WACO -- John Tyler had Rockwall-Heath right where it wanted it late in the first half of Friday's 49-21 Class 5A Division I, Region II semifinal playoff win at Baylor's McLane Stadium.

The Lions built a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter, and the defense had mostly snuffed out the Hawks' season-long strength of running the ball. JT's defensive front clogged the middle and its athletic secondary crashed down to contain the ball carriers when they tried to run around the traffic jam.

Growing increasingly impatient for results and no longer confident its own defense could hold the Lions for the long haul, Heath went away from its one-two punch of quarterback Jordan Hoy and running back Tyler McCallister.

The Hawks tried to put Hoy in open space for a run or pass option, burned six minutes off the clock, went 39 yards over 14 plays and added a punt to its offensive misfortunes. They had already muffed a kickoff return, lost a fumble in the end zone for a touchback and been stopped on fourth down. Thirty plays for 130 yards and nothing on the scoreboard.

"We slowed down their running back and they had no other choice but to go to their running quarterback," Lions nose tackle Pierre Leonard said. "Once they went to running their quarterback, we just played to contain him. We just played football."

John Tyler's Thomas Boyd (88) and Ka'Darius Henderson (16) bring down Heath's Chandler Rashbrook on a kickoff return in the third quarter. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)

Heath (10-3) trailed 21-0 at the break and never got closer than 14 points of the lead in the second half.

JT (11-2) will play either Mansfield Lake Ridge or McKinney North in the regional championship round on Dec. 5 at the University of North Texas' Apogee Stadium.

While the Hawks looked for answers, the Lions' offense had clicked out of the gate. Quarterback Geovari McCollister threw for three first half touchdowns, including a 71-yard pass to Nick Cain which gave JT its 21-0 lead with 7:43 before the half.

McCollister capped the Lions' opening drive with a 23-yard pass to Damion Miller and hit Duntayviun Gross from seven yards out after Heath lost the ensuing kickoff on a fumble at its own 12-yard line.

"The receivers were on time today," head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "We did have a couple of drops. That's something that I've been harping on, but, other than that, I think we played almost a complete game on offense and defense. Special teams, we took a step back. We let them return one on us."

Heath got back on track with its opening drive of the second half. McCallister, the Hawks' running back, broke the shutout with a nine-yard run and 9:35 remaining in the third quarter.

The lead ranged from 14 to 21 points for the next 14 minutes of play.

John Tyler's Jeremy Wilson breaks a tackle from Heath's whoever in the Lions 49-21 win Friday at Baylor's McLane Stadium. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)

JT running back Jeremy Wilson scored on a 33-yard run to up the lead back to 21 points and Hoy connected with Dean Cline for a 31-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit back down to 14.

Nick Cain appeared to ice the game on a 31-yard run with 9:39 to play, but Chandler Rashbrook returned the kickoff 99 yards to make it a 35-21 score 15 seconds later.

Wilson got the lead back to 21 points for a final time on a 3-yard carry for score. The JT defense forced back-to-back fourth down stops and Cain put the final touches on the game with a 25-yard score.

Heath's last possession of the year ended on a first-and-10 from midfield on Miller's interception.

The Lions are now three games from a state championship.

"It feels amazing to know I'm waking up at 6 a.m. and practicing with these guys again," McCollister said. "I know that doesn't sound great, but as long as we keep getting to play John Tyler football there are no problems."

John Tyler offensive tackle Ken Holmes celebrates with running back Jeremy Wilson after Wilson's 3-yard run gave the Lions a 42-21 lead in Friday's regional semifinal playoff. (Mike Davis, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler 49, Rockwall-Heath 21

Class 5A Division I
Region II Semifinals
At Baylor's McLane Stadium, Waco

Rockwall-Heath         0      0      14     7    --     21
John Tyler                  14    7       7      21    --   49

First Quarter
JT--Damion Miller 23 pass from Geovari McCollister (Luis Duran kick); 9:44
JT--Duntayviun Gross 7 pass from McCollister (Duran kick), 8:40
Second Quarter

JT--Nick Cain 71 pass from McCollister (Duran kick), 7:43
Third Quarter
RH--Tyler McCallister 9 run (Omar Shalabi kick), 9:35
JT--Jeremy Wilson 33 run (Duran kick), 7:45
RH--Dean Cline 31 pass from Jordan Hoy (Shalabi kick), 4:30
Fourth Quarter
JT--Cain 31 run (Duran kick), 9:38
RH--Chandler Rashbrook 99 kick return (Shalabi kick), 9:24
JT--Wilson 3 run (Duran kick), 7:08
JT--Cain 25 run (Duran kick), 3:06

 

                                         RH                  JT

First Downs                           21                 20
Total Yards                          330                499
Rushes-Yards                   50-279             39-230
Passing Yards                     51                  269
Comp.-Att.-Int.                4-14-1               13-20-0
Punts-Avg.                       2-35.0                2-46.5
Fumbles-Lost                   2-2                    1-0
Penalties-Yards                5-35                 12-115

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Rockwall-Heath, Jordan Hoy 24-154, Tyler McCallister 26-125. John Tyler, Jeremy Wilson 20-99, Nick Cain 9-96, Geovari McCollister 9-37, TEAM 1-(-2).
PASSING--Rockwall-Heath, Hoy 4-14-1--51. John Tyler, McCollister 13-20-0--269
RECEIVING--Rockwall-Heath, Dean Cline 1-31, Chase Peterson 1-11, Chandler Rashbrook 1-6, Caanan Smith 1-3. John Tyler, Damion Miller 4-80, Cain 2-79, Bryson Smith 2-59, Jeremy Wilson 2-23, Rodney Bendy 1-20, Duntayviun Gross 2-8.