John Tyler is one of the state’s most storied football programs. Losing is not part of the culture, so when the Lions started the 2015 season with three-straight losses, it raised some eyebrows across the state.

Led by head coach Ricklan Holmes, John Tyler righted the ship and is now 3-3 entering a district showdown with Ennis.

“Nothing really concerned me,” said Holmes of the 0-3 start. “We just needed to get better in all three phases of the game and we knew we had the talent to turn it around. We are a young team, but we’re extremely talented and sometimes guys just need to face a few obstacles, learn where we need to improve and put that into action.”

Experience was brought up a lot by Holmes. John Tyler faced tough competition throughout non-district play and while the record suffered, his team became a better unit because of the adversity.

“You’ve got to schedule games that make you better going into district play. We could schedule teams we know we can beat, but that would build a false sense of security for our players. The goal is to become the best team we can be and that only happens by facing teams that will challenge you and that is exactly what happened with us in non-district. Of course we hate to lose, but we’re a better team for it right now,” Holmes said. “We needed those games to learn our identity and I like where our team is right now.”

John Tyler’s three-game winning streak was spurned by the offense, especially junior quarterback Bryson Smith.

“We are a very offensively loaded team. Smith has the speed, agility and ability to run our offense and he can extend plays with his feet and the consistency comes with experience and he’s starting to really grasp what we need out of him. These first six games were vital for his development and he had to learn what it takes to be the quarterback at John Tyler because that carries a lot of weight on a young guy’s shoulders,” Holmes explained. “He’s a mature young man and he understands exactly what we need out of him now.”

Expectations can be a tricky thing. There are few programs in the state that carry higher expectations each year than the Lions, but Holmes sees that as a positive.

“We’re expected to win year in and year out and we want our guys to keep up that tradition. They see us having success as freshmen and sophomores and we want them ready to carry on what we’ve accomplished by the time they reach varsity,” Holmes said. “The goal is to find each team’s identity every year because each team is different, but John Tyler is still what we are and we will keep that tradition going.”

Ennis will be a great measuring stick for how far the Lions have come since the 0-3 start.

“It is always about us,” Holmes said. “We’re never trying to beat the other team as much as we’re trying to beat John Tyler and play at a level that could play against us at our best because we feel we’re one of the best programs in the country. So, if we play our best we’ll be just fine because our best will make us successful.”