MIDLOTHIAN —Tired of getting close to the final stop, John Tyler and Cujo Nation want to take their station into the championship round.
Only one other passenger poses an obstacle for JT in getting there, with the Lions looking to eliminate Denton Guyer from their path in today’s Class 4A Division I state semifinals at Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium.
The winner between JT (13-1) and Guyer (12-2) clinches a spot in next week’s state championship game opposite the winner between Georgetown (14-0)
and Leander Rouse (10-4) on Dec. 22 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
JT has been a dominant force on a regional level for four years straight and the Lions lack only a state title to cement their return to glory.
“They understand the importance,” first-year head coach Ricklan Holmes said. “They’ve been through the trial and error where they failed. Now they know what it takes to succeed and they’re hungry for that.”
Both former 5A programs have been models of consistency, with JT reaching the state semifinals the past two seasons and Guyer in the fifth round for fourth time in the last five years.
For all their success, neither has been able to seal the deal of late. Guyer lost in the state semifinals in 2008 and 2009, and in the title round in 2010 in Class 5A Division II.
JT’s season stopped in the semifinals last year and in the fourth round in 2009 and 2010. The Lions last played for a state championship in 2000, when JT fell to Katy in the 5A Division II finale. JT won the school’s third state title in 1994, a lifetime ago for most Lions players.
Preseason predictions put JT and Guyer on a collision path. After dropping down from 5A, Guyer opened the year at No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, two spots ahead of JT. The Lions moved up to No. 1 after Guyer and then-No. 2 Cedar Park dropped their openers. The Lions lasted one week atop the rankings before a loss to Lancaster, meanwhile the Wildcats dropped to 0-2 with a second straight setback to open the year.
The past three months have been smooth sailing for the semifinalists, with JT and Guyer both on 12-game win-streaks entering tonight.
“The ultimate goal is to win it all,” Guyer coach John Walsh told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “But I’m real proud to say our program has been to the state semifinal four of the last five years, and there’s not many programs that can say that.”
A pair of high-powered offenses motored both teams. Guyer averages 45.1 points per game. JT averaged 49.5 points in four playoff victories leading up to the semifinals.
A big-play quarterback and receiver headline both teams. JT quarterback Greg Ward (Houston commit) accounted for 396 yards in last week’s victory over Frisco Centennial while wide receiver Fred Ross (Oklahoma State commit) caught 13 passes for 172 yards and three scores.
Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard (Texas pledge) factored into 339 yards of offense with five TDs. Guyer wideout Ellis Jefferson (Arizona State pledge) offered a compliment to his dual-threat quarterback with five receptions for 123 yards and a pair of scores.
Holmes believes JT’s combination of a big-play offense averaging more than 40 points, coupled with a defense that has forced 42 turnovers in 14 games, equals a winning recipe.
“Our defense is going to play hard and make the necessary stops to put the game under control,” Holmes said. “And I don’t think they can stop our offense.”
Probable Starting Lineups
JOHN TYLER (Spread) — 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.).
DENTON GUYER (Multiple) — QB 2 Jerrod Heard (6-3,190, Jr.), TB 3 D.J. Breedlove (5-8, 170, Jr.), WR 15 Preston Thraikill (5-9, 160, Sr.), WR/X 19 Ellis Jefferson (6-4, 200, Sr.), WR/Y 83 John Pershall (5-10, 215, Jr.), WR/Z 1 Josh Harris (5-10, 170, Sr.), LT 70 Bryan Barnett (6-1, 285, Jr.), LG 54 Hunter Krastin (5-10, 250, Jr.0, C 60 Zach Colpean (5-10, 235, Sr.), RG 75 Ryan Felan (6-1, 280, Sr.), RG 56 Patrick Morris (6-2, 280, Sr.).
JOHN TYLER (4-3) — 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 21 Elliott Hart (5-11, 175, Sr.), FS 13 Terry Ausborne (5-11, 170, Jr.), P 40 Noe Diaz (5-10, 195, Sr.).
