Guyer-Highland Park: The anatomy of a comeback

Guyer senior linebacker Demontrie Taylor returns an interception against Highland Park on Saturday at Eagle Stadium in Allen. (David Minton/Denton Record-Chronicle)

Once again, Guyer gave its fans a heart attack in a state semifinal game on Saturday when the Wildcats beat Highland Park, scoring all 22 of their points in the fourth quarter to come back from a 10-0 fourth-quarter deficit.

In what was Guyer’s third state semifinal victory in its history, the Wildcats had their third game-winning score in the final minute — 2010 against Longview, 2012 against Tyler John Tyler and now, 2013 against Highland Park.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, or if you didn’t watch last year’s state title game against Georgetown, it’s pretty much impossible to ever count Guyer out.

I went through my chicken-scratch of a play-by-play notebook to find the eight key moments — good and bad (for Guyer) — that led to the thrilling, last-second victory.

How Guyer almost lost it

1. Turnov … oh wait, nevermind

After the teams played a defensive chess match for the first quarter, Highland Park put together the game’s first scoring drive early in the second quarter. It ended up being a 12-play drive that Guyer’s defense was able to hold to a field goal, but it shouldn’t have been points for the Scots at all. On a third-and-8 from the Guyer 40, an HP ball-carrier was popped and the ball came loose. Guyer linebacker Demontrie Taylor scooped it up and returned it nearly 50 yards inside the HP 15. But that was negated by a facemask penalty before the fumble, one of many back-breaking Guyer penalties in the first half.

2. Fumbled away

Shortly after that 23-yard field goal to give HP the 3-0 lead, things got much worse for Guyer. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore linebacker/return extraordinaire Michael Carrillo fumbled the ball, and the Scots recovered at the Guyer 21-yard line. Five plays later, Highland Park had a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter, a lead the Scots kept until the fourth quarter, and had all the momentum.

3. Blown opportunity

Trailing 10-0 with under three minutes to play in the first half, Guyer’s defense finally came up with a turnover that counted, and once again, it was Taylor. The Scots were driving near Guyer’s red zone with a chance to take a 13-0, or worse yet, a 17-0 lead into the half when Taylor stepped in front of a Brooks Burgin pass for a key interception at Guyer’s 26. Turns out, it didn’t matter. As Guyer was driving to try to get some points before the break, Eric Ramon caught about a 10-yard pass. Instead of getting out of bounds to stop the clock, Ramon’s competitiveness got the best of him. He fought for extra yardage, fumbled and gave the ball back to the Scots. After DeMarcus Owens blocked an HP field-goal attempt, the Wildcats still got to the locker room down just 10-0, but it could’ve been better, or much worse.

4. Unlikely answer

In the midst of Guyer’s comeback, after the Wildcats had taken a 14-10 lead following a spectacular 25-yard touchdown run from Jerrod Heard, it looked like the Wildcats’ comeback was complete. With the way Guyer’s defense had played, it seemed unlikely the Scots would be able to get a touchdown. But it really couldn’t have been much easier. On first-and-10 from his 33-yard line, Burgin found William Stowe for a 45-yard completion to the Guyer 22-yard line, and just like that, the Scots were in business. Four plays later, HP was back in the end zone with 2:18 remaining, taking a 16-14 lead after a missed extra point. After that, it was all on Jerrod Heard to come through again…

Guyer senior quarterback Jerrod Heard (2) heads toward the end zone as junior wide receiver David Haynes (7) holds off Highland Park senior defensive back Pierce Weiss (31) on Saturday at Eagle Stadium in Allen.

How Guyer won it

1. ‘We’ve got your back’ — Demontrie Taylor

Taylor spoke after the game about having his offensive teammates’ backs. Near the end of the third quarter, the Wildcats were driving and looking to get on the scoreboard. Even a field goal would have been big, but they needed to turn the game’s momentum and make it a one-score game instead of a 10-0 deficit. On third-and-2 from his own 48, Jerrod Heard took an option keeper up the middle, got enough yards for a big first down but then fumbled — Guyer’s third and final turnover of the game. This one seemed to be a back-breaker, but the Wildcats’ defense quickly atoned. Guyer held the Scots to a 2-yard completion, a run for a loss of three and a 1-yard run for a three-and-out and a punt. Guyer found the end zone on the ensuing drive to pull within 10-7 with less than nine minutes to play.

2. Unlikely spark on a wing and a prayer

Following that aforementioned defensive stop, Guyer needed to get moving in a hurry, down two scores with 10 minutes remaining in the game and nothing resembling offensive rhythm to speak of. With DJ Breedlove banged up, Anthony Taylor became Guyer’s featured back and ended up scoring the Wildcats’ first points of the game on a 23-yard scoring run. But it was a throw off Heard’s back foot into double coverage that got the Wildcats going. Heard made a throw that probably wouldn’t be recommended, a lob to one of his shortest receivers, Adam Scott. Scott missed most of district play and has always been injured. But when he’s healthy, he has special athleticism and he showed it by outjumping two HP defenders to come down with a 33-yard reception. Three plays later, Taylor got Guyer on the board.

3. Defensive dominance

Following Taylor’s TD run, the Guyer defense had perhaps its best stand of the game. The key for Guyer’s defense entering the game was to get pressure on Burgin, and through much of the game it wasn’t too successful. Guyer finished with two sacks in the game, but neither on this drive. What Guyer’s defense did do was just as impressive. The Wildcats’ front four put immense pressure on Burgin, forcing three hapless throw-aways that were nowhere near receivers. HP was punting on another three-and-out and, perhaps most importantly, only 29 seconds came off the clock.

4. ‘Jerrod Heard did Jerrod Heard things.’ — Anthony Taylor

After Highland Park took its unlikely 16-14 lead, cutting through Guyer’s mostly impenetrable defense, the game was all on Jerrod Heard’s shoulders, and there’s probably no one in the state of Texas you’d rather put that responsibility on. Once again on Saturday, Heard came through. Breedlove had a big 24-yard kickoff return on a short kickoff to give Guyer great field position at its 43-yard line with one timeout and 2:12 to play. On Guyer’s 8-play scoring drive that covered 57 yards, Heard had five carries, including the game-winner, and an 8-yard completion to Ramon on second-and-7 at the HP 40 for a first down. Heard’s 1-yard game-winning touchdown run followed a 16-yard big-boy run right up the teeth of a good Highland Park defense. For good measure, Heard added a two-point conversion completion to Breedlove, retreated all the way to the HP 40 and let out an emphatic celebratory fist-pump that was one of those moments that could be etched in photographic memory. Heard had done it once again, and don’t be surprised if he does it one more time for Guyer.

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