Social media firestorm wants Guyer-Ryan resumed

Ryan's Antonio Anderson (27) and Scotty Young (10) and Guyer's J.W. Walsh (4) participate in the coin toss before a playoff football game, Saturday, December 5, 2009 at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in Denton.

Ryan’s Antonio Anderson (27) and Scotty Young (10) and Guyer’s J.W. Walsh (4) participate in the coin toss before a playoff football game, Saturday, December 5, 2009 at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in Denton.

I’ve been working here at the Denton Record-Chronicle for going on 10 years now. That’s a long time. I’ve seen a lot of good football and a lot of good games, and I’ve watched a program come from scratch and being really bad, as far as on-field results, to being a perennial state powerhouse.

When Guyer beat Ryan for the first time in 2008, it signaled the Wildcats’ arrival on the big stage, and since then, the teams have played some epic games. Each team has one blowout to its credit since that time, and the other meetings have all been classics. That includes the 2015 regular-season finale which Ryan won 31-28 a year after Guyer had claimed its blowout in the series history. In fact, before that 2014 Guyer win, we looked back on the history of the rivalry. That series, of course, includes an epic 2009 regional final playoff game played on a cold, windy Saturday afternoon in front of a packed house at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex.

What struck me after that 2015 game was walking on the field afterward to talk to coaches and players and hearing all of the friendly banter and well-wishes going on between the kids — many of whom have grown up together playing with and against each other.

And for the foreseeable future, that game was the last between the two proud programs with four state championship rings between them. It’s a shame.

Those kids started talking on Twitter the other day, and before you knew it, there were several Guyer and Ryan players going back and forth on Twitter about what would happen if this game ever happens again, and some Guyer players suggesting they want to play, but it was simply up to Ryan to accept. I’m sure those Ryan players would feel the same way. Here’s the thing: This game couldn’t even take place until 2018, as both teams already have their 2017 schedules set, but that gives them plenty of time to make it happen.

My good buddies at Dave Campbell’s Texas Football decided to tackle the issue on Thursday afternoon on the Internet hit #DCTFLive, the world’s pre-eminent Internet show about Texas high school football. Hear what they had to say about the matter below:

What do you guys think? I think that’s a silly question, actually. I think I know what people in Denton want to see, especially when we have this beautiful stadium right in our own backyard that is rarely close to being filled to capacity. I have a pretty good idea of a game that would do the trick.

Lake Dallas’ Ijiyera plans to sign with Houston Baptist

Lake Dallas High School offensive lineman Segun Ijiyera (70), an area standout, follows a play during the first half as Prestonwood Christian Academy hosted Lake Dallas High School at Lions Stadium in Plano on Friday night, September 9, 2016.  (Stewart F. House/Special Contributor)

Lake Dallas High School offensive lineman Segun Ijiyera (70), an area standout, follows a play during the first half as Prestonwood Christian Academy hosted Lake Dallas High School at Lions Stadium in Plano on Friday night, September 9, 2016. (Stewart F. House/Special Contributor)

Lake Dallas lineman Segun Ijiyera was set to sign with Texas State just a few weeks ago.

Those plans changed in a hurry as national signing day approached.

Ijiyera was prepared to sign with Texas State as a member of its 2017 class. The school later asked Ijiyera to blue shirt, a practice that would involve joining the team as a preferred walk-on and being put on scholarship after the start of fall practice.

Following that path would allow Texas State to back date his scholarship to the 2018 class.

Ijiyera elected to follow another path, one that led to Houston Baptist. Ijiyera confirmed Sunday afternoon that he is planning to sign with the Southland Conference school on national signing day this week.

Ijiyera had five offers from Football Bowl Subdivision programs at one point or another during his recruiting process. He committed to Texas State over Tulane and Houston Baptist, which competes in the Southland Conference. The Southland is a Football Championship Subdivision conference.

“Texas State tried to give me a blue shirt offer after I committed,” Ijiyera said. “I didn’t want to go that route. Houston Baptist was my No.3 school and Tulane had already filled its spots.

