ENNIS —The question on the fieldhouse wall sums up John Tyler’s mindset entering the state quarterfinals:
“Seniors, how do you want to be remembered?”
JT’s previous three teams left impressions, just not lasting marks — as in a state championship for a permanent reminder such as the 1994 picture hanging by the current catchphrase.
Remembered more for close calls in recent years, JT looks to answer the next three challenges, starting with today’s Class 4A Division I state quarterfinal with Frisco Centennial.
“For the past couple years the seniors have left without winning a state championship,” JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. “They’ve gotten close to doing it, but they hadn’t sealed the deal yet. As a senior you don’t want to be remembered as a team that won a lot of games; you want to be remembered as that team that won the last game.”
The Lions (12-1) are in the state quarterfinals for fourth straight year. The Titans (12-1) are appearing in the elite eight for the first time in the nine-year history of the up-and-coming program.
JT won its 11th straight game last week, fighting back from an 11-point hole to win 45-28 against Frisco. JT scored more than 35 points for the eighth straight week, and upped its turnover-ratio to plus-21 after coming away with two interceptions and a fumble.
Centennial presents JT’s stiffest in-class challenge since the Lions lost their second game against Lancaster, a state quarterfinalist in Division II. The Titans are winning games by an average margin of 21.5 points per game. JT is outscoring opponents by 25.6 points.
“JT has great tradition and we’re excited to play a team of their caliber,” said ninth-year Centennial coach David Howard. “That makes Friday football in Texas what it is. We feel on any given night, team that plays best will win, not necessarily who has the most talent.”
Centennial captured its eighth consecutive victory with a sound 40-14 triumph over Red Oak in regionals. The Titans flexed their defensive muscles again, holding their eighth opponent to two touchdowns or fewer.
“Our kids have great team chemistry,” Howard said. “They’re very unselfish and they play together well. We feel we have to take it to a different level. We have some unfinished business. I know everyone can say that. We feel for us, this is uncharted territory. We feel like everyone else, that you have a chance when you get this far.”
Dual-threat quarterback motor both teams in the state quarterfinals matchup. JT senior quarterback Greg Ward charted 3,398 yards of total offense, with 47 total touchdowns through regionals. Ward, a Houston commit, leads JT rushing and passing. Centennial signal-caller Lamar Jordan, an Arkansas pledge, gained more than 2,900 yards of offense with 38 total touchdowns over the first 13 games.
Centennial trailed West Mesquite in the fourth quarter before Jordan passed for a TDand ran for another in a 14-esecond span to help the Titans pull out a 33-25 win.
Ward went 17 games and 415 passes before throwing an interception last week.
“Both quarterbacks have the ability to extend passing plays,” Howard said. “If they can’t find anybody, they can take off. You can’t coach that.”
“(Ward’s) had a great season, when you throw your first interception in week 13. We have a lot of respect for what they can do on offense and defense."
The talent level extends further than under center, with a handful of Division I recruits on both sides. JT all-state receiver Fred Ross tops the Lions with 1,745 all-purpose yards, and a team-high 21 TDs. A total of 10 JT players have at least 100 yards of offense, while 13 different Lions have at least one takeaway to their credit, led by Terry Ausborne’s eight (seven interceptions, one fumble recovery).
The Lions trailed by double-digit margins in two of their last four games, a trend JT know needs to stop for its season not to come to a halt.
“We can’t start out behind,” Holmes said. “As the competition level gets higher, you have to go out with the killer instinct from the beginning.
“We’ve got a lot of athletes that very talented, but also dedicated to doing what it takes to win football games and get closer to that third goal of ours, which is to win a state championship.”
LIONS’ TALES: Tickets at the gate to tonight’s state quarterfinals game cost $10. Ticket gates open at 6 p.m. JT will be the home team and occupy the press box side of the stadium. The Lions will wear white jerseys. The recently-constructed stadium features a 20’ x 36’ scoreboard. JT senior receiver Fred Ross has been selected to play for the U.S. Under-19 national football team. The 45-member team will compete Feb. 5 in the fourth annual International Bowl in Austin. Ross, an Oklahoma State commit, has more than 2,600 yards receiving and 42 total touchdowns the past two seasons for the Lions.
Probable Starting Lineups
FRISCO CENTENNIAL (Spread) — QB 4 Lamar Jordan (5-11, 180, Sr.), TB 20 Chris Johnson (5-11, 180, Jr.), WR/X 12 Cameron Peters (6-0, 170, Sr.), WR 10 Stoney Hawkins (6-3, 210, Jr.), WR/Y 11 Kelly Cardova (5-10, 165, Jr.), WR/Z 5 Cody Bagwell (6-2, 185, Sr.), LT 72 Trace Ellison (6-4, 250, So.), LG 68 Broderick Jenkins (6-1, 250, Sr.), C 77 Jerry Hernandez (5-10, 210, Sr.), RG 69 Morgan Dill (5-11, 205, Jr.), RT 79 Sam King (6-4, 205, Jr.), K 83 Austin Shoemake (Sr.).
