Jerrod Heard has shown a tendency over his career to play better as the games get bigger.
That was clear last postseason, when Heard had his two biggest games in the final two games of Guyer’s state championship season.
On Monday night at UNT’s Apogee Stadium, Heard got a head start while vaulting his team into the Class 4A Division I state semifinal for the second straight season with a 53-28 win over Birdville in the Class 4A Division I Region I final.
The senior quarterback and Texas pledge finished the night with 212 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while completing 11 of his 14 pass attempts for 135 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought tonight coming out of the gate, he looked like he finished last year,” Guyer head coach John Walsh said. “He really tried to put it on himself. He was finishing his runs and executing the run game well. He’s where we need him right now.”
The win puts Guyer (12-2) in the state semifinals, where the Wildcats will face Highland Park (13-1) on Saturday at Allen at 1 p.m.
Guyer and Birdville (11-3) traded scores early in the game, but the Wildcats failed to convert two extra points and led just 12-7 before the momentum permanently shifted in Guyer’s favor.
After a Heard touchdown run, the ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Birdville and recovered by Guyer’s Trey Woods at the Birdville 18-yard line.
Two plays later, Guyer was in the end zone again on a 3-yard run from DJ Breedlove, and the Wildcats’ momentum continued for a while, as they scored 20 unanswered points to build a 26-7 lead. Guyer scored six first-half touchdowns, punting just once.
“We do a good job of when we get a momentum play we keep it on our sideline for a while,” Walsh said. “When they fumbled and we scored, we had a bunch of three-and-outs and kept the momentum on our sidelines.”
Heard had big numbers in the first half, racking up 173 rushing yards and 117 passing yards (10-of-11) with a touchdown each rushing and passing.
Despite bitterly cold temperatures that dipped into the 20s, Heard had one of his best passing games of the year.
“That ball feels like a rock when it’s in the cold,” Heard said. “I was just trying to throw it as hard as I could to keep my hands warm and keep a good grip. I was really happy.”
Breedlove finished with 115 yards and three touchdowns after rushing for just 35 yards in the first half.
While Heard’s performance was the headline of Monday’s game, the defense’s containment of Hawks running back Xavier Turner was nearly as impressive.
Turner entered the game with 2,857 rushing yards and 50 touchdowns on the season. Guyer’s top-ranked rush defense held Birdville’s top-ranked rushing offense to just 195 yards — nearly 300 yards below its season average.
Turner had 20 carries for 124 yards and two scores, but a big chunk of that yardage came on a 58-yard scoring scamper in the first half.
“I don’t have any worries about our run defense against anyone in the state of Texas,” Walsh said. “When you play good people, they’re going to make big plays like Xavier did. He’s a great running back, but our defense played great.”
Walsh isn’t concerned with his senior quarterback, either. And based on Monday night’s performance, he has no reason to be.
“He had a great look in his eye in the locker room before the game,” Walsh said. “When I saw him come out in the first quarter, I knew we were in good shape. He’s got two more games as our quarterback, and he’ll take care of this next one like he’s taken care of our last few.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Guyer 53, Birdville 28
G — DJ Breedlove 2 run (kick failed)
B — Isaiah Duarte 63 run (Samuel Garcia kick)
G — Jerrod Heard 1 run (run failed)
G — DJ Breedlove 3 run (Brad Grems kick)
G — DJ Breedlove 2 run (Brad Grems kick)
B — Xavier Turner 58 run (Samuel Garcia kick)
G — Anthony Taylor 1 run (Brad Grems kick)
G — Adam Scott 20 pass from Jerrod Heard (run failed)
B — Xavier Turner 1 run (Samuel Garcia kick)
G — Anthony Taylor 5 run (Brad Grems kick)
B — Sam Northey 37 pass from Xavier Turner (Samuel Garcia kick)
G — Jerrod Heard 8 run (Brad Grems kick)
Rushing — B: Xavier Turner 20-124, Isaiah Duarte 3-69, Will Hayward 11-10, Sam Northey 1--8, G: Jerrod Heard 20-212, DJ Breedlove 15-115, Anthony Taylor 10-31, Adam Scott 2-14.
Passing — B: Will Hayward 10-14-1-73, Xavier Turner 1-1-0-37, G: Jerrod Heard 11-14-0-135.
Receiving — B: Sam Northey 7-82, Jake Bransford 2-18, Xavier Turner 1-6, Isaiah Duarte 1-4, G: Alex Honey 4-68, Adam Scott 3-33, DJ Breedlove 3-25, Anthony Taylor 1-9.