“Houston Baptist made a lot of sense.”

The 6-2, 270-pound Ijiyera played mostly on Lake Dallas offensive line, but also played defense last season due to a series of injuries the Falcons suffered on their defensive line. He finished with 31 tackles, including nine behind the line of scrimmage, and a sack.

Ijiyera is a member of The Dallas Morning News’ Area Top 100 list.

“Houston Baptist is on the come-up,” Ijiyera said. “Playing time won’t be that hard to come by.”

— Brett Vito

Former Sanger QB can absolutely sling it

Sanger junior quarterback Dane Evans (17) hurls a pass to junior wide receiver Jay Cain (18) as Argyle junior linebacker Carston Bossow (43) tries to intercept, Friday, November 5, 2010 in Sanger.

Sanger junior quarterback Dane Evans (17) hurls a pass to junior wide receiver Jay Cain (18) as Argyle junior linebacker Carston Bossow (43) tries to intercept, Friday, November 5, 2010 in Sanger.

If you’ve been around this area for more than a few years, you remember the name Dane Evans.

The former Sanger quarterback finished his high school career among the all-time leading passers in Texas high school history and helped turn Sanger into a perennial contender with an instant shot of offense he gave the Indians after bursting onto the scene in 2010 and leading all Dallas-Fort Worth area 4A players in passing.

Evans went on to have a standout career for Tulsa — staking a real claim as the most successful collegiate quarterback to ever come out of this area.

The numbers speak for themselves, regardless of system at Tulsa. Evans finished his career with the Golden Hurricane with a bowl win in December and ended up with 11,680 career passing yards with 84 touchdown passes and 47 interceptions.

That leads us to the other day, when Evans was filmed training for the upcoming NFL Draft. One of his passes was clocked at a remarkable 61 mph — better than the Combine record of 60 mph from Logan Thomas in 2014, which broke the previous record of 59 mph held by Colin Kaepernick.

Evans has an outside chance of being drafted, but he’ll definitely end up in someone’s camp, and he’s landed on several “sleeper lists,” including this one published back in September. There’s some truth to him being a product of Tulsa’s high-octane offensive system, but there’s also obvious truth to him being a guy with a cannon where his right arm should be.

It’ll be interesting to follow Evans throughout this process leading up to the draft in April and see what happens.

Cain accepts Under Armour invite

Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) stiff-arms Plano West senior linebacker Titus Wall (8) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 4, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) stiff-arms Plano West senior linebacker Titus Wall (8) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 4, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Well, it’s been a busy couple of days for now-former Guyer running back Noah Cain.

On Thursday, the nation’s top-ranked sophomore running back announced he would be leaving Guyer to attend the polarizing IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for his junior season after rushing for almost 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore at Guyer.

On Friday, Cain, who will begin his time at IMG on Jan. 16, announced his invitation to the Under Armour All-American Game and said he was committing to play in the game following his senior season (2019) so actually in January of 2020.


If Cain was still at Guyer, he’d be the second Guyer player to take part in the game, as former defensive lineman Taylor Bible played in the game in January 2010 before going on to Texas.

Cain has 15 major college offers from the likes of powerhouses like LSU and Oklahoma with two years of high school football still to play.

Guyer’s Cain is leaving for IMG Academy

 Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) evades a tackle from Plano West junior defensive end Dylan Raiborn (44) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 4, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC


Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) evades a tackle from Plano West junior defensive end Dylan Raiborn (44) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 4, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

The Guyer football program was dealt a significant blow on Thursday when star running back Noah Cain announced he is leaving the school to attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Cain, a 5-11, 205-pound sophomore, is the nation’s top-ranked running back in the Class of 2019 and already has 15 offers from programs such as LSU and Oklahoma after two phenomenal seasons at Guyer.

Cain said IMG coaches have been in touch with him for a while and he has several friends who play at the school. He made his decision Thursday morning. Cain will leave for the school on Jan. 16.

