Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Cedar Hill, other Dallas-area schools started slow but got hot when it mattered most
Cedar Hill’s season looked in jeopardy on Sept. 21, when it suffered a 48-35 district-opening loss to DeSoto.
It was Cedar Hill’s third straight defeat, and the team also lost starting running back Jared Rayford and wide receiver Jaidron Hurd to injuries during the losing streak.
But the feeling inside the team’s locker room afterward wasn’t one of despair.
“We were really excited,” Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire said. “That might sound crazy, but we did some really good things in that DeSoto game, and the kids started to see some potential there.”
Cedar Hill was right to be excited. After a brutal three-game stretch that included Allen, Florida power Miami Washington and DeSoto, McGuire’s team was ready to compete in 7-5A, which is among the toughest districts in Texas.
The lessons of the slow start have been a big reason Cedar Hill finds itself still playing into December. It will face unbeaten Waco Midway in the Class 5A Division II Region I final at 2 p.m. Saturday in Midlothian.
“I knew we could recover,” McGuire said. “People ask me why we schedule the way we do. We’re just trying to get better.”
Several Dallas-area teams have recovered from slow starts to make long playoff runs, including Plano West, Denton Guyer and Fort Worth Nolan.
Of the 76 remaining UIL 11-man teams, only eight have overcome four-loss regular seasons. Two of them — Plano West and Austin Westlake — will play each other in an intriguing 5A Division II regional final.
Plano West returned five starters on offense and just two on defense this season, so coach Mike Hughes expected a few bumps in the road. At its low point, Hughes’ team was 3-4 overall and 0-2 in District 10-5A.
Unlike Cedar Hill, though, which changed its defensive scheme from a 4-2-5 to an odd front to help solve its struggles, Plano West just needed some game experience. It also helped to have a running back like sophomore Sotonye Jamabo, who scored 13 touchdowns in Plano West’s three playoff wins.
Jamabo and fellow running back Auston Anderson, who had 145 yards and two TDs of his own last weekend, stayed fresh for the playoffs with lighter loads during the regular season.
Jamabo only had nine carries in Plano West’s season-opening win against Flower Mound Marcus, and Anderson had 10.
“Both of our backs are healthy because we’ve balanced their carries,” Hughes said. “We didn’t want to give them 25-30 carries a game early on.”
It’s no surprise that state powers Denton Guyer and Fort Worth Nolan are playing this deep into the season, but both were 0-2 in September.
Guyer, SportsDay’s top-ranked 4A team, lost to a pair of talented 5A squads to open the season. Both losses — to Cedar Hill and Colleyville Heritage — were by two touchdowns or more.
Guyer enters its 4A Division I Region I final against Birdville on an 11-game winning streak.
Nolan, which will face district rival TCA-Addison in the TAPPS Division I state championship Saturday in Waco, lost its first two games to 4A Lancaster and 3A power Argyle.
Nolan coach Joe Prud’homme didn’t want such a challenging non-district schedule, but it’s paying off for his team. Speed was a primary concern for him at the start of the season, so facing Lancaster in the season opener was an important challenge.
“You can’t simulate that speed in practice,” Prud’homme said. “Playing those guys got us off to a good start, for the kids and the coaches.”
Follow David Just on Twitter at @DavidJustDMN.
Then and now
How four Dallas-Fort Worth area teams have recovered from slow starts to make deep playoff runs.
School, start, record
Cedar Hill, 1-3 on Sept. 21, 9-4
Denton Guyer, 0-2 on Sept. 2, 11-2
FW Nolan, 0-2 on Sept. 7, 11-2
Plano West, 3-4 on Oct. 19, 9-4