John Tyler tallied five second-half touchdowns and rallied from a four-score hole as the incumbent district champions retained their seat atop their league with a thrilling 45-38 win over Whitehouse on Friday night.
JT, which trailed 24-0 in the second quarter, increased its district win streak to 20 games. The district title marks the fourth straight for the second-ranked Lions (9-1, 5-0 in 16-4A), who ruined an unbeaten season for the Wildcats (9-1, 4-0) in front of more than 12,000 at a packed Trinity Mother Frances Stadium.
"We know how to fight and make things happen when they need to happen," JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "They knew what this game meant."
The Lions open up the state playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Waxahachie at Garland's Homer B. Johnson Stadium.
Bowser wreaked havoc on defense with five of the team's eight sacks. Bowser's final sack on Whitehouse's sensational junior Patrick Mahomes caused a fumble, recovered by JT's Kavante Jefferson at the Whitehouse 19.
JT needed two plays to take its first lead, with DeQuante Woods racing around the left side nine yards to the payoff for a seven-point cushion with 4:47 remaining.
"We're a team that never gives up. We fight to the end," Bowser said. "It was heart. They've got a great quarterback and receivers. Our front line had to dig deep, play hard and get to the quarterback the best we could."
Ward amassed 465 yards of offense and accounted for five TDs to win a duel with Mahomes, who passed for 445 yards and four TDs, and rushed for another score.
Ross reeled in seven receptions for 187 yards and three TDs in the shootout victory. Darion Flowers finished with seven receptions for 109 yards for the Lions.
Four Whitehouse receivers reached the 90-yard mark: Jaylon Dews (6-116), Jake Parker (7-94), Coleman Patterson (5-93) and Dylan Cantrell (3-91).
Ward connected with Ross for a 54-yard TD pass to pull JT within 31-24. With less than two minutes left, Ward dashed his way to a scintillating 54-yard run to even the game.
Mahomes tossed his fourth TD of the game early in the fourth quarter on a 25-yard pass to Parker to return the lead to Whitehouse (38-31).
JT tied the game on the next play from scrimmage, with Ward spotting Ross, who sliced his way past numerous defenders to finish off a 71-yard game-tying TD.
Whitehouse worked its offense to near-perfection while jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the first half.
The game's first drive ended in bizarre fashion after Dews caught a tipped pass, only to fumble out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
JT drove deep in Whitehouse territory before returning the favor on a lost fumble by Woods. Whitehouse capitalized with 19-yard field goal by Jestin Wilkins, benefiting from 35 penalty yards against JT.
Whitehouse struck paydirt on its next three drives to take a 24-point cushion.
The Wildcats went for it on fourth down and lined up in a power set, with Mahomes finding Brannon Beaton wide open for a 10-yard score.
Mahomes called his own number on a 10-yard scramble late in the first quarter for a 17-0 lead.
JT fumbled on the last play of the first quarter deep in Whitehouse territory again to remain scoreless.
Penalties continued to hurt the Lions when a block-in-the-back call negated a 56-yard punt return by Ross to the Whitehouse 1-yard line.
Whitehouse padded its lead midway through the second quarter when Mahomes spiraled a curling pass to a streaking Dews, who pulled in the ball in between two Lions for the 24-0 cushion.
Near the end of the first half, JT charged to life with a Porfiro Benitez field goal before Ward spotted Ross, who spun back to the outside to complete a 25-yard scoring hooking and bring the Lions within two touchdowns.
"We had to take care of the necessary mistakes we had in the first half and get back to playing John Tyler football," Holmes said. "We knew it would be a good game. They came out and fought as hard as we did. But at the end we came out on top."
No. 2 John Tyler 45, Whitehouse 38
At Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Whitehouse 17 7 7 7—38
John Tyler 0 10 21 14—45
WHI—FG 19 Destin Wilkins 19, 5:35
WHI—Brannon Beaton 10 pass from Patrick Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 3:04
WHI—Mahomes 10 run (Wilkins kick), 0:11
WHI—Jaylon Dews 34 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 6:40
JT—FG Porfirio Benitez 27, 4:16
JT—Fred Ross 25 pass from Greg Ward (Benitez kick), 0:17
JT—Darion Flowers 25 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 9:00.
WHI—Dylan Cantrell 35 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 7:51
JT—Ross 54 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 6:30
JT—Ward 54 run (Benitez kick), 4:40
WHI—Jake Patterson 25 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 7:24
JT—Ross 71 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 7:02
JT—DeQuante Woods 9 run (Benitez kick), 4:47
EST. ATT. —12,000.
First Downs 31 18
Rushes-Yards 43-94 28-196
Passing Yards 445 318
Comp.-Att.-Int. 28-57-1 21-24-0
Punts-Avg. 4-29.7 3-27.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 5-60 8-75
RUSHING—Whitehouse, Isaiah Burton 5-29, Colby Campbell 6-29, Coleman Patterson 1-12, Patrick Mahomes 22-10, Dominique Hollie 6-5, Jake Parker 2-3, Team 1-6. John Tyler, Greg Ward 15-147, Fred Ross 4-25, DeQuante Woods 5-23, Tyus Bowser 3-1, Justice Liggins 1-0.
PASSING—Whitehouse, Mahomes 28-57-1-445. John Tyler, Ward 21-24-0--318.
RECEIVING—Whitehouse, Parker 7-94, Jaylon Dews 6-116, Patterson 5-93, Dylan Cantrell 3-91, Ryan Cheatham 3-13, Isaiah Burton 2-12, Brannon Beaton 1-17, Campbell 1-9. John Tyler, Ross 7-187, Darion Flowers 7-109, Liggins 5-24, Woods 2-(-2).