MIDLOTHIAN -- Eighteen years ago in the state quarterfinals, John Tyler blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead before stunning Plano East with a game-winning kickoff return in the final minute.

Friday night at MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium, karma paid back Cujo Nation.

John Tyler erased a 19-point deficit with six minutes remaining, taking a three-point lead with less than four minutes to go before Denton Guyer stopped the bleeding, scored the go-ahead touchdown, and picked off JT quarterback Greg Ward for the third time to secure an exhilarating 57-53 victory in a Class 4A Division I state semifinal.

Denton Guyer's Jerrod Heard runs with the ball during the Wildcats' 57-53 win over John Tyler in Friday's 4A Division I state semifinal in Midlothian. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Guyer junior quarterback Jerrod Heard, who is committed to Texas, spearheaded a Wildcat rushing attack that gashed John Tyler (13-2) the entire game. Heard ran 33 times for 319 yards and four touchdowns, while tailbacks D.J. Breedlove and Richard Whitaker each eclipsed the 100-yard plateau. The duo ran 25 times for 285 yards and four scores as Guyer ran 60 times for 609 yards and eight touchdowns, the final of which came on Whitaker's 18-yard run with 1:14 remaining for a 57-53 advantage. Heard didn't have to throw much, but was good enough when he did, completing 6 of 10 passes for 68 yards and a late first-half interception by JT's Darion Flowers. Heard kept the game-winning touchdown drive alive with a fourth-and-4 completion of 10 yards to 6-foot-4 Arizona State commit Ellis Jefferson for a first down at John Tyler's 21-yard line.

Two plays later, Whitaker scored the game-winner.

John Tyler got the ball back at its own 23-yard line to start the ensuing drive, but Guyer's Terence Bolton snared a pass over the middle on the first play and returned it to 22 yards to the JT 11-yard line. John Tyler, which had two timeouts remaining, forced a fourth-and-1 at the 2-yard line, but only three seconds remained on the game block. After a delay penalty, Heard took an under-center snap, retreated a couple of steps, and kneeled the ball with no time remaining to end an instant Texas high school football classic.

John Tyler fell behind 43-24 and 50-31 in the fourth, but scored 22 unanswered points on the heels of consecutive successful onside kicks to shock the Guyer crowd and take a 53-50 lead on Tyus Bowser's one-yard plunge with 3:44 remaining.

John Tyler's DeQuante Woods dives for yardage during the Lions' 57-53 loss to Denton Guyer on Friday in Midlothian. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"That's another real example of never quitting and never dying. Never laying down and never knowing that you can, not win a game," said John Tyler coach Ricklan Holmes. "We put ourselves back in a position to win a game. We just came up short and ran out of time."


Ward, who ran for a team-high 107 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, engineered a comeback for the ages despite a career-high three interceptions, all of which came in the second half. Ward had thrown two in JT's first 14 contests. The senior Houston commit completed 44 of 59 passes for 546 yards and five touchdowns, the third being a 65-yard catch-and-run highlight by Justice Liggins that cut Guyer's lead to 43-31 with 6:34 left. Guyer answered in two plays on Breedlove's 39-yard touchdown run with 6:00 left, but Ward and JT fought back, covering 58 yards in five plays as Ward found DeQuante Woods on an eight-yard score for a 50-38 deficit with 4:58 to play.

John Tyler's Justice Liggins (3) and Fred Ross celebrate after Ross' onside kick recovery that led JT's go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler then got one of three great onside kicks from Noe Diaz -- John Tyler recovered the second two -- and Ward immediately found Woods on a 34-yard swing-pass touchdown, trimming the lead to 50-45.

Then .. another successful onside kick, this one collected by Oklahoma State-bound receiver Fred Ross, who caught nine passes for 139 yards and a second-quarter touchdown. Ward scrambled for 36 yards before a facemask penalty gave JT a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, where Bowser bulled his way in for a touchdown and the 53-50 advantage following his two-point conversion with 3:44 to play.

"He's a leader," Holmes said of Ward. "He's a real quarterback and he's gonna be a real quarterback at the next level. He's gonna continue to do what he's been doing from this time on up. He just has to stay the course and continue to do what he's been doing and keep working hard and good things will happen for him.

"Greg forced a throw down the middle of the field (on JT's final possession) and it's probably a throw he probably wants to take back, but it happened."

