Greg Ward + John Tyler Rally in Second Half to Beat Frisco, Stay Alive in 4A Playoffs
ALLEN -- With his team down at the half and having thrown his first interception all year, Greg Ward came out with a mission in the second half Friday night against Frisco under the lights at the $60 million Eagle Stadium.
His mission? Well, just be Greg Ward.
John Tyler's star quarterback engineered a second-half comeback and the Lions defense came alive against Frisco's Wing-T offense to take a 45-28 win and move to the state quarterfinals of the Class 4A Division I playoffs.
The Lions (12-1) will face Frisco's district rival, Frisco Centennial, at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Dec. 7) in Ennis. Centennial, which beat Frisco 38-24 in the regular season, advanced with a 40-14 win against Red Oak on Friday.
Frisco, which upset then-No. 5 Highland Park in bi-district, ended its season at 9-4.
Ward managed three straight touchdown drives late in the second and early in the third quarters to revive John Tyler, which fell behind 21-10 with three minutes left in the first half.
Ward, a Houston commit, threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Darion Flowers with 50 seconds left in the first half to bring JT within four. Then, he erupted in the second half, completing his first nine passes while he engineered two scoring drives less than four minutes apart.
He connected with Fred Ross on a 28-yard touchdown pass and, after JT forced Frisco to punt for the first time in the game, ran for a 20-yard touchdown to put the Lions on top 31-21 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
"We had to come out in the second half and play John Tyler football. We didn't do that in the first half. I had to do better," Ward said. "And we did."
Ward threw 281 passes, including 35 touchdowns, this season before Drake Hardy picked him off in the second quarter. He finished the game 21 of 25 for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 14 of the 15 passes he threw in the second half.
The senior signal-caller said after the game the interception was bound to happen at some point, but what mattered more was "how I responded."
"It didn't feel right coming out of my hands, and I overthrew (Ross) a little bit," said Ward, who also rushed nine times for 57 yards and two touchdowns. "Everyone has been talking about it. I just needed to redeem myself."
Friday's game was a similar situation to JT's win over Whitehouse at the end of the regular season -- the Lions were down, their quarterback under a lot of pressure, but in the second half, a new Ward came out onto the field.
"I just told him to calm down (at halftime)," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. "I told him to calm down and be Greg Ward. The whole team responded (the same way they did against Whitehouse). That just shows the resiliency this team has to win a football game and keep moving toward a state championship."
John Tyler's defense struggled early against Frisco's Wing-T offense. The Raccoons did not have a play for negative yardage in the first half, and constantly ate up the clock to dominate time of possession. Frisco ran 41 plays to JT's 14 in the first half, totaling 230 yards -- 210 on the ground.
Frisco running back Ben Cole ran 29 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a 20-yard touchdown -- the only pass quarterback Jake Battaglia threw in the first half. Matt Nollman added 94 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
JT's defense held Frisco to 90 yards rushing in the second half, compared to 210 in the first. The Lions scored four of the five times Frisco gave back possession without scoring.
"In the first half, defensively we didn't play John Tyler football. I told them to just come out in the second half and play John Tyler football," Holmes said. "The defense had to make the key plays and put the game out of reach and give the ball back to the offense."
The defense intercepted Battaglia twice, the first signaling the turning point of the game. Terry Ausborne picked off Battaglia at JT's own 29, and Ward needed just three completions to get JT into the end zone. A screen to Darion Flowers went for 47 yards to the Frisco 28, followed by a 27-yard completion to DeQuante Woods and then the 6-yard scoring pass to Flowers.
JT scored five of the game's six second-half touchdowns, including consecutive touchdown runs by Woods at the 1:58 and :36 marks in the fourth quarter.
Cole's 1-yard touchdown run that capped an incredible 17-play, 79-yard drive with 10:42 left in the fourth brought Frisco within 31-28, but the Raccoons lost a fumble, threw an interception and turned the ball over on downs to give JT the push it needed.
No. 2 John Tyler 45, Frisco 28
Class 4A Division I Region II Semifinal
At Eagle Stadium, Allen
John Tyler 7 10 14 14 -- 45
Frisco 14 7 0 7 -- 28
FRI -- Matt Nollman 4 run (Grant White kick), 7:27
JT -- Greg Ward 33 run (Porfiro Benitez kick), 7:08
FRI -- Ben Cole 20 pass from Jake Battaglia (White kick), 0:25
JT -- Benitez 39 FG, 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 16 22
Rushes-Yards 18-87 63-300
Passing Yards 289 89
Comp.-Att.-Int. 22-26-1 5-10-2
Punts-Avg. 1-50.0 1-31.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 7-60 6-44
RUSHING--John Tyler, Greg Ward 9-57, DeQuante Woods 7-35, Reggie Gipson 1-(-1), Fred Ross 1-(-4). Frisco, Ben Cole 29-185, Matt Nollman 26-94, Max Steitle 6-28, Austin Shaw 1-(-1), Jake Battaglia 1-(-6).
PASSING--John Tyler, Ward 21-25-1--288, Tyus Bowser 1-1-0--1. Frisco, Battaglia 4-9-2--60, Nollman 1-1-0--29.
RECEIVING--John Tyler, Darion Flowers 7-97, Woods 6-67, Justice Liggins 4-65, Ross 4-55, Gipson 1-5. Frisco, Battaglia 1-29, Drake Hardy 1-27, Cole 2-26, Nollman 1-7.