“It was definitely a hard decision,” Cain said. “It wasn’t easy. It came down to the last minute. My parents and I discussed it so much. We thought it’d be a good opportunity for me athletically and academically to try it out and see how it is down there.

“The first thing I wanted to do was talk to [Guyer coach John] Walsh out of respect for him, because without him I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. I’m grateful to Guyer for being the starting point of my recruiting trail and my high school career. I’ll forever be grateful to them, especially coach Walsh, who’s the man who started this all for me. He’ll always have a special place in my heart.”

Cain has lived in Denton since the third grade but attended Plano Prestonwood starting in sixth grade. He resumed attending school in Denton in the eighth grade when he went to Crownover Middle School. He had a breakout freshman season at Guyer, in which he rushed for 1,058 yards despite missing four games. The Associated Press second-team all-state selection went on to rack up 1,683 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground for Guyer last season while leading the Wildcats to the area round of the Class 6A playoffs. No running back at IMG last season had 50 carries on the year. Cain averaged 17.5 carries per game in 2016.

“You never want to lose anyone in your program,” Walsh said. “I’ve known Noah since the fifth grade, and he’s been a good product of our program and a good product on the field. His presence on the field is going to be missed.

“But no one player or coach will define this program.”

It appeared Guyer was set up with arguably the best back in the country to spearhead its lethal rushing attack for the next two seasons, but that plan is now out the window.

IMG has had a tumultuous relationship with Texas high school football coaches for recruiting some of the state’s best players to their school. The boarding rate for football players at IMG for the 2016-2017 academic year is $72,900 with financial aid available, according to the school’s website. Cain said the school will cover his full tuition. The school sells itself as a better way to prepare elite athletes for the college level in a variety of sports.

Cain said his mother took a job in Seguin that will require some travel, so the boarding option was a selling point for IMG.

“We looked really deep into the program and what they had to offer with the meal plan and boarding, and we liked the college structure of it,” Cain said.

Brenham coach Glen West, who was formerly the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association, wrote an open letter to the state’s football coaches in Texas Coach Magazine last year with a clear message of his stance on schools such as IMG.

“It’s not necessarily against IMG, it’s just for years in the state of Texas we have been the advocate for our kids, where the college coaches come through and it’s been a really good situation for hundreds of years,” West told The Dallas Morning News after the letter was published. “The idea of athletes being raised through your program in your community, being part of your community, until later in their career [they] think they need to go to a specialist, we don’t agree with that.

“We’ve sent a lot of people on to college and the NFL. We think we do a good job of sending them there. We’re with them from day to dark. I will stand strong on [the fact] that I think our coaches do a great job.”

In October, Crosby assistant coach Marvin Nash, who ironically coached at Guyer during Cain’s freshman season, publicly chastised IMG coaches on Twitter for contacting one of his players through social media for recruiting practices he felt were unethical.

“I kind of have mixed feelings about this,” Nash said Thursday. “I know Noah thinks he’s doing what’s best for him and his family. I hate to see private schools come to different areas of the nation and cherry-pick the players they want. I’m very old school in the fact I believe in playing for your hometown school and representing your community.

“Maybe it’s just because I’m an old-school, small-town guy, but I will never believe that’s the best thing for kids to do.  But I do wish him the best, and I support him in everything he does because he’s a special kid with a great family. I’m still kind of shocked.”

Walsh said he has no hard feelings toward Cain or his family but did say he agreed with the common assessment of IMG after several coaches have come out and said they would no longer schedule games against the school in nondistrict play. IMG played no Texas teams last season after playing DeSoto in 2015.

“I think if I was going to answer any question about IMG honestly, we’d need a talk show on HBO,” Walsh said.

Cain’s absence leaves an obvious void in Guyer’s offense, but Walsh said a few different players will be candidates to step into the Wildcats’ rushing attack that annually averages well over 300 yards per game.

