Most high school football players just dream of it. Playing for a state championship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But at 4 p.m. this afternoon at Byrd Stadium, Brent Guyton and a handful of Wilde Lake seniors are going to begin their second lifetimes.
The Wildecats will be going for back-to-back state championships, last year in Class 2A, and today in Class 1A against Smithsburg. That few high school players get the chance just once is not lost on Guyton.
"I think if you're lucky enough to do it once, that's great," he said. "But if you do it twice, that shows a lot. It's a great overall feeling for yourself and the team that you're good enough to do it."
Guyton is certainly good enough.
For Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall, the last play in the 2A state semifinal game against Douglass last year exemplifies Guyton's performance at inside linebacker.
Douglass had scored with 27 seconds remaining to close the score to 14-12, but Guyton was knocked out on the play.
As officials marched off a 15-yard personal foul penalty against Douglass for the two-point conversion try, "Ricky Rowe called time out," DuVall said. "Ricky and Brent's brother, Joey, were holding him up. But he came to, stayed in the game, and sacked them for a 5-yard loss. It won the game for us. That's how tough he is."
Wilde Lake defensive tackle Blaize Connelly-Duggan, Guyton's friend since childhood and longtime teammate, remembers the same play. "Toward the end of last year he began to realize how great he can be. I never thought of him as the all-American," he said. "But when I saw that play . . . "
L And, Guyton was voted Most Quiet member of the senior class.
"You never hear a word," DuVall said. "You have to drag information out of him. But he's real decisive. Everything is well thought out. I think he could be a Trappist monk."
The Trappists aren't recruiting the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior, recently chosen Defensive Player of the Year in the Howard County League, but nearly everyone else is. Guyton has set visits to Syracuse, Penn State and UCLA and is considering Clemson, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
And the recruiting process will be one of careful examination, not just frivolous trips. Besides a strong business program, Guyton is "looking at whether the coach is stable or not," he said. "If they go to bowl games. Whether I can start in my sophomore year. I think if you can start as a true freshman, there's something wrong with the program.
"I don't feel I'm ready to play in college right now. I need to get bigger and there's a lot more studying."
Guyton's analytical and systematic approach shouldn't be surprising. His father, Joseph, is a retired Army colonel and his mother, Sharon, is a Latin teacher.
"He's always been different since I've known him," said Connelly-Duggan. "It's hard to figure out what he's thinking. On the football field he's real quiet and does what he has to do."
What he does as defensive captain is lead -- quietly, of course -- by example. "He does it by big plays and making sure we know what we have to do," Connelly-Duggan said. "Everybody wants to make the big play and be the hero. But it's a lot easier to go out and just take on the blockers because he's back there to make the tackle."
He may not be a locker room screamer, but Guyton can handle the role. "I like being the leader and setting an example," he said. "I like little kids looking up to you. I did it when I was younger with some Wilde Lake players."
If DuVall is lucky, one of those kids may be as good as Guyton. "I think one day he can play in the NFL," DuVall said. "He really has a presence on the field. He reads and reacts quickly, and he's a sure tackler. He's athletic enough to stop the run and cover the pass."
Therein lies the dichotomy. For all Guyton's intensity on the field, he is different off it. "Of all my friends, he's probably the one I've never gotten in a fight with," said Connelly-Duggan. "He's always easygoing and rational. . . . He's big and intimidating looking, but inside he's real nice."