DENTON GUYER (4-3) — DE 17 Thomas Ferguson (6-1, 220, Jr.), NT 42 Domenic Pickerry (5-9, 210, Sr.), NG 49 Carl Thompson (6-2, 220, So.), DE 44 Connor Allen (6-1, 210, Sr.), OLB 7 Terrell Singleton (5-10, 180, Sr.), MLB 24 Terence Belton (6-1, 200, Sr.), OLB 6 Demontrie Taylor (5-9, 180, Jr.), CB 21 Will Sanders (5-11, 175, Jr.), CB 8 Trey Woods (5-9, 170, Sr.), SS 5 Tavi Sanchez (5-10, 180, Sr.), FS 11 John Schilleci (6-1, 190, Sr.).
What: Class 4A Division I State Semifinals
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Midlothian Multi-Purpose Stadium, Midlothian. (8,000 field turf)
Radio: ESPN 92.1 FM.
Records: John Tyler 13-1; Denton Guyer 12-2.
All-time series: First meeting.
2012 results: 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 (bi-district); Wylie, W 38-10 (area); Frisco, W 45-28 (regionals); Frisco Centennial, W 38-24 (quarterfinals); Denton Guyer — Cedar Hill, L 28-54; Colleyville Heritage, L 38-54; Flower Mound Marcus, W 27-14; Azle, W 55-14; Denton, W 62-0; Trophy Club Byron Nelson, W 53-28; Lake Dallas, W 63-13; Wichita Falls Rider, W 21-10; Wichita Fallas, W 49-10; Fort Worth Brewer, W 62-8; Saginaw, W 42-8 (bi-district); Aledo, W 42-30 (area); Amarillo, W 38-30 (regional); North Richland Hills Birdville, W 52-42 (quarterfinal).
Players to watch: John Tyler — DT DeAndre Miller (73 tackles, nine for loss), DT Chris Mobley (89 tackles, 10 for loss), LB Richard Gipson (125 tackles, 4 FRs, 2 INTs), LB DeQuante Woods (56 tackles, INT); Denton Guyer — QB Jerrod Heard (Passing: 141 of 227, 62.1 percent, 1,829 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs; Rushing: 192 carries, 1,677 yards, 26 TDs); RB Richard Whitaker (141 carries, 1,076 yards, 17 TDs), WR Ellis Jefferson (43 catches, 666 yards, 8 TDs), OL Patrick Morris (6-3, 288, Sr., TCU commit).
About John Tyler: The Lions rode a consistent offense and an opportunistic defense to get back to the state semifinals. JT warmed up as the game moved on the previous two weeks, scoring 24 second-half points last week and four TDs after halftime in regionals. JT used four turnovers, including three interceptions, to turn the tide in the second half against Centennial, which led the Lions briefly in the third quarter. Ross caught 13 passes for 172 yards and three TDs in the win. JT has allowed only 11 rushing TDs. Miller and Mobley key JT's middle, which bolstered the Lions last week when they held Centennial under four yards per carry.
About Denton Guyer: The Wildcats’ strength up front makes the Wildcats go, led by Morris. The Wildcats rushed for 71 touchdowns in their first 14 games. Heard sets the tone for the Wildcats with his ability to hurt teams on the ground and through the air. Guyer likes to switch up the formations, and the Wildcats rely on a number of players for production, with four backs over the 400-yard mark, and six receivers with at least 100 yards. The Guyer defense showed vulnerability the previous two games, giving up 939 yards in wins over Amarillo and Birdville. Guyer holds the advantage in three of four major offensive categories, with JT ahead on all four defensive averages.
Tyler sideline: “Our offense is playing great right now. The things they need to do is take away the small mental errors. We can’t have the early mental mistakes.” — John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes
Next up: Winner vs. Georgetown-Leander Rouse winner in Class 4A Division I state championship, noon, Dec. 22 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
Scoring offense 41.6 45.1
Total offense 430.1 476.5
Rushing offense 165.5 322.2
Passing offense 264.6 154.3
Scoring defense 16.8 22.2
Total defense 305.4 315.7
Rushing defense 145.6 150.2
Passing defense 159.8 165.5