Heading into last week’s state semifinal against Highland Park, Guyer head football coach John Walsh caught wind of an alarming statistic from one of his team’s potential opponents in the state championship game.
Through 14 games, San Antonio Northside Brennan had allowed five offensive touchdowns all season and gave up just one more last week in a semifinal win over Houston Stratford.
Now, it’s the Wildcats’ turn to face a squad whose first-team defense has allowed just two touchdowns through 15 games, albeit against a schedule full of questionable opponents.
“I was awestruck,” Walsh said when he heard the number. “It just doesn’t seem right. They’re stingy, and they know that stat is out there, so they want to keep it.”
The Wildcats (13-2), the defending Class 4A Division I state champions, will look to add to that number tonight when they face Brennan (15-0) at 8 p.m. at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium in the championship game.
“That stat is fun to talk about, because we’d like to end it,” Walsh said. “But we can’t worry about that and what they’ve done in the past. You hear people say they haven’t played anyone, but they’ve played 15 teams. Out of 15 teams, someone should be able to score.
“We’re not trying to get five or six or seven touchdowns against them. We’re just trying to score one more point than them and get that ring on our finger.”
The main figure standing in the way of Guyer’s star quarterback Jerrod Heard and a back-to-back championship for the Wildcats is Brennan defensive end Derick Roberson.
Both Heard and Roberson are committed to Texas, both will play in All-American games soon — Heard in the U.S. Army game and Roberson in the Under Armour game — and both will be the key figure to their teams’ chances tonight.
“He’s probably the most physical, biggest, all of it, that I’ve ever played against,” Heard said. “He’s got everything. You can’t do the same thing [the whole game] with great players like that. They’re going to get locked on to what you’re doing and with a great player like that, he starts to figure it out and he will fix it. We have to mix it up and do all kinds of stuff. It’ll be fun.”
While Heard and Roberson have several things in common, there are several other similarities between the teams.
In a way, tonight’s game will be something like Guyer’s spring game, just in front of 20,000 fans and with two different uniforms on the field.
“They’re very physical in the trenches and very disciplined,” Walsh said. “They have high-level players in certain areas that make them special, like we do. I think the physical part will go 50-50 all day and the speed part will go 50-50 all day.
“The difference is going to be execution, period. It’s not a game where either team is going to show up and beat the mess out of each other. It’s not happening.”
That is what the Bears have done to opponents all season, though.
Brennan has outscored opponents in its 15 previous games 816-51 and has yet to trail this season.
Senior defensive end Thomas Ferguson, a leader of Guyer’s own stellar defense that enters the game allowing 226.4 yards per game and a DFW area-best 85.9 rushing yards per game, said Brennan will be facing an entirely different animal tonight than anything its used to.
“They’ve never been this far, and we have,” Ferguson said. “So, hopefully, they’re a little wowed by being at [AT&T Stadium] because we won’t be at all. Jerrod led us last year and he’s leading us again. He’s been down and he won a state championship. They haven’t seen anyone like Jerrod. Our offense will handle their defense, and I think we’ll do what we’ve done all year.”
For that to happen, Ferguson and his defensive teammates will have to contain Brennan quarterback De’Shawn Key, who has rushed for 1,877 yards and 33 scores while completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,809 yards and 22 touchdowns, and is the first true dual-threat quarterback Guyer has faced this season.
“We know he’s the guy they want to run the ball,” Ferguson said. “We know they’re going to run their QB so we’ve kind of schemed for his plays. He’s talented, I’ll give him that, and they can do a lot with him but we’re just going to play the way we play. We’re not changing anything. We just do what we do.”
What Guyer has done lately is play on big stages in big games — playing in its third state championship game in four seasons after its fifth state semifinal game in six years.
Heard, the defending state championship game Offensive MVP, hopes he has one more left in him.
“It’s going to pay off a lot having all those big games in our pocket,” Heard said. “Our guys are used to that stage. I don’t think we’re going to be in awe of the environment. That’s a great advantage. We know we’re only there for one reason, and that’s to win the title. We’ll do the ‘oooing’ and ‘ahhhing’ afterward.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.