Class 5A Division I

Region II Semifinals

Rockwall-Heath Hawks (10-2)

Vs.

John Tyler Lions (10-2)

12 p.m. Friday
Baylor's McLane Stadium, Waco

 

Coaches
  • Rockwall-Heath: Mickey Moss
  • John Tyler: Ricklan Holmes

 

Last week

 

Next week
  • Winner plays Mansfield Lake Ridge-McKinney North winner, Region II championship game

 

Playmakers

Rockwall-Heath

  • OL Trevor Elbert, Sr., 6-6, 295 (committed to Texas A&M)
  • QB Jordan Hoy, Sr., 6-1, 185 (98 of 157, 1,308 yards, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, 100 carries 769 yards, 15 TDs)
  • RB Tyler McCalister, Jr., 6-1 215 (replaced injured Rico Henderson, 99 carries, 674 yards, 7 TDs)
  • DT Josh Scott, Sr., 5-9, 188 (64 tackles, 11 sacks)
  • CB David Richardson Sr., 5-11, 175 (49 tackles, 4 INTs, 3 fumbles forced; committed to Tulsa)
  • S Deshon Elliot, Sr., 6-1, 198 (81 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 forced fumble; committed to Texas)

 

John Tyler

  • CB Isaac Warren, Sr., 6-1, 190 (49 tackles, INT, fumble recovery, defensive TD; committed to Purdue)
  • DT Braylon Jones, Jr., 6-4, 295 (73 tackles, 4 for loss, 4 sacks, 2 QB pressures)
  • WR Rodney Bendy, Sr., 6-5, 200 (22 catches, 365 yards, 5 TDs; committed to North Texas)
  • WR Nick Cain, Sr., 5-11, 175 (44 catches, 570 yards, 4 TDs; committed to ULM)
  • QB Geovari McCollister, Sr., 6-3, 205 (171 of 265, 2,510 yards, 21 TDs, 5 INTs; 120 carries, 414 yards, 6 TDs; committed to Central Arkansas)
  • RB Jeremy Wilson, Sr., 5-9, 170 (180 carries, 1,443 yards, 21 TDs; 27 catches, 271 yards, 2 TDs)
  • WR Duntayviun Gross, Jr., 5-8, 160 (41 catches, 605 yards, 5 TDs)
  • S Bryston Gipson, Jr., 6-0, 180 (56 tackles, 2 for loss, INT, PBU, 6 fumbles recoveries, 2 blocked kicks, 3 defensive TDs)
  • S Jordan Owens, Sr., 5-11, 175 (47 tackles, 8 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 defensive TD, 1 blocked PAT returned for score)
  • DT Pierre Leonard, Jr., 5-10, 245 (77 tackles, 12 for loss, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble)

 

Just the facts
  • John Tyler has reached the regional semifinalround for the fifth time in six seasons.
  • Rockwall-Heath, an eight-year-old program, is making its third appearance in the third round of the playoffs and has reached the postseason five times.
  • The Hawks were 6-4 last season and missed the playoffs with a young team.
  • Friday's game will be John Tyler's first since the 20th anniversary of the 1994 playoff game against Plano East. This is the Lions' 15th postseason run since the 1994 championship season.
  • John Tyler is the second team from East Texas to ever play a game at McLane Stadium. Tyler Lee wrapped up its season two weeks ago on Baylor's campus.
  • John Tyler safety Jordan Owens has recorded four of his eight interceptions in the playoff run. He has scored on a pick six and a blocked PAT returned for two points.
  • Rockwall-Heath's Trevor Elbert will be the most known player in the game. The offensive lineman committed to Texas A&M in favor of six other offers from Texas, Texas Tech, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
  • The Hawks have an outstanding defensive backfield. Safety Deshon Elliott is committed Texas and cornerback David Richardson Jr. has pledged to attend Tulsa.
  • John Tyler has three FBS-bound seniors in receivers Rodney Bendy (North Texas) and Nick Cain (Louisiana-Monroe) as well as cornerback Ike Warren (Purdue). Defensive tackle Braylon Jones, a junior, has offers from Air Force and Navy.
  • McLane Stadium is a 126-mile drive from John Tyler and a 116-mile trip from Rockwall-Heath.

 

John Tyler defensive tackle Braylon Jones and the Lions' defensive line overall could have a big impact in Friday's Class 5A Division I regional semifinal game. The opposing running game accounts for about 66 percent of Rockwall-Heath's offense. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: John Tyler's defensive front versus Rockwall-Heath's balanced attack. Despite losing primary running back Rico Henderson late in the regular season to an injury, the Hawks tendencies have remained constant. Roughly 66 percent of the offense's 4,166 total offensive yards have come on the ground, so defending against the run is a good place for the Lions to start Friday.

Easier said than done though. Rockwall-Heath has an excellent offensive line featuring a blue chip offensive tackle prospect in Trevor Elbert.

There is good news. John Tyler's defensive front has not been praised state-wide, but those that have been watching the Lions this season know there's some serious synergy.

The Lions have played very well up front, especially right down the middle. Defensive tackles Braylon Jones and Pierre Leonard, both juniors, give interior offensive linemen fits with a combined 14 sacks and 150 tackles through 12 games -- abnormally high numbers for their positions.

John Tyler isn't shabby at its defensive end spots or linebacker, either. The Reese brothers, Jassavia and Jaylon, have made more than a few critical plays at end and linebacker, respectively.

The Lions are in outstanding defensive shape up top as well. Its secondary has proven itself to be one of the best from East Texas. Safety Jordan Owens has four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two defensive scores in two playoff games. The group as a whole has speed and should keep Rockwall-Heath from scoring on runs that break through the first two levels.

John Tyler safety Jordan Owens has four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two defensive scores in just two playoff games this season. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

But about one-third percent of the Hawks' offensive productivity comes from its passing game. The Lions' defensive backs also will have to play a good game against the pass with help from the front in pass rush duties. Rockwall-Heath does not have a standout receiver, but four players have more than 200 yards which means quarterback Jordan Hoy could have more than one opportunity to complete a pass on any given play.

The Hawks' defense mirrors John Tyler's with strengths at each level. Safety Deshon Elliott is a Texas commitment and cornerback David Richardson Jr. is expected to play college ball at Tulsa.

Rockwall-Heath's defense has created 29 takeaways, an average of 2.4 per game. John Tyler's explosive offense should be a big test for the Hawks, but the Lions will have to focus on every detail to pull off successful plays.

The beauty of deep-round playoff football is a defense has to sacrifice negative mismatches on every play.

If Rockwall-Heath is afraid of Central Arkansas quarterback commitment Geovari McCollister and a cast of strong receivers, they're going to have to spread their defenders farther away from the line of scrimmage. That could open things up for an electric running back in Jeremy Wilson.

If the Hawks want to nix Wilson out of opportunities, they'll be asking their talented defensive backfield to contain several receivers that also have college football futures.

It will be up to McCollister and company to figure out what Rockwall-Heath is trying to accomplish on defense, and their goals should change frequently.

Don't be surprised if: Friday's game goes to the wire. The two teams are similarly gifted with talent across the field. The Class 4A Division II game between Gilmer and Gladewater owns claim to the most intriguing game featuring at least one East Texas team this weekend, but John Tyler's game against a top-tier Metroplex squad has potential to be remembered as the most exciting.

John Tyler linebacker Jaylon Reese. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)