Two-and-a-half months ago, Guyer coach John Walsh told his team after the Wildcats’ loss to Southlake Carroll that, if handled correctly, the defeat could be one of the best things to happen to them.
The notion might have seemed paradoxical at the time, but Walsh knew Guyer could learn from the loss and use it as a springboard.
The Wildcats used it as rocket fuel.
Since falling to Carroll 46-34 in early October, Guyer has rattled off 10 straight victories to get back to its fourth state title game in school history.
And on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium, the Wildcats will have a chance to plant their flag atop the Texas high school football mountain when they meet Austin Westlake at 7 p.m. in the Class 6A Division II championship.
“I go back to that [Carroll] loss,” Walsh said. “I told them that there is going to be a lot of value in that loss in the end, and we can really lean on what took place in that game.”
But for Guyer, looking back on its loss to Carroll is more than identifying and correcting the mistakes it made.
Walsh said the Wildcats have been able to use film from that game to help prepare them for Westlake because the Chaparrals are coached by Todd Dodge, father of Carroll coach, Riley Dodge.
The similarities between the two, Walsh added, are prominent.
“Go back to when we played [Todd’s] son at Southlake, which rhymes with Westlake, and looks a lot like Westlake,” Walsh said. “Offensively, it’s a typical Westlake, Southlake-looking group. They have a big offensive line and a big quarterback who is very accurate. He can run, and he runs with power.”
It’s no surprise that Todd Dodge’s fingerprints are all over Carroll and vice versa. The elder Dodge spent six years as the Dragons’ head coach from 2000-2006, winning state titles in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
He then left and came to Denton, serving as North Texas’ head coach from 2007-2010. He went 6-37 before getting fired in the middle of his fourth season.
“I’m excited,” Walsh said of playing Dodge. “When you get to this game, and you win a state championship, and you’re at a banquet and they’re calling out the road it took to get there, it’s always impressive when that road is impressive. Well, going through Austin Westlake and coach Todd Dodge is going to be impressive.”
Guyer’s first step in claiming its third state title in program history will be slowing down Westlake’s high-powered offense.
The Chaparrals average 435.9 yards and 48.7 points per game. Westlake is led on offense by senior quarterback Kirkland Michaux, who has thrown for 2,609 yards and 41 touchdowns. On the ground, he’s added 411 yards and seven scores.
“What you see from Austin Westlake on film is a team you’d expect to see in the state championship ballgame,” Walsh said. “Coached by Todd [Dodge], it’s a well-oiled machine. Their quarterback is one of those first down getters. He falls forward for six yards. He’s a problem. And they have three good receivers that create matchup problems for everyone.”
Defensively, Westlake has been as stout as they come.
The Chaparrals only give up 9.5 points per game, and they are especially effective against the run. Westlake is surrendering just 88 yards per game rushing.
Guyer, meanwhile, averages 517.1 yards and 46 points per game, with 305 yards coming on the ground.
“Defensively, the numbers speak for themselves,” Walsh said. “They’re where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. Their technique is great. That definitely catches our attention with how we play ball.”
It is Guyer’s first-ever meeting with Westlake. The Wildcats are 2-1 in championship games, with their only loss coming against Cibolo Steele in 2010.
Now, this group of Wildcats have a chance to etch their names into the history books with the likes of Guyer’s 2012 and 2013 teams that won it all.
“When I said in August that I thought this could be one of those Guyer teams people could talk about for a long time, I think they’ve done that already,” Walsh said. “They just need to make sure the ending to the story is a happy one. And I have no doubt that we’re going to.”