Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Denton Guyer's sophomore QB Jerrod Heard, senior receiver Conner Crane helps offense click
DENTON — The youthful quarterback throwing the ball is just a sophomore, with years to go and untapped potential. On the receiving end is a tall senior who’s too muscular to be lanky, the picture of a Division I recruit.
One has it all figured out, and the other is learning with every step, every pass, every handoff. But somehow that dynamic has been a key factor behind Denton Guyer’s success.
Conner Crane embodies experience. In his third varsity season, Crane leads the Wildcats in receptions, yardage and touchdowns, and he has committed to play at Stanford next year. Throwing to Crane is first-year starter Jerrod Heard, who took over the offense after quarterback J.W. Walsh graduated and went to Oklahoma State.
A new quarterback, especially a sophomore, can mean many things for an offense: reorganization, a shift to the run, even a step backwards. But that’s not how Guyer coach John Walsh saw it.
“I think from the outside looking in, people thought that we were going to tailor back because we had a new quarterback,” John Walsh said. “We didn’t. We just said we were going to throw Jerrod to the wolves and see how he responds.”
Heard’s response? Seven wins, 1,810 passing yards, 549 rushing yards, 23 touchdown passes and five touchdowns scored. It’s more than Walsh expected.
Heard and Crane said the quarterback’s passing game has improved throughout the season. It’s not necessarily reflected in Heard’s numbers as it is in the team’s decisions when to pass. At the beginning of the season, Walsh called for the pass mostly for big plays, but now Heard passes successfully more regularly, including on third downs and in the red zone.
“For a couple games, it was really the receivers and the passing game that was holding us back, and as we’ve evolved, it’s helped our team get better,” Crane said.
Crane, who is good friends with Heard, 15, doesn’t look at his young quarterback as someone holding him back. In fact, Crane has an almost selfless perspective about the season. With his college decision settled, his focus is on doing whatever it takes for Guyer (7-3) to win, including helping Heard. The two have fallen into a comfortable rhythm on the field, but it wasn’t instant. It took numerous throws, hours of practice and plenty of talking for Heard and Crane to develop a system that seems to be working.
And Crane has shown an ability to lead, a year after sharing time with three seniors. As the team’s go-to receiver, Crane has scored 14 touchdowns on 865 yards receiving.
“We’ve got to talk about how he handled it last year,” Walsh said. “He knows he has all that stuff in him, and he had to share the wealth because we had other guys.”
Although the Wildcats faltered in their last regular-season game, a 49-22 loss to Southlake Carroll, Walsh is confident in his team and his quarterback-receiver duo entering the playoffs. Where Crane has been the standout receiver his coach always knew he was, Heard has been a pleasant surprise. And though playoffs mean pressure situations, Crane and Heard know that, in a way, their biggest obstacles are behind them.