Q&A with Denton Guyer Wildcats Head Coach John Walsh
It's hard to argue with the incredible success Denton Guyer has had since the inception of its program in 2006. During that time, Wildcats head coach John Walsh has built Guyer into a perennial powerhouse as they have been to the state semifinals in four of the last five seasons and have played for a state championship in two of their last three seasons. Guyer fell to Cibolo Steele, 24-21, in the 2011 Class 5A Division II title tilt and enters this year's 4A Division I championship game against a 15-0 Georgetown squad at 13-2. Walsh and his players both are exactly where they had expected to be this weekend, playing for another state title but after an 0-2 start, it's an ending few outside of the program thought was a realistic one earlier in the year.
How do you and your kids feel heading into this Saturday's title game?
Walsh: We're excited. It's kind of twofold. We're still a relatively young program, so we feel very fortunate but in the same breath when we started this year, we expected to be here not just because every program says they're going to win state but we obviously felt like we had a legitimate shot to be here and get to this point is very refreshing.
What can you say about your next opponent, Georgetown?
Walsh: Very, very talented and very well coached, a very strong football program. I know they don't have the rich tradition that the Southlakes and Coppells have, but I just came out of that district with Southlake and Coppell. The way they [Georgetown] play the game and approach the game is real identical. They're real stingy on defense because of discipline and they're strong physically. Offensively, they've got a quarterback who can throw the ball over the place and they've got an offensive line that's physical and strong. When I make comparisons, they remind me of the Coppells and the Southlakes we've played the last few years.
Your team has a wealth of options on offense, players like quarterback Jarrod Heard, running back D.J. Breedlove and Richard Whitaker, among others. Talk about having so many weapons on that side of the ball.
Walsh: Yeah, we're very fortunate in the amount of guys that can touch the ball and help us win football games. We've just got to do a good job as play callers on mixing it up, keeping them all hungry and all rested so when they come out, we've got fresh legs coming in. I think that's the thing that really keeps us going is the offensive line's really been dominant. You can have a dominant offensive line but if you just run two guys out, they get tired. Right now, we're in the fourth quarter and we have four guys that can touch the ball who have relatively fresh legs because we split carries.
Jarrod Heard entered this season with the unenviable task of taking over under center for your son, J.W. Walsh, who is now at Oklahoma State. Considering how well Heard has performed, you couldn't be happier at how well he's made that transition, right?
Walsh: Yeah, and he did that last year. Coming in after J.W. was here and not just because of how he played but being my son and all the hoopla that came with it, it's a tough deal to do but he handled it all. He handled the success, the failure. I'm more proud of how he handled that part of the quarterback position than all the numbers he's put up.
You and Georgetown head coach Jason Dean have a bit of a history together, being former college teammates at McMurry. Talk about that aspect of this matchup.
Walsh: It makes it refreshing. It makes it fun and it makes it professional. When you're coaching against someone that you know personally, you definitely want to kick their butt. That way the next time you see them you've got the upper hand. But there's a great mutual respect for both of us. It just makes it very professional and a great way to end the season.
When your team dropped its first two games of the season to Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage, some thought Guyer was finished. But you guys rallied and haven't lost since, reeling off 15 straight wins. Talk about those two losses and the subsequent streak.
Walsh: Yeah, it worked out perfectly really, You'd like to go 16-0 like Georgetown. But we knew Cedar Hill and Colleyville [Heritage] were both going to be tough to beat. In both those games, we felt like we were fixing to win at halftime. We went in at halftime against Cedar Hill down by seven and completely fell apart second half on both sides of the ball. And against Colleyville, we went into the half up 31-21 with a lot of confidence and then completely fell apart. So yeah, we got two losses and everybody dropped us out of every poll known to man in Texas, which to me was a positive. We quit reading about ourselves. We got to look in the mirror and fix some things that we may not have fixed had we won those games.
Guyer advanced to the final after beating Tyler John Tyler, 57-53 in last weekend's state semifinal. Talk about that game and how your team advanced.
Walsh: It was a great ballgame. They came back in a hurry. We were up 50-31 with six minutes to go and I felt comfortable. Then, 90 seconds later, I'm down and felt real uncomfortable. A really spooky game but for our kids to keep their composure and our staff to keep their composure and get one more last score to go ahead and get an interception, I think those are the type of moments that gets you over the hump to go win a state title.
Much has been said about how many weapons Guyer has on offense. But your defense is no slouch either. Talk about how integral that group has been to the run you've made.
Walsh: In the playoffs, they've been really good. We've played really good defense. The only game that I felt like we didn't perform was the Birdville game. Other than that, the other night against Tyler [John Tyler], one of the best offenses we've ever faced at Tyler, for three and a half quarters we kept them in check pretty good. We're really athletic. Our defensive line has grown and our D has grown. I think they understand what we're trying to accomplish team wise and they're going to execute and execute at the right time. I think them, our offense and our special teams are gelling at the right time. Our special teams was great the other night [against John Tyler].
Breedlove and Heard are both juniors. Talk about having them as part of a group of some 12 returning starters heading into next season.
Walsh: We have 12 seniors and we've got 12 starters coming back next year with two of them being Heard and Breedlove. That makes for a great off-season because you've got great leadership. Our coaches will be motivated. We plan on winning Saturday and enjoying the holidays, but when we get back, we'll be taking our 12 starters and trying to fill in 10 more and make another run.
Considering your program has only been competing since 2006, have you and your staff been more than a little spoiled at how much success Guyer has experienced in such a short period of time?
Walsh: I don't know if spoiled is the word, but we have meetings weekly as a staff and we do remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be where we're at and be in the title game two out of three years and be in the semis the last four out of five. We've only been playing varsity ball since '06, so we feel fortunate. If spoiled is the right term then I'm a spoiled brat.