One particular playoff loss left a bitter taste in the mouths of Cujo Nation.
John Tyler’s 20-16 loss to Wylie on the road in the Class 4A Division I state quarterfinals proved a hard pill to swallow for a Lions fan base still trying to stomach the decision to flip for home field that late in the postseason.
JT entered the game 7-0 away from Tyler, and Wylie 5-0 at home. JT’s road perfection gave out, as the Lions allowed the Pirates to score the go ahead touchdown with 1:06 left.
The Lions lost a fumble at the goal line moments earlier, costing them the chance to go ahead 10 points and all but seal the deal.
The contest featured a sellout crowd of 10,000, the majority crammed in on Wylie’s larger home side in a battle between “Ahmo” and “Cujo”.
The Wylie crowd energized its team, only two years removed from playing in the 5A Division II state championship game.
JT senior receiver Fred Ross remembers the noise level playing a factor. The JT team suited out nine sophomores, all key members of the 2012 team set to host Wylie in the rematch at 6 p.m. Friday at Tyler’s Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
“The fans were really into it,” Ross said. “During the pregame they were screaming. It was hard to hear. It was a real emotional game for us. I think it made us stronger for the next year, and now.”
Other key senior members from the 2010 game playing for JT include QB Greg Ward, WR/CB Darion Flowers, RB/LB DeQuante Woods, CB Traven Johnson, DL/OL Chris Mobley, ATH Tyus Bowser and kickers Porfirio Benitez and Noe Diaz.
The Lions look forward to trying to return the favor.
“It’s real sweet,” Ross said of the opportunity before JT. “Anytime you lose to somebody, we get a chance to get them our last year going out, it’s nothing better than that.”
JT entered the contest 12-1 and Wylie at 10-3. Both teams were competing in 4A for their first year. JT reached the 5A state quarterfinals the previous year in 2009, while Wylie made the state title game in 2008.
The Lions led 2-0 after Bowser’s sack on the end zone, the only points of the first half.
JT’s big-play defense, which forced 49 turnovers that season, intercepted one of 31 passes of the year to set up another score. JT increased its lead to 9-0 less than 30 seconds into the third quarter after Jeremiah Henry’s 2-yard run.
Wylie finally scored on a 29-yard TD pass midway through the third quarter and took the lead (13-9) on a 10-yard quarterback keeper, coming on a short field after a botched JT punt set up the Pirates from the Lions 23.
JT struck right back, with Ross catching a 13-yard pass before Ward scored on a 16-yard reception two plays later to return the advantage the Lions way (16-13) with 7:20 remaining.
The momentum remained with JT after an interception on the next possession. The Lions went right back to the air, with Ward hauling in a pass from David Bush and racing 46 yards to the 1. Ward attempted to stretch the ball past the plane — as he did on the earlier TD — but lost control. The ball rolled through the back of the end zone for a touchback and the Lions lost their appeal for Ward’s knee being down.
Wylie capitalized with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, converting a 53-yard pass on third-and-11 before getting in on a 1-yard run for the game-winner.
“I remember it a lot; it was one of my biggest wins,” said 16th-year Wylie head coach Bill Howard. “We were not that talented and had no Division I players. We had hard-nosed, blue collar players. They were loaded in 2010 and our defense played well. That’s what has to happen again for us to win.”
JT takes the previous result with a grain of salt, wanting to exact revenge, but more importantly extend its season.
“I think it plays a small part because of the memory factor,” said JT head coach Ricklan Holmes, who coached the secondary that picked off three passes against Wylie in 2010. “But I don’t think it has anything to do with extra motivation. Our motivation is enough. We want to win a state championship. This is just another team in the way of us accomplishing that goal. That’s how the kids are taking it, as the second game we have to play to get to that sixth game.”