Nacogdoches + Ninth-Ranked John Tyler Seek Springboard Into Playoffs
Nacogdoches Dragons (7-2, 4-2)
No. 9 John Tyler Lions (7-2, 5-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
- Nacogdoches: Bobby Reyes
- John Tyler: Ricklan Holmes
- Nacogdoches: vs. TBD, Class 5A Division II bi-district playoff
- John Tyler: vs. Texas High, Class 5A Division I bi-district playoff
Just the facts
- John Tyler leads the all-time series with Nacogdoches, 31-3-1. Nacogdoches' last win over John Tyler came in 1989.
- Nacogdoches and John Tyler have shared the same district from 1971-2001, and 2010-present.
- For the season, Nacogdoches is averaging 42 points and 458.4 yards per game -- 217.1 rushing and 241.3 passing.
- Nacogdoches is 14-6 since going 0-10 in 2012.
- The Dragons have qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1965-66.
- For the season, John Tyler is averaging 42 points and 387 yards per game -- 162.7 rushing and 224.3 passing.
- John Tyler is 27-8 under third-year head coach Ricklan Holmes.
- The Lions have scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns this season.
- S Brandon Jones, Jr., 6-0, 192 (20 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 PBUs in 3 games)
- CB Jaylon Lane, Sr., 6-2, 180 (50 tackles, 2 INTs, fumble recovery, 6 PBUs; committed to Oklahoma State)
- RB Coronado Tolbert, Sr., 5-9, 195 (259 carries, 1,669 yards, 20 TDs)
- QB Hunter McClellan, Sr., 6-2, 175 (128 of 225, 2,161 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs; 56 carries, 179 yards,
- S Corey Lane, Jr., 5-11, 175 (69 tackles, 1 for loss, INT, 2 PBUs)
- WR Ken Rogers, Sr., 5-11, 175 (28 catches, 585 yards, 7 TDs)
- WR Tae Thomas, Sr., 5-7, 165 (32 catches, 489 yards, 5 TDs)
- LB Jesse Graham, Sr. (83 tackles, 3 for loss, forced fumble, recovery, PBU)
- CB Isaac Warren, Sr., 6-1, 190 (36 tackles, INT, fumble recovery, defensive TD; committed to Purdue)
- DT Braylon Jones, Jr., 6-4, 295 (46 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 QB pressures)
- QB Geovari McCollister, Sr., 6-3, 205 (132 of 202, 1,878 yards, 14 TDs, 3 INTs; 85 carries, 256 yards, 2 TDs)
- RB Jeremy Wilson, Sr., 5-9, 170 (122 carries, 954 yards, 17 TDs; 22 catches, 184 yards, TD)
- WR Rodney Bendy, Sr., 6-5, 200 (20 catches, 345 yards, 5 TDs; committed to North Texas)
- WR Nick Cain, Sr., 5-11, 175 (35 catches, 431 yards, 4 TDs; 3 carries, 13 yards, 2 TDs; committed to ULM)
- LB Jaylon Reese, Sr., 6-1, 225 (77 tackles, INT)
- S Bryston Gipson, Jr., 6-0, 180 (43 tackles, INT, 6 fumble recoveries, PBU, blocked kick, 4 defensive TDs)
Key matchup: John Tyler defensive front vs. Nacogdoches rushing attack. The Dragons are bringing an explosive offense into their regular-season finale Friday night, and the play of senior running back Coronado Tolbert has been instrumental in helping Nacogdoches secure a second consecutive playoff berth for the first time in almost 50 years. Tolbert, after putting together a solid 1,125-yard junior season, has been among East Texas' most consistent backs this year. Tolbert enters this week's game at John Tyler with more than 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 185 rushing yards per game. The Dragons runner has yet to be held to less than 100 yards in a game this season, and has eclipsed the 200-yard mark four times throughout the course of the year. Tolbert isn't alone on Nacogdoches' offense. Senior quarterback Hunter McClellan has passed for more than 2,100 yards and his receiving corps features four players with at least 19 receptions and 220 yards for the season. Tolbert has carried the ball 30 times or more five times this year, so expect to see a heavy dose of him on Friday night.
John Tyler's defense is among the most improved in the area, and the Lions' play against the run is a major reason why. For the season, John Tyler is allowing an average of 164.1 rushing yards per game, but the bulk of that occurred in three games as Longview, Tyler Lee and Ennis put up an average of 280.3 yards on the ground. Taking away those three, and the Lions have held opponents to just 106 rushing yards on average. The Lions have held four teams to 100 rushing yards or less in four of their nine games this season, which has helped John Tyler limit opposing offenses to 18.7 points per game. John Tyler has held two standout running backs to well below their normal rushing outputs -- Plano junior Brandon Stephens and Lufkin senior Steven Sowell. Stephens, who has offers from multiple FBS programs, managed 94 yards. However, 75 of those yards came on one play. Aside from that, JT held the talented back to 19 yards on nine rushing attempts. Sowell, who has run for more than 1,200 this year, was held to just 31 yards on 19 attempts in their game last month. Nacogdoches features one of the most balanced offenses in East Texas, but the Dragons could have their hands full against JT's rush defense.
Don't be surprised if: John Tyler tries to establish its running game, and in particular senior running back Jeremy Wilson, early in the game Friday night. Wilson is 46 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season and has been one of the Lions' most reliable offensive weapons all year long. Wilson has four games in which he's rushed more than 100 yards, while he's also had four games with three rushing touchdowns or more. John Tyler does feature an efficient passing game led by senior quarterback Geovari McCollister, who is averaging more than 200 passing yards per game and has a completion of 65.3 percent. The receiving corps is deep as well with seniors Rodney Bendy (North Texas commit) and Nick Cain (ULM commit), who have combined for nine of the team's 18 touchdown receptions. Junior receiver Duntayviun Gross leads John Tyler in yards with 460 yards and sophomore Damion Miller has caught four touchdown passes in his last three games. They'll be competing against a Nacogdoches secondary that features senior cornerback and Oklahoma State commit Jaylon Lane, and junior safety Brandon Jones, who holds more than 30 FBS offers. So expect John Tyler to pick its spots in the passing game and use Wilson and the ground attack to set the tone.