John Tyler, Nacogdoches Trade Good Shots In First And Only Preseason Scrimmage
NACOGDOCHES -- If Nacogdoches head coach Bobby Reyes wanted to see how deep his team will be in Class 5A competition, he could have found many better preseason scrimmage fits than a John Tyler squad trending up ahead of its first action as a Class 6A school.
That wasn't Reyes' question though. He wanted to see Friday how his starters would handle getting thrown against an old district foe that always had their number.
The key piece of Nacogdoches' turnaround from bad to formidable through the past four seasons was pleased despite the Dragons' collective 21-7 loss to John Tyler in a 24-minute live scrimmage.
John Tyler's starting 22 players also defeated Nacogdoches' starting 22 by a score of two touchdowns to one earlier in the controlled portion of the scrimmage.
"I liked the fact that they know how to win," Reyes said. "Their kids are going to play hard and that's why I wanted to scrimmage them. It gives us a measuring stick about where we are. I know their twos outscored our twos a bunch, but the ones -- We played them fairly even."
Just to clarify the difference between a controlled scrimmage and a live scrimmage, the controlled segment required the two teams to play on one side of the ball for 15 consecutive plays regardless of the outcomes of drives.
The live section reflected real football game situations other than the elimination of punt returns and a total absence of the kickoff and kickoff return games.
Senior Dragons quarterback Noah Hildebrand, a recent Arkansas-Monticello commitment, had a solid performance.
He scored both of Nacogdoches' pertinent touchdowns on 2-yard runs. Both scores came immediately after completed passes to put the team in high-percentage scoring opportunities.
Hildebrand completed 3 of 7 passes during the live segment for 52 yards. He endured one dropped pass and two throws were broken up by John Tyler's defensive backfield.
In the controlled portion, Nacogdoches' second-year quarterback completed 7 of 10 throws for 120 yards.
Hildebrand also ran for three first downs during the overall scrimmage on 3rd-and-intermediate toward 19 yards on five carries in total.
"He's stronger, he's bigger and he's faster than he was a year ago," Reyes said. "That's good. He's committed to Monticello and he's going to make them a good quarterback because he's a smart kid. He does the things you ask him to do. And he's a team football player, which all of our kids are right now. That's the best thing we've got going right now."
Nacogdoches senior running back Phillip Jones, who rushed for 1,259 yards in 10 games a season ago, ran for 60 yards against John Tyler on 20 carries.
Kris Wade led the Dragons in receiving. He made two receptions for a team-best 55 yards through the scrimmage, most notably a 47-yard grab from Hildebrand.
It was a quiet night for Texas cornerback commitment Josh Thompson up at safety. He had a couple of big hits, but he did not disrupt John Tyler's passing game ahead of the catch because the Lions generally went away from him.
John Tyler was much more difficult to grade individually. While Nacogdoches wore their old varsity jerseys, each Lions player wore the same generic practice jersey with no numbers.
"It really was about having something to work for," head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "If you start out a season giving them everything that they have to earn, you just don't really put anything on it. Like, the first game, we're going to have Lions jerseys on, but we're not going to have Lions on our helmet. You've got to earn that."
Therefore, Friday was about grading the most well-known quantities of the team. Senior quarterback Bryson Smith, senior receiver Damion Miller and senior cornerback Javontavius Mosley.
All of whom are committed to NCAA Division I FBS schools and stood out by body type.
Smith, a Houston commitment, completed 6 of 8 passes in the controlled portion of the scrimmage for 135 yards. He went 5-for-7 in the live portion for 16 yards.
Smith ran in a 1-yard score during the live portion shortly after extending the drive with a 26-yard run on 3rd-and-10 from the Lions' 49-yard line. He threw a 41-yard bomb for a score during the controlled segment.
Miller, committed to Texas, caught one pass from Smith for 30 yards during the controlled portion.
Mosley, pledged to UTSA, recorded one pass breakup.
Backup quarterback Jaivon Williams shined with the second offensive unit. He completed all 12 of his attempts in the controlled segment for 57 yards and guided the Lions to two scoring drives during the live segment toward a 5-for-7 line of 69 yards.
Starting John Tyler offensive lineman Jackson Bridges sustained a minor injury during the controlled portion and did not return to action. Holmes is under the impression Bridges will be fine to go next week in the season-opener.
Nacogdoches will host Kilgore at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in a real game.
John Tyler will host Plano West at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler at 12 p.m. next Saturday.
"I like the size they've got up front," Holmes said of Nacogdoches. "I knew they were coming back with bigger defensive linemen than they had last year. Offensive line has always been big. Then their secondary. Everybody knows about Nacogdoches' secondary. I thought that was going to be a great chance for my skill guys. With that type of speed, to pretty much match up with what we've got."