The home crowd.
A nine-game winning streak.
The Cujo jerseys.
A chance to avenge a recent, bitter playoff loss.
All amount to ingredients for a possible winning recipe for John Tyler, which reserved room for dessert — another playoff victory — a day after Thanksgiving.
The Lions look to their home field to be an advantage in today’s area round contest against Wylie at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Wylie won against JT on its home turf when the teams last met in the 2010 state quarterfinals.
JT sports a 5-0 record at Earl Campbell Field in 2012. The Lions have never lost a home playoff game wearing their “Cujo” uniforms, going 4-0 dating back to the debut of the postseason jerseys in 1994.
“Any time you get to play at home, it’s a special event,” JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. “Being able to play at home in the playoffs, in front of your own fans, that makes it special.”
Wylie wears its customary all-black “Ahmo” threads in the postseason, a tradition dating back to 1977 when the Pirates won a state title.
Both teams feature numerous players who suited up in the 2010 meeting — 12 for Wylie and nine for JT.
“It will be a great environment, added excitement,” Wylie head coach Bill Howard said. “They will be fired up.”
Wylie (5-6) understands the task at hand going against JT (10-1) in its backyard. JT holds an 11-3 record in the playoffs since 2009.
“Tyler’s going to be ready,” Howard said. “They’re a good team. They’re well-coached. They have all the momentum. They’re supposed to win. They’re ranked No. 2. We’re 5-6. The pressure’s off us.”
The Lions let known their state title hopes from the jump after returning 17 players with starting experience from a semifinalist team. JT scored on its first play of the season and enters the game playing lights out on the offensive end.
The Lions shattered the school-record for points in a single game in last week’s 77-20 decimation of Waxahachie. JT enters today’s game averaging 41 points per game, with an impressive 112 points scored over the last six quarters.
JT rushed for a season-high 333 yards last week and passed for more than 300 in the team’s most complete performance to date.
“It makes us a two-way team,” Holmes said of JT’s ability to run the football with success, which he credited to the play-calling from offensive coordinator Antoine Bush. “We’re not just that big shot down the field team. We also can grind it out and take the clock away from you.”
The JT defense enters the game allowing less than 16 points per game after holding Waxahachie scoreless in the second half of a 77-20 bi-district win. The Lions created five turnovers and scored on a fumble return. JT enters today a plus-18 in turnover ratio, with three defensive TDs on the season.
“We tell our defense all the time, they have to be able to score like the offense,” added Holmes, while citing adjustments made by defensive coordinator Barry Anderson. “Their job is to make sure the offense gets the ball back as quickly as possible. That’s what they’re striving to do with the turnovers they’re creating.”
The Pirates posted more than 40 points for the third time this season last week, continuing to show marked improvement from an 0-5 start when injuries decimated the team. Wylie’s defense notched four sacks in a 45-21 win over Mount Pleasant, pushing its season total to 28.
“After playing Wylie East we started getting healthy and the schedule got better,” said Howard, whose team has won five of its last six games. “Our defensive line is one of our strengths. We rotate six players and it’s not a lot of difference.”
Holmes simply wants JT to follow the recipe from the previous three months.
“We need to make sure the defense continues to do what they do, shut down the run game, and keep the passing game to a minimum,” Holmes said. “Offensively, we have to do what we do best, put the ball in the playmakers’ hands and let them do what they do. And on special teams we have to stay focused to the task and make sure our offense and defense are not put in hard situations.
“They’re taking this game just like they took the first 11, making sure they beat John Tyler High School.”
LIONS’ TALES: The ticket window is scheduled to open at 4:30 p.m. for today’s game. Tickets cost $4 for students, $6 for adults and $8 for reserved.
Probable Starting Lineups
WYLIE — QB 18 Carson Cook (6-1, 165, So.) or 2 Kameron Kelly (6-3, 180, Jr.), RB 22 Dontae Slay (5-9, 205, Jr.) or 21 Dylan Riley (5-7, 140, Jr.), WR/X 9 Leland Dotson (5-9, 160, Sr.), WR/Y 88 Alex Wesley (5-11, 175, Sr.), WR/Z 4 Kalen WInkler (5-8, 175, Sr.), QT 50 Laurent Njiki (6-2, 280, Jr.), QG 55 Cheatham Victor (6-0, 235, Jr.), C 75 Castin Neumeyer (6-4, 220, Sr.), SG 53 Gabriel Imo (5-9, 280, Sr.), ST 77 Erik Betancourt (5-11, 195, Sr.).
JOHN TYLER — QB 1 Greg Ward (6-0, 170, Sr.), RB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Sr.), WR/A 22 Reggie Gipson (5-9, 175, Jr.), WR/Z 8 Fred Ross (6-2, 185, Sr.), WR/Y 2 Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), WR/X 3 Justice Liggins (6-1, 190, Sr.), LT 62 Emmanuel Terrazas (6-2, 235, Sr.), LG 56 Adrian Pulido (6-0, 255, So.), C 55 Chris Starling (5-11, 250, Sr.), RG 54 Carnelius Davis (6-0, 240, Sr.), RT 52 Travaughn Moore (6-2, 260, Jr.), K 36 Porfirio Benitez (5-6, 145, Sr.).