Those players include junior Devin Jefferson, who rushed for 125 yards and a score on 10 carries in limited mop-up duty a year ago, as well as sophomore Kaleel Rhoden and freshman Harrison Bohannon.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for some young players and some guys who haven’t had many opportunities because of the road block Christian [Moore], Myron [Mason] and Noah put up there,” Walsh said. “It was hard to see the field with those guys. I got asked how we’d do it when [former quarterback] J.W. [Walsh] left, and then there was Jerrod [Heard]. It happens every year. There’s kids in this system for years. Good programs have their personnel built up from the fifth grade, and we know who our guys are going to be for the 2020 season.”

 

 

J.W. Walsh takes Abilene Christian job

Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh waits to take the field on senior night before an NCAA football game against Oklahoma at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Stillwater, Okla. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

Oklahoma State quarterback J.W. Walsh waits to take the field on senior night before an NCAA football game against Oklahoma at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Stillwater, Okla. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)

Former Guyer star quarterback J.W. Walsh on Wednesday accepted a job as the running backs coach at Abilene Christian. He confirmed the move in a text message late Wednesday night.

J.W. Walsh has spent the 2016 season as an offensive graduate assistant coach at TCU and will coach the Horned Frogs in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30 against Georgia before beginning his new job under newly hired Abilene Christian coach Adam Dorrel.

Dorrel was hired after winning three Division II national championships at Northwest Missouri State in the past four seasons. Abilene Christian recently made the jump back up to Football Championship Subdivision competition by rejoining the Southland Conference after a 40-year stint in Division II. The 2017 season will be the first the program is eligible for postseason play.

“The college game is what he wants to do,” said Guyer head coach John Walsh, J.W. Walsh’s dad. “This is the step he wants to take, and there’s several ways to get there, but getting his own position group and getting on the recruiting trail at his age is invaluable experience.”

Walsh, 24, ended his playing career at Oklahoma State in 2015 and finished his injury-plagued career with 3,917 career passing yards and 1,036 career rushing yards. He accounted for 61 career touchdowns — 36 passing and 25 rushing — and is still a fan favorite in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2012, he was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

John Walsh said the year his son spent at TCU was great preparation for getting a full-time college job at such a young age.

“[Oklahoma State head coach Mike] Gundy gave him good advice. He told him last year that he knew the Oklahoma State way and he needed to go learn a different way,” John Walsh said. “[TCU head coach Gary] Patterson is one of the best in the business. I think he’s learning this business on fast-forward.”

At Guyer while playing for his dad, Walsh led the Wildcats to their first playoff appearance in school history in 2008 and guided Guyer to the Class 5A Division II state championship game as a senior in 2010 when he was an Associated Press first-team all-state selection before playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Before moving to Denton when his dad took the job to be Guyer’s first coach in 2005, Walsh grew up in Brownwood and has both sets of grandparents living in the Abilene area.

“As uncomfortable as a new job is, him being in Abilene surrounded by both sets of grandparents and some friends will make it more comfortable,” John Walsh said. “The family got to share in his playing career and now they get to be a part of his early coaching career, as well.”

 

 

 

 

 

Guyer’s Cain earns second-team all-state nod

Denton Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) hurdles senior fullback Trevor Caples (22) as DeSoto senior linebacker Orion Smith (15) moves in for the tackle during the second half of a high school football game at Eagle Stadium in DeSoto, Texas, Friday, September 2, 2016. (Jeffrey McWhorter/Special Contributor)

Denton Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain (7) hurdles senior fullback Trevor Caples (22) as DeSoto senior linebacker Orion Smith (15) moves in for the tackle during the second half of a high school football game at Eagle Stadium in DeSoto, Texas, Friday, September 2, 2016. (Jeffrey McWhorter/Special Contributor)

After a breakout season as a freshman phenom in 2015, Guyer sophomore running back Noah Cain solidified his place in the upper echelon of the state’s top ball-carriers on Thursday when he was named to The Associated Press’ Class 6A all-state team.

Cain was voted to the state’s second team by sportswriters from across Texas after finishing the regular season with 169 carries for 1,407 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“I’m so proud for Noah,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “I think he’s done a lot of incredible things from the running back position for us at the ages of 14 and 15. I think Guyer fans and everyone at Guyer is looking forward to seeing what he can do at 16 and 17 the next two years.”

