Nearly three years have passed since Guyer has played a football game against a fellow Denton ISD school.
That game was a historic regional final game against Ryan at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, and even though tonight’s game against Denton is not the Denton ISD grudge match that the public has wanted to see for the past two years, Guyer head coach John Walsh is ready to get back to a local rivalry game, regardless of the opponent.
“We have missed Denton ISD schools,” said Walsh, whose team played the past two seasons at the Class 5A level. “The rivalry is a lot of fun. The kids know each other, and we’re closer to the coaches because everything’s so local. It’s good to get a crosstown rivalry game again.”
While football fans in Denton have clamored for a Guyer-Ryan matchup since the Wildcats eliminated the Raiders in 2009, the team Guyer (2-2, 1-0 District 5-4A) will face tonight at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex isn’t the same Broncos team of recent years.
New head coach Kevin Atkinson, who faced Guyer the last two seasons as the head coach at Keller, has brought a new attitude and some success to the Broncos.
Denton (2-2, 0-1) last made the playoffs in 2010, a rare accomplishment for the Broncos in recent years.
“They’re a very improved team, and Kevin’s done a great job with them,” Walsh said. “They’re putting better talent on the field than the last time I played them. They look like they’re getting well-coached.”
That noticeable improvement in talent starts in the skill positions and goes on to the trenches. Quarterback Cy Ward has thrown for 927 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. Ward has enjoyed having two playmakers on the outside in wide receivers Ke’Von Buris and Deandre Coleman.
“Last year, we barely threw the ball, and I only had like two touchdowns last year,” Buris said. “This year, I’m getting more catches.”
Guyer safety Tavi Sanches has taken notice.
“I think we’ll be challenged,” Sanches said. “The new coach brought a spread offense, and he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. But I think we have them.”
Guyer’s defense has taken to forcing some turnovers in recent weeks after giving up 54 points twice in consecutive losses to open the season.
In its past two games — both wins — Guyer’s defense has forced six turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown in last week’s 55-14 blowout of Azle in the District 5-4A opener.
Sanches said he hopes his unit can continue that recent trend against a still unseasoned quarterback.
“We just have to cover the receivers and get pressure on the quarterback and make him throw bad balls and pick them off,” Sanches said. “We’ll have them stopped on the running game, I know that.”
Stopping the running game will likely be the main focus for the Denton defense, as well. The Broncos have played four different defenses in each of their four games this year, including a 3-4, 4-2, 5-3 and 6-2 goal-line defense. That has made it difficult for the Wildcats to prepare heading into today’s game, but Walsh said they’ve made a plan in practice and stuck with it.
“You just have to pick what you think they’ll run, rep it and go from there,” he said. “We’ve seen the 3-4 for the last three weeks, so if we can’t get ready for that now, we’re in trouble. We’ve basically worked the 3-4 and 4-2 all week long. There’s no secrets.”
The Broncos will also be dealing with a fresh Guyer quarterback, who is itching to play, in Jerrod Heard. The junior, who is committed to Texas, is coming off a bye week and then played less than a half against Azle after he was pulled with a 35-0 lead with more than nine minutes remaining in the first half.
“I know what’s gonna matter is more rest for the playoffs,” said Heard, who wasn’t disappointed with the early exit against Azle. “The less beating I get in the regular season, the better. I was totally fine with it.”
But Walsh wasn’t, and said he wants to be sure to get Heard more action this week.
“I felt like I pulled them too early last week,” Walsh said of his starters. “I wish I would’ve went one or maybe two more series. The plan was to get [backup quarterback] David [Haynes] a little time with the [starters] just to see what he looked like. Then we scored quick and the next thing I know it’s 42-0, and it makes no sense to bring Jerrod back.”
Atkinson hopes Walsh won’t be in a position to pull his starters early tonight, and said games like these will help him judge where his program stands.
“I’m excited to play against a good team,” Atkinson said. “The things that you diagram up and the schemes you come up with are sound. We have to execute them. Are we going to against them? That’s why you play the game.
“We played the most talented team we’ve played thus far last week [in a 21-12 loss to Lake Dallas] and we were a little nervous. Now, we are playing the top-ranked team in the state before the season started. If we want to compete in the playoffs and on the state level, we are going to have to play teams like this.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .