FRISCO — At halftime of Guyer's playoff showdown with Highland Park on Friday, it looked to be anyone's game. That quickly changed as the Wildcats opened the second half with 28 unanswered points to take a 63-42 win over the Scots.
With the victory, the Wildcats advance to take on Trophy Club Byron Nelson (11-1) in next week's regional semifinal round of the Class 6A Division II playoffs. The game will be played Saturday, Nov. 26, at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco with a 2 p.m. kickoff time.
After seeing its secondary lit up at times in the first half, Guyer was able to tighten up on the defensive side in allowing just two garbage time touchdowns after the break.
"We challenged ’em at halftime," Guyer coach Reed Heim said of the defense. "It wasn't a schematic plan, it was just win the battles. Win your individual battles, whether it's getting off a block, making a play when the ball's in the air.
"It wasn't like, 'Hey, we have to draw it up in the dirt.' It was just go compete."
Star quarterback Jackson Arnold ran for four touchdowns and threw for two more to lead Guyer to victory. Arnold completed 19 of his 21 pass attempts for 223 yards and ran 16 times for 110 yards on a night when it seemed no Highland Park defender could stop him.
"He's Jackson," said wide receiver Landon Sides, who hauled in both of Arnold's touchdown passes. "He's the greatest quarterback in the nation, as I always say. He's always going to do what he does. He's a stud."
A high-scoring first half started fast as Highland Park quarterback Brennan Storer scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown just 2:10 into the game. Guyer answered just 2:23 later as Arnold ran in from seven yards out.
The Scots broke serve on their ensuing drive as the Wildcats recovered a fumble near midfield. Guyer capitalized with a 9-yard touchdown run by Arnold, but Highland Park answered as Storer found a wide receiver for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
The two teams continued exchanging touchdowns on their next four drives. Guyer running back Ahmed Yussuf ran in from 15 yards out, Storer broke away for a 23-yard touchdown run, then Arnold found the end zone for a third time on an 8-yard run.
The Scots finished off the half with one last score six seconds before halftime as Storer ran in from two yards out for his third rushing touchdown to tie it at 28.
"I just told the guys [at halftime], 'We aren't playing our brand of football,'" Guyer defensive back Peyton Bowen said. "'We have to stay at home, do our thing. They haven't driven the field on us one time, it's been big plays and then we break down. We can't break down after big plays.'"
Opening up the second half quickly, the Wildcats struck just 1:12 into it as Arnold found Sides open in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
Guyer then capitalized on another Highland Park fumble by Storer, recovered by defensive back Caleb Rowe. Arnold eventually ran in for a 6-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to put the Wildcats up 42-28.
Bowen then intercepted a Highland Park pass attempt near the Guyer goal line and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown to make the lead three scores.
"I was just like, 'Please throw it. I'm right here, please throw it,'" Bowen said. "Then I was like, 'Don't drop it. Don't drop it.'
"The only person that would have a shot on me was the quarterback, and I was like, 'I have to hit my top speed right here.'"
Arnold and Sides connected for a second touchdown pass 18 seconds into the fourth quarter to put the Wildcats up 56-28.
The score marked the culmination of a plethora of successful short pass plays throughout the contest.
Guyer running back Trey Joyner scored another rushing touchdown to help ice the game, coming in between two Scots touchdowns with the game all but over to set the final margin.
Heading into their third-round matchup with Nelson, the Wildcats know life will not get any easier in their pursuit of a state championship. They will face a Nelson offense that averages 50.1 points per game and airs the ball out often.
"Next week we'll play another equally good passing attack team," Heim said. "It's that time of year."