Cain is a physical specimen at 5-11, 205 pounds, and was the thunder in a 1-2 running back tandem at Guyer. The Wildcats averaged 317 yards per game on the ground in 2016.

Cain is the No. 1 ranked sophomore running back in the country and already has 14 scholarship offers, including offers from national powerhouses like LSU and Oklahoma.

Walsh said Cain’s physical ability is evident, but his mental acumen and high football IQ are what make him stand out above others his age.

“I think, first off, his durability is great for a young kid,” Walsh said. “His physique allows him to take a lot of shots. What separates him from the rest of the pack is his ability to be patient and his vision is off the charts.”

Cain was joined on the all-state team by three teammates who were honorable mention selections in junior left tackle John Lanz, who graded out at 93 percent for the regular season and allowed no sacks. Senior tight end and Miami commit Brian Polendey also got an honorable mention nod as an offensive lineman after grading out at 91 percent and averaging four knockdowns per game.

Defensively, senior safety Bryce Jackson, a Northwestern pledge, was rewarded with an honorable mention nod after leading one of the best defenses in school history with 89 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions.

“Any time your program is represented on the all-state team, it’s just an indication of the hard work and the respect you get across the state,” Walsh said. “I think our kids are sure deserving of that.”

 

 

What you need to know: Cedar Hill

Cedar Hill quarterback Avery Davis (12) is pictured in action during the DeSoto High School Eagles vs. the Cedar Hill High School Longhorns high school football game in Cedar Hill, Texas on Friday, September 23, 2016. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

Cedar Hill quarterback Avery Davis (12) is pictured in action during the DeSoto High School Eagles vs. the Cedar Hill High School Longhorns high school football game in Cedar Hill, Texas on Friday, September 23, 2016. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

This has been a game circled on the calendar since DeSoto knocked off Cedar Hill and pretty much ensured the Longhorns would end up in Guyer’s part of the Class 6A Division II bracket.

It’s two storied programs, two state-championship winning coaches and two very different programs that are awfully familiar with each other. The teams have met five times before, and all but one of them was a great game.

So, here we go on getting you covered on everything you need to know about Guyer’s area-round playoff game on Saturday.

The Game: Guyer (9-2) vs. Cedar Hill (9-2), Saturday, 2 p.m., Mansfield’s Newsom Stadium

Series Record: Cedar Hill leads the all-time series 4-1 with Guyer’s lone win coming in the teams’ only playoff meeting in the 2010 5A Division II area round.

What happened last week: Cedar Hill rolled over a pretty good Waco Midway squad, and the Longhorns did it in Midway’s home stadium. Avery Davis, the Longhorns’ Notre Dame-bound QB was nearly perfect, completing 17 of 18 pass attempts for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns.

Guyer used a well-rounded effort to dominate Trophy Club Nelson in a game that was turned on a 91-yard pick-six from Guyer cornerback Dio Williams. Guyer once again showed its improving passing game in the first half as Luke Stillwell threw for 99 first-half yards and hit a long touchdown over the top to Donovan Greenhoward.

What to expect: A clash of styles, plain and simple. Cedar Hill will want a track meet type game with its seven big-time college level players spread around the offensive lineup, highlighted by Davis and Oklahoma commit wide receiver Charleston Rambo. Guyer will look to slow the pace and rely on its dominant ground game and suffocating defense. It’s going to be a great matchup and I’m guessing it’s going to be a pretty high-scoring affair.

Final say: This is truly going to be a great chess match between two of the best coaches in the state with two vastly different, equally successful programs. Cedar Hill hasn’t seen many good rushing attacks this year, and it’ll be interesting to see if Guyer, even without second-leading rusher Myron Mason, can exploit that with one of the best rushing attacks in the state. Look for a new wrinkle to be thrown in with an emphasis on the quarterback-read game, something Luke Stillwell hasn’t done a lot of this year especially since injuring his shoulder in Guyer’s Week 7 loss to Allen. He’s 100 percent now, and I think the reins will be taken off Stillwell to complement sophomore Noah Cain in the running game. I think that’s enough to help Guyer pick up its second all-time playoff win over Cedar Hill.

