ALLEN — Another deficit, another December playoff game and another thriller.
Guyer was held to no points through the first three quarters of Saturday’s Class 4A Division I state semifinal against Highland Park before roaring back for a 22-16 win to complete yet another rally in its relatively short playoff history.
The last time Guyer (13-2) was shut out in the first half of a game was a 2010 Class 5A Division II semifinal against Longview, when the Wildcats scored 28 second-half points to win a one-point game and punch a ticket to their first state championship game.
Now, the Wildcats are going to their third title game in four seasons and are looking to defend their 4A Division I state championship at 8 p.m. Friday against San Antonio Brennan (15-0) at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium after senior quarterback Jerrod Heard rallied the Wildcats with two rushing touchdowns in the final four minutes.
“You could write a book about our state semifinal games,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “I didn’t get nervous until they [Highland Park] answered us back [with 2:18 remaining to take a 16-14 lead] in five plays, and then I got a little nervous.”
Guyer had a similar comeback in last year’s state semifinal when it scored a game-winning touchdown with 1:14 remaining, then trailed by 16 points in the third quarter of its state championship win over Georgetown.
The Wildcats trailed 21-0 in a state quarterfinal win over Wolfforth Frenship in 2008 before coming back to win on a last-second field goal.
It looked like Guyer had another comeback win when the Wildcats used a 25-yard run from Heard to take a 14-10 lead over the Scots (13-2) with less than five minutes remaining after Guyer trailed 10-0 entering the fourth quarter.
But the Scots quickly answered to take a 16-14 lead with 2:18 left after a 45-yard completion on first down set up Highland Park in great field position. But DJ Breedlove returned the ensuing kickoff to the Guyer 43-yard line, and gave Walsh some play calling flexibility.
“Once we got that good field position, I knew I could use our run game and not go exclusively to the passing game,” Walsh said. “Then I knew we had a good shot.”
That running attack, which entered the game averaging 333.2 yards per game, wasn’t finding much room to run against Highland Park’s defense, especially early in the game.
Guyer managed just 25 rushing yards in the first half and was hurt by penalties and two lost fumbles before adding another turnover in the third quarter.
“They’re real multiple defensively,” Walsh said of the Scots’ defense. “They had a great defensive game plan, and they did a good job of stopping what we do. It was 50 percent what Highland Park was doing and it was 50 percent us moonwalking. When you’re moonwalking on offense, it’s hard to pick up first downs.”
But in the second half, thanks to some key defensive stops that gave the Wildcats’ possession after possession, perhaps the best player on the field took over the game.
Heard lofted a prayer for a 33-yard completion to Adam Scott, on which Scott outjumped two Scots, before running back Anthony Taylor scampered 23 yards on a key third-and-7 for a touchdown to put Guyer on the board for the first time with 8:44 to play.
After a three-and-out for Guyer’s defense, Heard took over again.
On third-and-11 with under five minutes to play and the game on the line, Heard took a shotgun snap and ran into Taylor before hitting the corner and scoring on a 25-yard touchdown run.
Heard’s 1-yard plunge on the next drive, which followed a 16-yard run, and the subsequent two-point conversion pass to DJ Breedlove gave Guyer the final margin and sent Heard retreating all the way back the Highland Park 40-yard line with an emphatic fist pump.
Heard finished the game with 143 yards on 24 carries and was 12-for-19 passing for 150 yards.
“That’s what he’s supposed to do,” Walsh said. “He’s one of the best players in Texas, and I told him we were going to have to ride him. He took us into that end zone single-handedly a couple of times.”
Added Highland Park coach Randy Allen: “As we wore down, [Heard] began to take over. He’s faster than us, so when he broke out we had a hard time corralling him.”
Now, Heard and his teammates have to prepare for a marquee matchup against Brennan and a defense that has allowed six offensive touchdowns in 15 games and outscored its opponents 816-51.
Heard said Saturday’s heart stopper will do nothing but help his team against what is sure to be another challenge.
“Having the suspense with this game is really good for next week,” Heard said. “We haven’t been challenged all year, and being challenged like that was good. It’s just going to be really big for next week.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Guyer 22, Highland Park 16
HP — Will Sanders 23 FG
HP — Cole Feigl 4 run (Will Sanders kick)
DG — Anthony Taylor 23 run (Brad Grems kick)
DG — Jerrod Heard 25 run (Brad Grems kick)
HP — Stephen Dieb 1 run (kick failed)
DG — Jerrod Heard 1 run (DJ Breedlove pass from Jerrod Heard)
Rushing — DG: Jerrod Heard 24-143, Anthony Taylor 7-37, DJ Breedlove 10-26, HP: Cole Feigl 15-32, Stephen Dieb 3-9, Brooks Burgin 12-6.
Passing — DG: Jerrod Heard 12-19-0-150, HP: Brooks Burgin 15-36-1-190.
Receiving — DG: Adam Scott 4-78, David Haynes 4-36, Eric Ramon 3-22, Tripp Reed 1-14, HP: Kevin Ken 5-51, William Stowe 2-50, Remy Kell 4-44, Cole Feigl 2-24, Andrew Frost 1-14, Campbell Brooks 1-7.