WYLIE — DE 74 Israel Asuay (6-3, 215, Jr.), NT 29 Gary Bailey (5-7,200, Sr.), DE 24 Isaiah Hunt (6-3, 215, Sr.), OLB 5 Ja’Vareyea Hicks (5-9, 175, Jr.), ILB 15 Zach Myers (5-6, 175, Sr.), ILB 26 David Hill (Sr.), OLB 30 Collin Mathers (5-9, 175, Sr.), CB 3 Joseph Ewing (5-9, 155, Sr.), CB 17 Alex Pina-Rhoden (6-2, 175, Sr.), S 28 T’Kevian Rockwell (6-1, 195, Jr.), S 11 Elijah Harris (5-6, 150, Jr.).
JOHN TYLER — E 81 Tyus Bowser (6-2, 230, Sr.), NG 28 DeAndre Miller (5-11, 230, Sr.), DT 66 Chris Mobley (6-1, 235, Sr.), DE 5 Kavante Jefferson (6-2, 195, Sr.), WLB 15 Andrew Clark (6-0, 205, Jr.), MLB 24 Richard Gipson (6-2, 220, Sr.), SLB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Sr.), CB 25 Traven Johnson (6-1, 190, Sr.), CB 2 Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), SS 1 Greg Ward (6-0, 170, Sr.), FS 8 Fred Ross (6-2, 185, Sr.), P 40 Noe Diaz (5-10, 195, Sr.).
What: Class 4A Division I Area Playoff
Where: Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium (11,593/artificial)
Records: Wylie 5-6; John Tyler 10-1
Radio: ESPN 92.1 FM
All-time series: Wylie leads 1-0
2012 Results: Wylie — Sachse, L 36-44; West Mesquite, L 33-34; Mesquite Poteet, L 14-21; Lucas Lovejoy, L 21-47; Wylie East, L 38-46; Greenville, W 50-7; McKinney North, W 35-20; Denison, W 50-33; Sherman, L 35-45; Royse City, W 31-28; Mount Pleasant, W 45-21. John Tyler — Lufkin, W 35-21; Lancaster, L 21-26; Robert E. Lee, W 21-0; Mesquite Horn, W 35-30; UANL (Mexico) W 20-10; Corsicana, W 63-14; Lindale, W 35-0; Jacksonville, W 59-7; Nacogdoches, W 50-7; Whitehouse, W 45-38; Waxahachie, W 77-20.
Players to watch: Wylie — QB Carsen Cook (181 of 307, 2,158 yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs), QB Kameron Kelly (37 of 49, 470 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 220 yards, 4 TDs rushing), WR Kalen Winkler (78-1,038-11 TDs); John Tyler — RB/LB DeQuante Woods (Total offense: 603 yards, 10 TDs; Defense: 42 tackles, INT, TD), WR/CB Darion Flowers (44 receptions for 790 yards, 7 TDs; 26 tackles) DT DeAndre Miller (51 tackles, 3 CFs, INT).
About Wylie: Wylie’s solid play on the defensive line coincided with a turnaround from a 0-5 start. Wylie held Greenville to 42 yards rushing in its first win. The Pirates have allowed more than 156 yards rushing in only one game and have 28 sacks on the season. Wylie’s offense centers around the quarterback duo of Cook and Kelly (elbow), the latter of whom’s status is questionable for today’s game. Cook completed 20 of 27 passes for 198 yards and three TDs in last week’s win.
About John Tyler: JT set a school-record for points (77) and a new playoff standard for margin of victory (57) against Waxahachie. JT churned out 694 total yards. Woods stepped off 152 yards rushing on six carries, including a 10-yard TD run, and added a 24-yard reception. Woods added five stops on defense. Flowers fueled the win with five receptions for 96 yards and a TD (18) and contributed four tackles and a pass breakup on defense. Miller intercepted one of three passes for the Lions defense, which pitched a second-half shutout.
AHMO sideline: “This team is a little more talented (than 2010). We’re a little younger, just not as healthy. Tyler is more athletic. We have to overcome that by being disciplined.” — Wylie head coach Bill Howard
CUJO sideline: “They had some key injuries early and got those guys back. They’re able to spread the ball around, put it in the air and make some things happen. Their defense puts their offense in good positions. They play solid defense and don’t make mistakes.” — John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes
Next up: JT-Wylie winner vs. Frisco-Dallas Samuell winner in regionals.
WYLIE JOHN TYLER
Scoring Offense 35.2 41.9
Total Offense 370.8 437.2
Rushing Offense 113.5 175.7
Passing Offense 257.3 261.5
Scoring Defense 31.5 15.9
Total Defense 343.5 298.9
Rushing Defense 151.3 143.8
Passing Defense 192.2 155.1