoff runs by the Wildcats.
And while he hopes to still have a few games left in his high school career as the Wildcats try to defend their Class 4A Division I state title, Breedlove admitted his performance in Guyer’s area-round playoff win over Waco two weeks ago might have topped all of his previous exploits.
“I think it probably was my best,” Breedlove said of the Wildcats’ 42-13 win Nov. 22. “I still have more to go, but as of now, yes. I didn’t want to go home, and I just felt like I needed to step up and make some big plays for the team.”
What Breedlove did in that game cannot be overstated. The Wildcats were facing an athletic Waco team as well as dire weather conditions that featured near-freezing temperatures, a thick mist and a stiff 25 mph north wind.
Trouble with a wet ball led to a couple of fumbles, including one from Breedlove, and a 10-0 Guyer deficit at the end of the first quarter.
Breedlove rebounded and sparked Guyer’s comeback.
Breedlove’s 28-yard punt return for a touchdown gave Guyer its first lead of the game — and he was just getting started.
Following Waco’s three-and-out to open the second half with Guyer leading 14-13, Breedlove retreated to field a punt at the Guyer 3-yard line and raced 97 yards for his second return touchdown of the night. After that, the rout was on, and Guyer was through to the next round of the playoffs.
On the night, Breedlove rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown and had the two return scores to give him 296 total yards. The big performance has become old hat for Breedlove.
“He does a good job of understanding we’re expected to be in a long season,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “I’m careful to use the word ‘pace,’ but he knows how to pace himself. He’s never not trying to get 100 yards, but he understands the magnitude of these games late in the season.”
Take last season, for instance.
In Guyer’s first five postseason games last year, Breedlove eclipsed 100 rushing yards four times and scored six touchdowns.
This postseason, Breedlove has been at it again, with the huge game against Waco and a three-touchdown performance in last week’s win over Amarillo, in which he played only the first half.
Breedlove is not only versatile as a runner, receiver and returner, but he’s also proving to be an all-around running back with a complete package of running styles.
Last year, Breedlove was Guyer’s outside threat while former running back Richard Whitaker was seen more as the downhill runner. Both broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season, and Breedlove scored 15 touchdowns on the ground.
This year, junior Anthony Taylor has become the outside threat, while Breedlove has shown he can fill both roles. Through 13 games, Breedlove has 1,056 rushing yards and 17 scores on the ground with four receiving touchdowns.
“I feel like I can do anything,” said Breedlove, a quiet, humble kid who leads by example rather than with words. “If you’re trying to make me keep it inside, I think I’m a pretty powerful runner for my size. I can do whatever you’ll give me. I feel like I can catch the ball out of the backfield and I can run it hard too and give you a quick move to bounce it outside. I’m shifty and quick. I think I’m pretty versatile as a back.”
His quarterback agrees.
Jerrod Heard has benefited from Breedlove’s presence in the backfield, which gives opposing defenses another threat to account for instead of honing in on the Texas-bound dual-threat quarterback.
Heard said Breedlove is deceptively strong despite his 5-8, 175-pound frame.
“When you look at him, you might not think he’s as strong as he is,” Heard said. “But go ahead and go head to head with him, because he’s probably gonna knock you out.”
Breedlove showed his ability to run inside even last year when Whitaker was on the roster. On the third play of the Wildcats’ regional final win over Birdville, Breedlove went 84 yards to the end zone right through the teeth of the Hawks’ defense.
On Saturday, when Guyer faces Birdville in the regional final again, Heard said he expects Breedlove to again be a big-time player in a big-time game.
“DJ’s that guy that when it’s crunch time and you need those big plays, he’s definitely the person to step up,” Heard said. “It’s not like he’s lazy or anything, but he knows when it’s time to really step up and go to another level. When it’s time to make big plays, he’s going to make them.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.