John Tyler's Justice Liggins run through the tackle of Denton Guyer defender Terence Belton during the Lions' 57-53 loss in Friday's state semifinal in Midlothian. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Ward's ability to find his receivers while on the run led to John Tyler pass-catchers having video-game performances. In addition to Ross' big night, Flowers led the Lions with 10 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown, while Liggins caught eight passes for 127 yards. Woods caught seven passes for 74 yards and the two fourth-quarter scores during the Lions' huge rally.

John Tyler had two red-zone possessions yield only three points in the game's first 14 minutes, which came back to haunt the Lions. Guyer blocked a 28-yard field into the wind on the game's first possession, then held the Lions to a 26-yard field goal with the wind less than two minutes into the second quarter that cut Guyer's lead to 6-3.

"It's one of those deals where you got down there and you kinda bogged down," Holmes said. "That happens in the course of the game. It happened all year, and sometimes we overcame it, but today we didn't."

Guyer (13-2) plays Georgetown (14-0) or Leander Rouse (10-4) at noon Saturday (Dec. 22) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington in the 4A Division I state championship. Georgetown and Rouse play Saturday (Dec. 15).

"It's a disappointment,"said Holmes, respectfully deflecting the notion that a state semifinal run was still a great season. "My expectations for this team and this team's expectations were to be playing next Saturday, and we're not playing next Saturday."

But Holmes, a John Tyler graduate in his first season as head coach, praised his team's never-say-die performance in the fourth quarter.

"Continue to do what you need to do to try to win a game," he said. "The kids never quit and never laid down, and that's something that they've been doing all year long, and they continued to do it today."


John Tyler's Justice Liggins is consoled by friends after the Lions' 57-53 heart-breaking loss to Denton Guyer in Friday's Class 4A Division I state semifinal Friday in Midlothian. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)


Class 4A Division I
State Semifinal

Denton Guyer 57, John Tyler 53

MISD Multi-Purpose Stadium, Midlothian

John Tyler -- 0 17 0 36 -- 53
Denton Guyer -- 6 14 10 27 -- 57

First quarter
DG -- Jerrod Heard 4 run (kick failed) -- 5:58
Second quarter
JT -- Porfirio Benitez 26 field goal -- 10:20
DG -- Heard 35 run (Brad Grems kick) -- 9:15
JT -- Darion Flowers 23 pass from Greg Ward (Benitez kick) -- 8:15
DG -- Heard 8 run (Grems kick) -- 4:17
JT -- Fred Ross 4 pass from Ward (Benitez kick) -- 1:52
Third quarter
DG -- Heard 71 run (Grems kick) -- 11:10
DG -- Grems 21 field goal -- 2:06
Fourth quarter
JT -- Ward 12 run (Benitez kick) -- 10:42
DG -- D.J. Breedlove 24 run (run failed) -- 9:20
DG -- Richard Whitaker 21 run (Grems kick) -- 6:51
JT -- Justice Liggins 65 pass from Ward (Benitez kick) -- 6:34
DG -- Breedlove 39 run (Grems kick) -- 6:00
JT -- DeQuante Woods 8 pass from Ward (Benitez kick) -- 4:58
JT -- Woods 34 pass from Ward (Benitez kick) -- 4:54
JT -- Tyus Bowser 1 run (Bowser run) -- 3:44
DG -- Whitaker 18 run (Grems kick) -- 1:14

                                           JT                           DG
First downs                         30                            30
Total yards                         671                          677
Rushes-Yards                 20-125                     60-609
Pass yards                         546                           68
Comp.-Att.-Int.               44-59-3                      6-10-1
Penalties-Yards                 5-40                        7-46
Fumbles-Lost                      1-0                          2-2
Punts-Avg.                        2-46.0                      2-57.0

Rushing -- John Tyler: Greg Ward 11-107, Fred Ross 2-19, Tyus Bowser 1-1, Reggie Gipson 1-0, DeQuante Woods 3-(-2). Denton Guyer: Jerrod Heard 33-319, D.J. Breedlove 13-168, Richard Whitaker 12-117, Nick Maki 2-11, TEAM 1-(-6).
Passing -- John Tyler: Greg Ward 44-59-3 546. Denton Guyer: Jerrod Heard 6-10-1 68.
Receiving -- John Tyler: Darion Flowers 10-167, Fred Ross 9-139, Justice Liggins 8-127, DeQuante Woods 7-74, Reggie Gipson 7-16, Jeremy Wilson 2-11, Tyus Bowser 1-12. Denton Guyer: Ellis Jefferson 4-54, Richard Whitaker 1-8, Preston Thrailkill 1-6.