After weeks of knowing who their opening-round playoff game opponent would be, the Guyer Wildcats are ecstatic to begin their postseason tonight.
Since claiming at least a share of the District 5-4A title with a win over Wichita Falls Rider, minus its star quarterback J.T. Barrett, back on Oct. 26, the Wildcats haven’t had much to be excited about.
The final two games of the regular season saw Guyer (8-2) outscore its opponents 111-8 as the Wildcats averaged 52.1 points per game in district play and gave up only 10.4 after starting the season 0-2 with losses to Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage.
That season-ending lull comes to an end tonight when Guyer plays Saginaw at 7:30 p.m. at Justin Northwest’s Texan Stadium in the Class 4A Division I bi-district round.
“It’s real exciting. We’ve been waiting for this time to come,” senior wide receiver Ellis Jefferson said. “It’s honestly been boring in district. I was hoping Rider’s quarterback would’ve been OK to make a good game to get ready for the playoffs, but he was hurt. I’m real happy they [Rough Riders] have the same record as us, too, so they’ll be a good opponent and every team after them will be, too.”
Guyer could not ask for a more familiar opponent to open the postseason against than Saginaw (8-2).
Both schools openedin 2005 and have played each other in football every year since, whether it be in nondistrict play, as District 7-5A opponents the past two seasons, or now in the postseason.
“They’ve changed head coaches, but their staff is pretty much intact,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “They’re pretty much a ground-and-pound offense and have always been physical, but they are more multiple now in their offense and they’ve grown offensively since we played them last year.
“When you’re 8-2 and you put on film, you’re gonna see a winner playing. They carry themselves like an 8-2 football team right now.”
That’s a far cry from the past two seasons, when Saginaw went 1-19 as a Class 5A program. This year, the Rough Riders roared out to a 6-0 start before losing to Birdville and Saginaw Boswell. Their defense allowed only 11.8 points per game this year with four shutouts.
The Rough Riders’ defense has had that success for the same reasons Guyer has had success over recent years.
“They’re a really physical team,” Walsh said. “They have a good presence in the middle [defensive tackle Bobby Suber], and their linebackers are really physical.”
Walsh also credited the Saginaw defensive ends, Edwin Nero (6-foot-3) and Jordan Love (6-2), who are both fast off the edges and get to the quarterback.
“I think it’s a testament to their improvement, but on our end, we like seeing those numbers,” Walsh said. “We take it as a challenge. When you see someone only giving up  points per game [in District 6-4A play], I mean we want to have more than that in the first quarter or we’re looking around, ticked off at each other. When we see those numbers, it’s a challenge to us. We look forward to that.”
With the capability of their pass rush, the Rough Riders will have to look to contain Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard, who has made teams regret opening up running lanes for him all season.
In last week’s 62-8 win over White Settlement Brewer, Heard rushed for just shy of 200 yards on only 10 carries and scored four times on the ground.
“If they want to pass rush hard off the edge and Jerrod sees a big gap open, he has the freedom to take off,” Walsh said. “That’s what defenses have to be careful with against us. He turns pass plays into running plays, and that’s been a pretty good asset for us.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .