Though his team came up just short of a victory in its final game of the 2016 football season, Guyer senior safety Bryce Jackson had a game to remember.
His 18 tackles in a two-point playoff loss to Cedar Hill drew some high praise from Guyer’s longtime defensive coordinator.
“The Cedar Hill game, we put so much on Bryce and all he did was perform,” Derek Ramsey said. “What he did was incredible. It’s the best individual performance that we’ve ever had.”
That’s a lofty statement given Guyer’s history, but it’s a perfect example of what made the 2016 defense one of the best in program history, and it all started in the Wildcats’ secondary.
Starting safeties Jackson and Thabo Mwaniki showed how valuable they were Wednesday when the duo signed to play major college football at Northwestern and Oklahoma State, respectively.
Jackson, a 6-1, 185-pound two-year starter at safety, led the Wildcats with 112 tackles on the season to go with four pass breakups and two interceptions, which tied him for the team lead. Jackson chose Northwestern over offers from Duke, Wake Forest and Nevada.
“I’m going back to the bottom of the food chain and will have to work my way back up and prove myself,” said Jackson, who wants to study medicine and be an anesthesiologist. “When I get there, nothing will be given to me. I just have to show I belong and prove I’m worthy of being there.”
Mwaniki, a three-year starter, finished with 62 tackles, nine pass breakups and an interception. He was also one of Guyer’s most versatile players, starting at linebacker as a junior, and finishing his senior year as Guyer’s second-leading receiver and fourth-leading rusher while even drawing one start at quarterback.
“It’s very exciting,” said Mwaniki, who chose the Cowboys over 19 other FBS offers. “Oklahoma State is my dream school, so this is something I’ve been looking forward to.”
Aside from their big-time college futures, Jackson and Mwaniki left a lasting legacy at Guyer — all the way down to the way Ramsey sees his defense.
The Guyer defense won several games for the Wildcats this past season, as the unit allowed just 20.8 points and 282.3 yards per game, good for fifth among Dallas-Fort Worth Class 6A programs.
“In the past, we were heavy in the front [defensive line and linebackers], and that’s what our defense has been about,” Ramsey said. “But it shifted to the back end because of the talent we had back there. Now we see we can do it both ways.
“Whoever you have to lean on, you lean on and you put more on them. I can’t say enough about those two guys. They were unbelievable with their intelligence and being able to load them up with scheme stuff, all the way to the way they played on the field and their technique.”
Chances are, next season’s Guyer defense will see more emphasis up front, but Jackson and Mwaniki showed the Wildcats’ coaches they can win in different ways. Head coach John Walsh said both will be sorely missed.
“You have to build around your best players, and Ramsey would’ve been a fool not to build around Thabo and Bryce,” Walsh said. “They did such a good job not only recognizing run or pass but just making plays everywhere, whether it was two yards from the line or 25 yards downfield.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.