TYLER – John Tyler was able to keep its perfect district record intact Friday night, but head coach Ricklan Holmes said the message to his players afterward was simple.

“Today’s game was not very good,” Holmes said of his team’s 28-25 win over McKinney North at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. "Next week’s game’s got to be better.”

John Tyler (5-2, 4-0 in District 7-5A Division I) led by 18 points late in third quarter, but needed a fumble recovery deep inside its own territory in the final four minutes to hold off McKinney North (6-3, 3-2).

The Lions will travel to E.H. Hanby Stadium in Mesquite next Friday night for a crucial clash with Mesquite Poteet (7-1, 4-0), which will likely decide the district championship.

Penalties were a persistent problem for John Tyler, especially in the fourth quarter.

An unnecessary roughness call killed an offensive series, and on the ensuing punt, the Lions were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which allowed McKinney North to begin the drive at the JT 42-yard line with 5:45 remaining.

The Lions were penalized 16 times for 131 yards on the night.

“It’s very disappointing because that’s not John Tyler-style football,” Holmes said. “That’s not how we practice, that’s not what we do week in and week out.”

McKinney North converted on fourth down with a 31-yard gain to the John Tyler 9 with less than four minutes to play, but on the next snap, Lions linebacker Dareion Warren stripped McKinney North running back Hunter Chae, and JT’s Isaiah Johnson recovered at his own 25.

John Tyler was able to milk the rest of the clock, advancing all the way to the McKinney North 6-yard line before taking a knee.

“We finally did what we were supposed to be doing from the jump,” Holmes said. “We put ourselves in a hole defensively, missing tackles, not getting lined up the way the we needed to get lined up. When you do things right, good things happen. We finally did something right at that moment, and a good thing happened.”

John Tyler senior running back Roderick Hawkins rushed for 200 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown run which gave the Lions a 21-3 lead in the second quarter. His 37-yard on the final drive of the night put the game out of reach.

“He’s giving us a jolt,” Holmes said of Hawkins. “He’s a workhouse, he’s giving us exactly what we knew he was gonna be coming into the season. And he’s proven that every week, that’s why he’s our leading rusher. Right now he’s the go-to guy when things get down. We’ve got to find (No. 6) and put it in his hands.”

McKinney North took the game’s first lead on a 36-yard field goal by Tyler Huettel, but John Tyler scored on its first two possessions to build a 14-3 lead after the opening quarter.

Cameron Grant, who returned a kickoff 46 yards to the Bulldogs’ 30, scored on a 9-yard run. And one drive later, Devlen Woods connected with Nathaniel Hall for a 20-yard touchdown.

Hawkins’ 98-yard scoring sprint gave the Lions the first of their two, 18-point leads.

McKinney North scored on its opening possession of the third quarter with a Chae 3-yard run.

John Tyler responded less than three minutes later on a 14-yard touchdown run from Ka’Darian Asbell, who finished the night with 77 yards on six carries.

The Bulldogs closed the gap to 28-17 in the final seconds of the third quarter. Cameron Constantine completed a 21-yard pass to Holt Harvey. He fumbled on the play, and teammate Noah Ford scooped the loose ball at the 7 and reached the end zone.

Constantine, on fourth down, connected with running back Emanuel Fincher for a 27-yard touchdown with 8:03 remaining in the fourth. Constantine added the two-point conversion to cut John Tyler’s lead to 28-25.

“These kids have to learn how to be successful,” Holmes said of his team. “It’s not just showing up on Fridays and playing a football game, it’s everything that goes before that. It’s school, it’s family, it’s homework, it’s everything besides football. When we get to a point where we can worry about less, we’re gonna be an even better football team.”

John Tyler 28, McKinney North 25

At Christus TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler

McKinney North       3      0    14      8    –    25
John Tyler              14      7      7      0    –    28

First Quarter
MN—FG Tyler Huettel 36, 8:16.
JT—Cameron Grant 9 run (Frankie Sanchez kick), 6:30.
JT—Nathaniel Hall 20 pass from Devlen Woods (Sanchez kick), 3:28.
Second Quarter
JT—Roderick Hawkins 98 run (Sanchez kick), 3:19.
Third Quarter
MN—Hunter Chae 3 run (Huettel kick), 6:19.
JT—Ka’Darian Asbell 14 run (Sanchez kick), 3:33.
MN—Noah Ford 7 fumble return (Huettel kick), :27.
Fourth Quarter
MN—Emanuel Fincher 27 pass from Cameron Constantine (Constantine run), 8:03.

                                       MN                    JT
First Downs                        20                   17
Total Yards                        372                 394
Rushes-Yards               54-252           33-301
Passing Yards                   120                  93
Comp.-Att.-Int.            12-18-0           7-13-1
Punts-Avg.                    5-36.8            3-40.0
Fumbles-Lost                      2-1               1-0
Penalties-Yards                  6-57          16-131

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING—McKinney North, Hunter Chae 27-127, Cameron Constantine 16-114, Emanuel Fincher 1-11. John Tyler, Roderick Hawkins 14-200, Ka’Darian Asbell 6-77, Cameron Grant 4-13, Kitan Crawford 1-10, Devlen Woods 6-5, Team 1-(-1), Anthony Miner 1-(-3).
PASSING—McKinney North, Constantine 12-16-0—120. Dillon Markiewicz 0-2-0—0. John Tyler, Woods 7-13-1—93.
RECEIVING--McKinney North, Holt Harvey 4-68, JJ Henry 3-17, Noah Ford 2-12, Fincher 1-27, Constantine 1-0, Chae 1-(-4). John Tyler, Nathaniel Hall 4-63, Miner 2-26, Crawford 1-4.