I’m watching Cal-Texas on TV and recognize a familiar name from my travels in 2012. Jared Heard is now making an impact as the QB for the Texas Longhorns. I saw him play several times in 2012 and ’13. The first , with a sideline view during a playoff game against Aledo on the day after Thanksgiving.
…It’s cold and windy at the Northwest ISD Stadium in the Fort Worth suburb of Justin the day after Thanksgiving when the Bearcats take on Denton Guyer. Guyer is the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A. They’re led at quarterback by University of Texas verbal commit Jared Heard.
During the 2012 regular season I was on the sidelines and pregame locker room for 11 games. During the postseason I added 17 more. I was probably in more playoff locker rooms than any man in the state of Texas. It was a great opportunity, few ever get, to compare team preparation. By now, I could sense the mood in the room. Most often, coaches acted confident, talking about who and where they’d be playing in the following round, as if this game is a foregone conclusion. Wins didn’t always follow those shows of confidence, but usually teams expected to win. Twice during the season, however, I caught a different pregame vibe and both times the outcome was a loss.
It isn’t as though the coaches expect to lose. It’s more a message coming across that losing is a distinct possibility. When talking about the future, the answers aren’t ‘When we win…’ but ‘If we win’. Good coaches never lie to themselves about the situation they face. Optimism is great but coaches must be realistic as well. I don’t know if this attitude helped cause the loss or if the coaches simply scouted well enough to know trouble’s coming, but the feeling is unmistakable. Aledo’s staff knows this could be a long afternoon.
Guyer scores on their first drive, three and out for Aledo, another Wildcat score, another Bearcat three and out followed by a quick Guyer strike and the score is 21-0. The Bearcats have had just six offensive plays and are down by three touchdowns at the end of the first.
About halfway through the second Aledo gets on the board with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Willie Gibson to make the score 21-7 at the half.
The Bearcat offense looks tentative and sluggish. The Bearcat defensive front has trouble figuring out Wildcat quarterback Heard. Big and strong and running the zone read, Heard is the type of quarterback this scheme is built for. The quick Aledo front have hesitated on their rush, worried about losing contain and letting Heard scramble for big gains. This gives Heard time to find receivers.
Jonathan Gray is in the locker room at the half, his Texas Longhorns having played on Thanksgiving the day before. The Bearcats trail by only two scores and one big play can change the game. But there is a feeling in the locker room that today is not going to end well. The coaches make adjustments with typical professionalism, but I see the resignation from the players. As they leave the locker room I overhear one tell another, “Well, this is the last half of the season.”
With the wind behind them, Aledo has a window to climb back into the game early in the third quarter. A defensive stop from the Bearcats sets up a Wildcat punt from the end zone. Guyer covers a bad snap in the end zone for a safety. The free kick gives the Bearcats the ball in good field position trailing 21-9. A touchdown will pull the Bearcats within a score…