Prediction: Guyer 45, Cedar Hill 42

Joey McGuire dishes on Guyer-Cedar Hill

Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire and safety Kolbi McGary (31) celebrate after stopping South Oak Cliff in the first half of their high school football game in Cedar Hill. Mike Stone/Special Contributor

Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire and safety Kolbi McGary (31) celebrate after stopping South Oak Cliff in the first half of their high school football game in Cedar Hill. Mike Stone/Special Contributor

When it comes to Texas high school football coaches, there aren’t many higher on my personal list of favorites than Cedar Hill head honcho Joey McGuire.

McGuire has a few state championship rings in his jewelry box at home and is clearly one of the most knowledgeable, respected coaches in the state. This week, he gets to face his ol’ buddy John Walsh, who is also right up on that personal list of mine.

McGuire talked about Guyer and the programs’ history together which is comprised of four regular-season meetings from 2010-2013 and a postseason matchup in 2010, which is the only game of the series Guyer won.

Without further delay, here’s my conversation with McGuire. Drumroll, please…

On thought that Cedar Hill is hitting its stride now after some “struggles” in the regular season:

“We played a really tough schedule early in the year. Our first five games were brutal against very physical football teams. We grew as a team and we’ve been healthy and gotten better. But we’re playing a really, really tough football team on Saturday. I think it’s one of the best matchups in the state for a football fan.”

On Guyer’s physical brand of football:

“I think they do a phenomenal job in the offseason. Whenever you think of Denton Guyer, you think of a very physical, strong football team that is well-coached. They hang their hat on that. It gives them a chance every single year to be really good. When you look at it this year, we really better go in trying to slow down the run game. They do a great job of formationing you and getting numbers to run the ball. You better line up and have a simple game plan and play really fast.”

On how Guyer is a tough matchup and how its physicality can neutralize Cedar Hill’s speed:

“They’re a really tough matchup for a couple of reasons. One, they’re gonna be really physical and sound in what they do. Them being able to run the ball, they can grind stuff out. When you look at that DeSoto game [a 51-17 loss for Guyer in Week 2] it’s a little deceptive when they had some bad snaps in the punt game and that’s 16 points real quick. It was early in the year. If you’re playing now, I think Guyer is a lot like us. I think they’re playing their best football right now. That’s always scary.”

On how Luke Stillwell compares to former Guyer star quarterbacks J.W. Walsh and Jerrod Heard (McGuire faced Walsh twice and went 1-1 and went 3-0 against Heard): 

“I think he does a great job. He does a really good job in all their play-action stuff as far as making those linebackers come up. He does a great job in the QB-read game. He looks like he’s faster on film than what you might think. With so many people keying on their running backs, he does a great job taking some pressure of those guys with the QB-read game.”

On Cedar Hill QB Avery Davis, a Notre Dame commit, playing perhaps his best game of the year in the Longhorns’ first-round rout of Waco Midway, in which he went 17 for 18 with 4 TD passes:

“He feels really good right now. He’s really efficient with the football right now. He’s very accurate. He could’ve been 18 for 18 if not for a little drop. He’s doing a good job of taking care of the football.”

On Guyer’s defense, specifically its standout secondary led by safeties Bryce Jackson (Northwestern) and Thabo Mwaniki (Oklahoma State):

“They tackle extremely well. That’s one thing when you watch them on film, the first thing you see is they tackle really well as a unit. They limit yards after catch and contact. You have to do a good job taking care of the football. They do a good job up front. Their two defensive tackles are eally tough to move and No. 17 [defensive end Jalen Sutton] is really long and can give some tackles a whole lot of trouble.”

