ALLEN — John Tyler bonded into an offensive and defensive force down the stretch, and responded to its most physical challenge yet.
Thanks to two takeaways by Darion Flowers in the fourth quarter and a pair of DeQuante Woods touchdown runs in the final two minutes, JT kept alive its drive for a state championship, speeding by Frisco for a 45-28 win in a Class 4A Division I regional Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
JT (12-1) advances to the state quarterfinals to meet Frisco Centennial (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Ennis. Frisco Centennial defeated Red Oak 40-14 Friday and won 38-24 over Frisco (9-4) earlier in the season.
The Lions improved to 13-0 all-time in the regional round and moved into the Elite Eight for the fourth straight season.
JT trailed by 11 points late in the first half before outscoring Frisco 35-7 over the final 25 minutes. Frisco ran 73 plays compared to 44 for JT, keeping the Lions’ high-powered offense off the field most of the first half.
The Lions grabbed the lead for good on the opening drive of the third quarter off a Greg Ward touchdown pass, one of four total scores for the all-state quarterback.
“It came down to our defense doing what we needed to get the game under control,” JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. “We knew they were going to eat the clock and try to keep our offense off the field. We had to make two stops to get our offense back on the field and that’s what we did in the second half.”
After holding on fourth down near its own end zone, Frisco started from its own 11 behind 31-28 with 3:40 left. JT held on downs, and Woods went 8 yards around the left side to paydirt for a 38-28 lead with 1:58 showing.
Flowers intercepted a pass moments later and two plays after Woods raced his way to a 21-yard score to seal the win.
Flowers fueled JT with a team-high six grabs for 89 yards and caught a 6-yard TD pass from Ward to cut Frisco’s lead to 21-17. Flowers also recovered a fumble, forced by Andrew Clark.
“Every time we touched the ball we were looking to score,” Flowers said of JT’s offense, which scored once every seven plays on average. “It changed (in our favor) after halftime. We made some corrections and came out and played physical.”
The Lions maintained the momentum to start the second half, with Ward going 6 for 6 for 72 yards on the first drive after the intermission. Ward hooked up with Fred Ross, who slithered past the defense to finish off a 28-yard TD for the go-ahead score. JT never trailed again, going ahead 31-21 on Ward’s 20-yard TD run off a keeper.
Ward shook off his first interception of the season in the first half to end the game a sterling 21 for 25 for 288 yards and two TDs. Ward topped JT rushing with nine carries for 58 yards and two more TDs.
Frisco controlled the clock most of the contest, thanks to 63 rushes for 285 yards, led by the tandem of Ben Cole (28-169) and Matt Nollman (25-88). Cole’s 1-yard run with 10:42 left trimmed JT’s lead to 3.
The Raccoons fumbled on their next rushing attempt, however, and lost nine yards on its next three runs with the momentum in the Lions’ favor.
Time of possession worked in Frisco’s favor in the first half, with the Raccoons maintaining the ball 20 minutes and 28 seconds compared to 3:32 for JT.
Frisco chewed up nearly five minutes of clock on the opening drive, running 11 straight times, capped by Nollman’s 6-yard run to land the first blow.
JT answered in one play, capitalizing on Tyus Bowser’s 38-yard kickoff return with Ward’s 33-yard dash to the end zone to even the score.
Frisco charged right back, keeping it on the ground 11 consecutive plays, leading to fourth-and-7. The Raccoons opted to go for it and Frisco quarterback Jake Battaglia spotted Cole in the end zone for a 20-yard TD to give Frisco the lead the remainder of the half.
Another fourth-down conversion, this time on a 29-yard halfback pass from Nollman to Battaglia, helped Frisco take a 21-10 advantage after Cole’s 8-yard scamper.
JT stole the momentum back before halftime, with Terry Ausborne’s interception setting up the offense with one final crack with 1:21 left before halftime. JT needed only four plays to go 70 yards, with Ward finding Flowers on a 42-yard pass to start the drive, then hitting the same target again for a 6-yard score to bring the Lions within four points.
“They weren’t executing,” JT defensive coordinator Barry Anderson said of the Lions’ first-half effort. “(Frisco) did a great job of formationing us. In the second half I told them it was put or shut up. Obviously they put up.”
Class 4A Division I Regional
At Eagle Stadium, Allen
John Tyler 45, Frisco 28
Frisco 14 7 0 7 — 28
John Tyler 7 10 14 14 — 45
FRI—Matt Nollman 4 run (Grant White kick), 7:27
JT—Greg Ward 33 run (Porfirio Benitez kick), 7:08
FRI—Ben Cole 27 pass from Jake Battaglia (White kick), 0:26
JT—FG Benitez 39, 9:47
FRI—Cole 8 run (White kick), 3:01
JT—Darion Flowers 6 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 0:50
JT—Fred Ross 28 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 10:24
JT—Ward 20 run (Benitez kick), 6:54
FRI—Cole 1 run (White kick), 10:42
JT—DeQuante Woods 8 run (Benitez kick), 1:58
JT—Woods 21 run (Benitez kick), 0:36
First Downs 22 16
Rushes-Yards 63-285 18-89
Passing Yards 89 289
Com.-Att.-Int. 5-10-2 22-26-1
Punts-Avg. 1-31.0 1-50.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 6-39 6-55
RUSHING—Frisco, Ben Cole 28-169, Matt Nollman 25-88, Max Steitle 6-29, Team 1-1, Jake Battaglia 2-(-1), Austin Shaw 1-(-1). John Tyler, Greg Ward 9-58, DeQuante Woods 7-35, Reggie Gipson 1-(-1), Fred Ross 1-(-3).
PASSING—Frisco, Battaglia 4-9-2—60, Nollman 1-1-0—29. John Tyler, Ward 21-25-1—288, Tyus Bowser 1-1-0—1.
RECEIVING—Frisco, Cole 2-26, Battaglia 1-29, Drake Hardy 1-27, Nollman 1-7. John Tyler, Darion Flowers 7-89, Woods 6-65, Justice Liggins 4-75, Ross 4-55, Gipson 1-5.