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.).
FRISCO CENTENNIAL (3-4) — DE 26 Tevin Mason (5-11, 230, Sr.), NG 54 Tyler Kothera (6-0, 235, Jr.), DE 9 Kevin Smith (6-2, 245, Sr.), OLB 44 Blair Swanner (6-1, 195, Sr.), ILB 33 Jordan Miller (5-10, 175, Sr.), ILB 32 Andrew Pierce (5-9, 180, Jr.), OLB 31 Alex Walker (5-11, 70, Sr.), CB 21 Cydney Calvin (5-11, 175, Sr.), CB 1 Ranthony Texada (5-9, 160, Sr.), S 3 Ian Neithercut (5-9, 175, Jr.), S 18 Josh Garrett (6-2, 195, 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.).
What: Class 4A Division I State Quarterfinals
When: 7:30 p.m. today.
Where: Lion Memorial Stadium, Ennis. (10,000 field turf)
Radio: ESPN 92.1 FM.
Records: John Tyler 12-1; Frisco Centennial 12-1.
All-time series: First meeting.
2012 results:Centennial — Denison, W 45-9; Lake Dallas, W 42-14; McKinney North, W 42-21; Little Elm, W 38-13; Prosper, L 36-38; Frisco Liberty, W 33-10; Frisco Wakeland, W 24-20; Frisco, W 38-24; The Colony, W 36-0; Frisco Heritage, W 42-7; West Mesquite, W 33-25 (bi-district); Dallas Kimball, W 38-12 (area); Red Oak, W 40-14 (regional); 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).
Players to watch: Centennial — QB Lamar Jordan (191-of-318, 60.0%, 2,381 yards, 29 TDs, 8 INTs passing; 128-556 yards, 9 TDs rushing); RB Chris Johnson (122 carries, 722 yards, 7 TDs), WR Cody Bagwell (41 receptions, 845 yards, 9 TDs), DE K.J. Smith (94 tackles, 18 sacks), Ranthony Texada (57 tackles, 4 INTs); John Tyler — QB Greg Ward (207-of-302, 68.5%, 3,332 yards, 36 TDs, 1 INT passing; 145-666 yards, 11 TDs rushing), WR Fred Ross (62 receptions, 1,276 yards, 18 TDs), WR/CB Darion Flowers (53 receptions, 901 yards, 8 TDs; 38 tackles, 2 INTs), C Chris Starling (two-year starter), RG Carnelius Davis (two-year starter).
About Centennial: Centennial claims an edge on the defensive end, thanks to a stout front four featuring Smith, a Baylor commit, and Texada, a TCU commit. Centennial compiled 39 sacks in the first 13 games, and held Red Oak to 36 yards rushing last week. No team has yet to hit the 200-yard mark rushing, or 300-yard mark passing, against the Titans. Centennial allowed a season-high 439 yards (283 passing) against Frisco, a team JT yielded 374 yards against (89 passing).
About John Tyler: The offensive numbers suggest an advantage for JT, which puts up more points and total yards per game than Centennial. JT averaged 8.6 yards per play against Frisco, and finished with 378 yards against the same team Centennial totaled 387 yards on. With Davis and Starling providing stability up front, JT completed 85 percent of its passes and scored four rushing TDs versus Frisco. Ward accounted for four TDs (two rushing, two passing), Ross scored his team-leading 21st TD, and Flowers led the way with 89 yards receiving and two turnovers in the win.
Centennial sideline: “They’ve got athletes at so many positions on both sides and they have tremendous speed,” Centennial coach David Howard said of JT. “In order to be able to play deep in playoffs, you have to be able to run on defense and they do. The keys to winning this game are eliminating penalties and turnovers. And you’ve got to keep sticks moving and make first downs. It will boil down to which defense can slow the other offense. Every time they touch it they can take it to the house. We have to be strategic. We’re both going to give it our best.”
Tyler sideline: “They spread the ball out, and have a very talented quarterback, a great running back and an offensive line that’s disciplined. On the defensive side they have (talent),” JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said of Centennial. “Our guys give maximum effort all the time. It’s the focus part that I worry about. That will and desire not to quit, to do whatever it takes to win a football game, to practice hard, to play hard – that’s what it’s about.”
Next up: Winner vs. Denton Guyer-North Richland Hills Birdville winner in state semifinals.
Directions to Lion Memorial Stadium: Take Interstate 31 west to Corsicana, and go north on Interstate 45. Take Interstate 45 North to Exit 247 and merge onto US 287 North toward Waxahachie. Merge onto Lake Bardwell Drive and the stadium will be on the right.