ROCKWALL -- Hey band, break out the Santa hats.

John Tyler didn't beat Mansfield Summit into submission in Friday's Class 5A Division I area round win, but it kept the Jaguars at an arm's length and will be playing football beyond Thanksgiving after a 44-27 victory at Rockwall's Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium.

"The Sweet 16, it tastes great," Lions head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "Today I told them, 'Hey, everybody can start out one of the 64 teams in the bracket. But those that make it to the 32, it's cut in half. Those teams are pretty good. And now we've shown we can be just as good as the other 15 teams that will play next week.'"

Lions safety Jordan Owens catches linebacker Tony Johnson's tip on a Summit pass for his first of two interceptions in Friday's playoff win. Owens has four picks in two postseason games. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

JT (11-2) created a few explosive offensive plays in the win. Fans will remember the game for the defensive play, however.

Summit (7-5) came into the meeting hoping to establish the conventional run. It had generated about 1,000 yards more offense with its running backs than the passing game.

The Lions defensive front performed very well against standard run plays. It allowed 116 yards to Summit's running backs on 26 carries.

Most of the Jaguars' offense came by chance on quarterback scrambles, sweeps and reverses -- another 130 yards as Summit tried to figure out ways to disguise its primary strength.

JT's opposition generated 121 passing yards, but 35 yards came on Summit's final drive of the game with the Lions playing a prevent defense.

The Lions forced two turnovers, two turnovers on downs and two interceptions. Last week's ETSN.fm/Dairy Queen Defensive Player of the Week, safety Jordan Owens, accounted for both positive turnovers on interceptions.

Owens has four picks in two playoff games this season.

"I just read the field," the safety said. "I see the quarterback's eyes. The ball is thrown and I try to make plays."

Lions quarterback Geovari McCollister ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more in his squad's 44-27 win against Summit on Friday at Rockwall's Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The JT offense did what it normally does. Quarterback Geovari McCollister, a Central Arkansas commitment, scored three touchdowns on the ground and two through the air. Running back Jeremy Wilson recorded a game-best 144 rushing yards, scored on a short run and on the receiving end of a 10-yard screen pass.

McCollister threw an interception in the face of pressure at his own seven-yard line on third-and-39, but Summit defensive back Kendrick Welsh's catch at the 50 made the throw about as adequate as a punt.

McCollister's heave with under 20 seconds in the half got taken by Welsh at the Summit 40-yard line. The Jaguars kneeled the next play to end the half.

JT's special teams managed to make the best of two bad situations.

When Summit clawed back into the game late in the second quarter for a 21-13 deficit with a two-yard touchdown run from Fred Adams, Bryston Gipson blocked the PAT and Owens returned it 92 yards for a two-point score with 29 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Jaguars cut further into the Lions lead with Lane Schwab's 20-yard quarterback keeper for a 23-20 game with 9:50 to play in the third quarter. JT went back up 30-23 just 23 seconds later after Deandre Williams returned Summit's kick 77 yards for a drive beginning at the opposing 22-yard line.

Summit closed the gap to three again and with Adams' five-yard run, his second and final score of the night with 6:54 remaining in the third quarter.

JT scored the game's final 14 points. Its defense held for two punts, a turnover on downs with 5:19 to play and rode the clock through the final 17 minutes of the game.

Summit was not able to complete a fourth drive after its final score. Time expired with it standing inside the Lions' 35.

Holmes' squad, meanwhile, scored on McCollister's 24-yard pass to Duntayviun Gross and the quarterback's two-yard run.

"They're progressively getting better," the head coach said of his defensive front. "That was one thing me and Coach (Barry) Anderson harped on at the beginning of the year and at the end of last year was we've got to be better in run defense. That is going to either hinder us or help us. Right now, it's helping us.

"Slow start on offense. But it was because of us. But it wasn't anything they were doing to us. I think we were stopping ourselves."

Deandre Williams escapes the reach of Summit linebacker Adrian Pulido en route to a 77-yard kickoff return which set John Tyler up for a 22-yard scoring drive. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

The Lions will play Rockwall Heath in the Region II semifinals round next week. The specific date, time and location have not been set between the two schools.

Holmes said both teams are interested in playing Friday at Baylor's McLane Stadium in Waco. The brand new stadium will be a popular destination, especially with Arlington's AT&T Stadium unavailable due to preparations for a college game between Baylor and Texas Tech on Saturday.

JT has reached a point where the remaining teams are seeking a larger-than-life experience. Meetings at average sized high school stadiums are over, the bands wear Santa hats as the season approaches Christmas and TV starts to investigate airing late-round games to fill college football's void.

The Lions are in the chase as high school ball reaches its most visible phase.

"This is a big step for us," McCollister said. "After this summer and after the way we came together at team workouts, we knew we were special and could do big things. We just had to go out there and make it happen." 

John Tyler safety Jordan Owens picks off his second pass in Friday's area round win. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler 44, Mansfield Summit 27

Class 5A Division I
Region II Area Playoff
At Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium, Rockwall

John Tyler                  14       9     14      7    --    44
Mansfield Summit        0     13     14     0    --     27

First Quarter
JT--Geovari McCollister 2 run (Luis Duran kick); 6:33
JT--Jeremy Wilson 1 run (Duran kick); 1:53
Second Quarter
MS--Fred Adams 2 run (Josue Munoz kick); 7:35
JT--Wilson 10 pass from McCollister (Duran kick); 5:28
MS--Joran Lawson 12 pass from Burrell Taylor (kick blocked); :29
JT--Jordan Owens 92 blocked PAT kick return; :29
Third quarter
MS--Lane Schwab 20 run (Munoz kick); 9:50
JT--McCollister 22 run (Duran kick); 9:27
MS--Fred Adams 5 run (Munoz kick); 6:54
JT--Duntayviun Gross 24 pass from McCollister (Duran kick); 1:37
Fourth Quarter
JT--McCollister 2 run (Duran kick); 9:39

                                            MS                JT
First Downs                           17                19
Total Yards                          362                426
Rushes-Yards                   47-241            42-246
Passing Yards                     121               180
Comp.-Att.-Int.                  7-16-2            11-20-2
Punts-Avg.                        3-35.0             2-27.5
Fumbles-Lost                      0-0                3-2
Penalties-Yards                  5-30              5-38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--John Tyler, Jeremy Wilson 18-144, Geovari McCollister 16-73, Nick Cain 2-36, Quaylan Brown 2-15, Dejuan Beal 3-6, TEAM 1-(-28). Summit, Fred Adams 24-107, Lane Schwab 16-82, Dajuan Webb 1-38, Burrell Taylor 2-10, Derek Johnson 2-9, Keydrenne Land 1-0, TEAM 1-(-5)
PASSING--John Tyler, McCollister 11-20-2--180. Summit, Schwab 5-14-2--91, Taylor 2-2-0--100.
RECEIVING--John Tyler, Duntayviun Gross 3-63, Damian Miller 2-53, Nick Cain 3-34, Jeremy Wilson 2-18, Jaylon Watson 1-12. Summit, Taylor 4-77, Jordan Lawson 2-30, Jacob Vrba 1-14.