John Tyler Survives Strong Test From Lindale To Hold Share Of District 16-5A Lead
LINDALE -- Anyone that knows John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes also is aware of his attention to every little detail.
The Lions came out during warm ups and clapped to a beat, as they always do. It's meant to draw attention from the other side of the field. For the opponent to take a good look at the 2014 Class 5A Division I state semifinalists coming their way in 30 minutes.
Lindale refused to look. And the team almost didn't blink in Friday's District 16-5A meeting at Eagle Stadium.
John Tyler finally solved the determined opponent midway through the fourth quarter for a 30-20 victory.
"Lindale is a loaded senior team," Holmes said. "The success they had in the summer, the success they had in the non-district season, basically shutting down an undefeated Corsicana team -- That shows they've got things rolling and are going in the right direction. For us to come out on top against them, that shows that we're going in the right direction."
The Eagles (3-2, 1-1) jumped ahead less than three minutes into the game and did not relinquish their lead until the 7:01 mark of the fourth quarter.
Their as advertised defense dominated the first half while the offense played its part by converting three of six drives for touchdowns with a misdirection running game that confused John Tyler's own defensive strength.
At the end of the three stalled drives, the Lions (2-3, 2-0) were pinned more than 70 yards away from the end zone.
It turned around in the second half.
John Tyler held Lindale scoreless through the final 24 minutes in large part due to three takeaways and a missed 38-yard field goal while quarterback Byrson Smith guided the Lions' offense to 20 unanswered points both through the air and as the team's leading rusher.
Pierre Leonard -- a defensive tackle and the most recent ETSN.fm + Dairy Queen Defensive Player of the Week -- converted a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line as a fullback in the I-formation with a dive to put the Lions in control.
Lindale got a first down and drove to its own 32-yard line on its next possession, but the Eagles' quarterback opted to throw the ball one step away from taking a loss out of bounds on 3rd-and-15. John Tyler defensive back Bryston Gipson made an uncontested interception at midfield and brought it back to Lindale's 34-yard line.
Smith ran in from seven yards just five plays later to make it a two-possession game with 3:26 left on the clock.
The Eagles fumbled their final possession away, facing 4th-and-15 at their own 21-yard line.
"The win helps us get back on track," John Tyler senior receiver Duntayviun Gross, who caught for 100 yards, said. "We started out 0-3. We've now won two in a row and are out to keep our momentum going. We're rolling in to play Lufkin next week, so we really need some momentum."
Gross and company may have started the campaign 0-3 through non-district competition, but they picked the right two games to win. The team entered a three-way tie for first place in 16-5A with Lufkin and Ennis.
Both opponents are still ahead on the Lions' schedule.
Lindale's loss pushed it into a fourth-place tie with Corsicana in the standings. The top four district teams at the end of the season will qualify for the state playoffs.
Jacksonville, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse all lost Friday and now have 0-2 league records. The Eagles still have those opponents on their schedule in addition to Lufkin and Ennis.
It could be much worse for Lindale. The Lions handed the Eagles a 76-13 loss last season and relegated Lindale to the district's cellar.
The Eagles finished 2014 in a tie for fifth place alongside Whitehouse and missed the postseason. Already eliminated ahead of the final week, they pulled an overtime win out against Whitehouse for the standings tie.
"Offensively, they're more explosive," Holmes said. "I think they've got some guys in positions this year that they haven't had in previous years. Then, on the defensive side of the ball, they're solid. They don't make a lot of mistakes, they play fundamental football and their kids play hard."
Lindale seemed to have the winning combination early, and running back Ryan Taylor ran for a hard 154 yards in the game on 29 carries up against the John Tyler defensive front.
He was aided by sweeps from receivers Tayton Williams and Kendrick Price Jr. Their runs forced the Lions to not overly commit to defending Taylor.
A 16-yard gain by Taylor on his opening carry and then a 25-yard pass from Montana Meador to Cameron Sir Lous set up a 6-yard, end-around score for Williams early in the first quarter. The touchdown came right on the heels of forcing a John Tyler turnover on downs.
Lindale held the Lions off the board through three more possessions, one thanks to Tyler Segrest's fumble recovery at the Eagles' 18-yard line, before giving up Devan Salazar's 40-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Williams retaliated the next drive with a 4-yard touchdown set up by a 37-yard sweep from Price and three consecutive Taylor runs for 11 yards inside the red zone.
Smith broke John Tyler's offensive slump three plays later. He scored from 73 yards in spite of the overall struggles to make it a 14-10 Lindale advantage with 3:33 left in the half.
Taylor finally got a touchdown of his own 36 seconds before the break. The point after attempt missed wide right for a 20-10 lead.
But John Tyler stopped Lindale's 4th-and-4 attempt from the Lions' 35-yard line to open the second act. Smith then converted a 3rd-and-1 play for 29 yards, connected with a diving Gross to set the Lions up at the 1-yard line and took it in himself to start the second half comeback.
Lindale's missed field goal, which would have made it a 23-17 game early in the fourth quarter, started the go-ahead touchdown drive.
The Eagles will try to get back on track next week by hosting a one-win Jacksonville team.
John Tyler has the 16-5A game of the week once again. It simultaneously visits Lufkin and can finish the night in ownership of first place in the standings if Ennis is tripped up by Whitehouse elsewhere.
The Lions will have to be at the top of their game offensively to beat a Lufkin team that has allowed a district-best three points through two league games.
"I'm more of a perfectionist than an optimist," Holmes said. "We have to continue to practice. We've got to get better as coaches and we've got to get better as players. We've got a young team with a lot of talent. Talent doesn't win games. Football players win games. They're progressively becoming those guys."
John Tyler 30, Lindale 20
At Eagle Stadium, Lindale
John Tyler 0 10 7 13 -- 30
Lindale 7 13 0 14 -- 20
LIN--Tayton Williams 6 run (Jordan Lawless kick), 9:15
JT--Devan Salazar 40 field goal, 7:21
LIN--Williams 4 run (Lawless kick), 4:29
JT--Bryson Smith 73 run (Salazar kick), 3:33
LIN--Ryan Taylor 1 run (kick failed), :30
JT--Smith 1 run (Salazar kick), 5:13
JT--Pierre Leonard 1 run (Salazar kick), 7:01
JT--Smith 7 run (kick failed), 3:26
First Downs 15 18
Total Yards 333 360
Rushes-Yards 36-169 44-258
Passing Yards 164 102
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-21-0 8-18-2
Punts-Avg. 2-46.5 2-50.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 8-59 7-80
RUSHING--John Tyler, Bryson Smith 20-159, James Allen 5-20, Pierre Leonard 1-1, Ka'Darius Henderson 3-1, Bryston Gipson 1-(-5), TEAM 2-(-5), Tre Allison 4-(-2). Lindale, Ryan Taylor 29-154, Kendrick Price Jr. 2-41, Montana Meador 4-32, Tayton Williams 8-31.
PASSING--John Tyler, Smith 13-21-0--164. Lindale, Meador 8-18-2--102.
RECEIVING--John Tyler, Duntayviun Gross 9-100, Henderson 1-46, Allen 1-12, Damion Miller 1-5, Allison 1-5. Lindale Kam Neely 2-36, Cameron Sir Louis 2-23, Bryce Deupree 1-14, Devion Dingle 1-14, Ryan Spellman 1-9, Williams 1-6.