What does Cedar Hill have to do to win this game?:

“We have to make sure we’re taking care of the ball on offense. Whoever wins the turnover battle in this game wil probably win it. We have to do a good job of slowing them. I don’t think anyone stops a team like Guyer — as far as running — but we have to slow it down. We have to also take a couple of shots in the vertical pasing game and hit a few of those to put some stress on the defense.”

Weekend recap: Playoffs??!?!

Guyer senior defensive back Thabo Mwaniki (1) stops a pass thrown to Byron Nelson senior wide receiver Tyler Milliken (11) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 11, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

Guyer senior defensive back Thabo Mwaniki (1) stops a pass thrown to Byron Nelson senior wide receiver Tyler Milliken (11) at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex, Friday, November 11, 2016, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Seriously, if you’re already singing Christmas songs and decorating Christmas trees, get off my lawn. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet! #TeamTurkeyDay.

Now, as I step off my soap box, let’s talk about the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the Texas high school football playoffs, guys, and it got started on Thursday night with a nice slate of area games and continued on Friday and Saturday. The area is down to five teams — Guyer, Ryan, Argyle, Krum and Aubrey — which is the same amount of teams we had make it to the REGIONAL FINAL last year.

Just goes to show, every year is different. So, without further delay, come with Steve Gamel and I as we take you down a path of opening-weekend recollection. It’s recap time, y’all.

Guyer vs Trophy Club Nelson

AB: Yeah, Trophy Club Nelson was red-hot and dangerous, as proven by wins over Euless Trinity and Flower Mound Marcus, but truthfully, this game was the appetizer for what remains — an insanely tough road to hoe in the most difficult region in the most difficult bracket in the state: Class 6A Division II Region I. Next up for Guyer is Cedar Hill, then likely Mansfield, then likely DeSoto. You get the idea. All Guyer can ask for is to be peaking at the right time, and judging by Friday’s performance, the Wildcats are. Luke Stillwell looked very good throwing the ball until he didn’t really need to anymore in the second half, Noah Cain was dominant and that defense that has been so good this year was once again suffocating and won the game early in the second half with a 91-yard pick-six by Dio Williams that completely changed the game.

SG: I expected a Guyer win, but I honestly expected a little more from Trophy Club Nelson. Not only have the Bobcats been on a roll this season, but if you remember last year’s district “monsoon bowl” between Guyer and Nelson where the game was played in heavy rain conditions, the Wildcats got all they could handle before winning with a late field goal. Guyer never gave Nelson a chance to get rolling, and that’s the mark of a good playoff team. Speaking of good playoff teams, Guyer faces Cedar Hill next. Having already lost to Allen and DeSoto, Guyer would love to knock off a perennial playoff power.

Ryan vs Fort Worth Brewer

AB: This wasn’t the conventional win for Ryan, but sometimes you’re going to have games like that. I even saw some action on Twitter talking about how Brewer had “let its chance slip away.” Not real sure about all that, but the Raiders capitalized on some key mistakes and made the Bears pay in a first-round rout. It was exactly what we expected, and while Round 2 theoretically should provide a much stiffer challenge with one-loss Richland, I’m not so sure. Richland should have had a relatively easy time with an injury-ravaged Fort Worth South Hills team and instead needed a big comeback to narrowly edge them. I’ll be tagging along with Steve to see Ryan-Richland, and I’m looking forward to seeing a full game from Ryan. I’m just not convinced I will. Call me when we get to the state semifinal…

SG: Ryan’s race for a state title began with a lopsided win over Fort Worth Brewer. It was expected, but what stood out to me the most were the different ways the Raiders put the game on ice. They scored 20 of their 26 first-half points off two Brewer turnovers and a blocked punt. There was also a blocked field goal, which extended Ryan’s streak of holding opponents scoreless in the first half to seven games. Then the offense exploded for three scores to open the third quarter. These are the sort of big-game plays Ryan will need to keep making as they move deeper into the postseason. Especially since Brewer – which won four games all year – is officially the last “weak” team on the playoff docket. Ryan plays Richland Friday at Northwest ISD Stadium.

Denton vs Justin Northwest

AB: Saw this score early in the evening on Friday and was frankly in shock. The Broncos were putting it on fellow one-loss team Justin Northwest, and it looked like it was gonna be a blowout. Then, disaster struck for Denton. As I’m sure coach Kevin Atkinson and his team knew, when you’re up almost 20 points on a 9-1 team, you have to put it away, and the Broncos couldn’t do it. Instead, Northwest’s explosive offense finally found its way in the second half and took its first lead of the night with just seconds remaining in a crushing loss for what is becoming a perennial playoff program from Fulton Street.

SG: It’s a shame that Denton lost this game after jumping out to such a great start. But Northwest is one of the better teams in the area, too, and that clearly showed as they used a strong second-half surge to steal a 31-29 win to knock the Broncos from the playoffs. Denton put together a solid season, with its only other loss coming at the hands of Ryan, but they clearly didn’t have all the necessary pieces to make a long run in the playoffs. Head coach Kevin Atkinson is getting there, though. After being a doormat for several years, Denton is a consistent playoff contender now.

Argyle vs Snyder

AB: This game was deceptively “close” for a while, but then Argyle showed its mettle and why its looking to play in its fourth straight state championship game and fifth in six years come December. Fortunately for Argyle, the travel hasn’t been quite as bad as we thought it might’ve been when the playoffs began and it should continue to get a bit closer to home with each passing week. The Eagles can expect a stiffer test from Lubbock Estacado than they got from Snyder, but it should ultimately be another cakewalk to set up an epic third-round game with Abilene Wylie, likely at Tarleton State.

SG: If Argyle is going to make the deep playoff run we all expect it to make, it will have to do a lot of travelling. The Eagles just finished a nearly two hour drive to Graham to be a one-win Snyder team and is now gearing up for a similar trip to Burkburnett to face Lubbock Estacado. After that is a possible date with longtime rival Abilene Wylie. Last year, this matchup was played in Waco. The good news is that Argyle has had to travel before, and it doesn’t seem like these boys are fazed by it much.

Krum vs Waxahachie Life

AB: I had the pleasure of covering this game, and minus the fact there were no rosters and a mouse was running around the press box, it was fantastic. Krum is very good, and the Bobcats have the perfect recipe in place to make a deep playoff run once again. They run the ball very well behind QB Brandon Reeves and running back Haeden Knight, who I liken to a Nick Ralston-type back. And they also play stellar defense led by a standout linebacking corps. Last year, Krum “shocked” Sweetwater, and while pundits might pick Sweetwater again, I don’t think this year will be a shock at all. Krum is looking at a regional final showdown with Monahans, which would be lit.

SG: This is a team we are expecting big things from this postseason and, unlike last year, there should be nothing shocking about it. Krum surprised many football experts with its run to the region final last year, but anything less than that this year could be deemed a disappointment. Krum is loaded with a talented senior class and it showed with an easy win over Waxahachie Life this past week. Up next is Sweetwater, a team Krum dismantled last year, too. Will the rematch yield similar results? I think so.

Aubrey vs Canton

AB: The Chaps have had some issues with the feared injury bug this year, but they’ve bounced back and keep on keeping on. That continued on Friday night. We’ve grown accustomed to the two-headed rushing monster of Gatlin Grisso and Pablo Vera, who missed part of the year with an injury, but the Chaps added in a third name on Friday as Sheldon Wingert eclipsed 100 yards on the ground to give Aubrey three 100-yard rushers. That, coupled with a standout defense, is going to mean sleepless nights and headaches for upcoming opponents. Next up, Jasper.

SG: The Aubrey train keeps on rolling. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Aubrey is easily one of the better feel-good football stories from the Denton area as it went from barely being able to win a single game to competing at a high level in the postseason starting last year. This year’s run already includes a big win over Canton, and up next is a strong Jasper team. Aubrey will have to travel to Tyler in order to play this game, but at the rate the Chaps are going, I’m sure they’d travel anywhere so long as they have a chance to keep playing.