TYLER -- This one had everything. Big plays by big-time players on offense and defense, come-from-behind heroics and in the end, a district championship.

John Tyler quarterback Greg Ward and defensive end Tyus Bowser helped fuel a 24-point comeback in the second-ranked Lions' 45-38 win over previously-unbeaten Whitehouse on Friday night at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, making JT the District 16-4A champions.

Ward completed 20 of 24 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 162 yards and another score, while Bowser posted five sacks, the last of which resulted in a Whitehouse fumble that set up John Tyler's game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.

All of this after John Tyler (9-1, 5-0) spotted the Wildcats (9-1, 4-1) a 24-0 first-half lead.

"We know how to fight," said Lions coach Ricklan Holmes. "We know how to stay with what we do, and just make things happen when they need to happen. They know what it means not to quit, they know what it means to keep fighting."

Whitehouse quarterback Patrick Mahomes walks into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of the Wildcats' game against John Tyler on Friday night. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The JT victory spoiled a brilliant performance by Whitehouse junior quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who passed for 441 yards and four touchdowns to go with his one rushing score.

"We've got to play next week," Whitehouse coach Randy McFarlin said. "We've got to regroup and come back. Adversity doesn't make us bitter, it makes us better. We're a better football team now than we were three hours ago."

With the game deadlocked at 38-38, the biggest play of the night came from Bowser, who sacked and stripped Mahomes before Lions defensive tackle Chris Mobley corralled the loose ball at the Wildcats' 19-yard line.

"Once again, relentless effort," Holmes said of Bowser's performance. "Our secondary didn't play very well today, but the pressure that we were getting at the times that we were needing to get it done ... he made some plays happen."

Two plays later, DeQuante Woods took the handoff and darted 9 yards for the game-winner with 4:47 remaining.

Whitehouse had two more chances to find the equalizer. The Wildcats had a first-and-goal at the 10 on the ensuing possession, but Mahomes was dropped for a 10-yard loss by blitzing linebacker Richard Gipson on first down. JT forced three consecutive incompletions and took over on downs with 1:16 to go.

The Wildcats' defense then forced JT to punt and the offense got the ball back at midfield with 44 seconds to go. Whitehouse got a first down to the JT 37, but Mahomes' first-down pass to the end zone was intercepted by Terry Ausborne to seal the Lions' win.

Whitehouse seized some momentum late in the third and early in the fourth quarter. WIth the score knotted at 31-31, the Wildcats stopped Bowser on three consecutive runs inside the 2-yard line, giving the ball back to their offense at the 1.

The Wildcats proceeded to go on a 16-play, 99-yard drive that ended with Mahomes' 25-yard touchdown pass to Jake Parker on third-and-18 that put Whitehouse up 38-31 with 7:24 to go in the fourth.

It took John Tyler one play to even things up. And what a play it was.

Ward tossed a short pass to Fred Ross on the left side, and the senior receiver did the rest, juking, reversing field and speeding past a confounded Whitehouse defense 71 yards for the touchdown.

Ross finished the game with seven catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns, covering 26, 54 and 71 yards. Darion Flowers also had seven receptions for 110 yards and a TD.

Whitehouse was able to pick up a couple first downs on its next drive before Bowser's game-changing forced fumble.

"The kids played with every ounce of ability they had," McFarlin said. "We missed some tackles, but there were some good kids we missed tackles on. They're No. 2 in the state and we played them toe-to-toe. If we're that good, we'll play for a while."

Destin Wilkins' 19-yard field goal gave Whitehouse a 3-0 lead, and the Wildcats followed by scoring touchdowns on three of their next four possessions to go up 24-0.

Mahomes' first TD of the night, a 17-yard pass to Brannon Beaton on fourth down, put the Wildcats up 10-0. Mahomes ran it in from 10 yards out on Whitehouse's next drive, and two possessions later, he hit Jaylon Dews in stride for a 34-yard touchdown and 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

The scoring barrage was helped along by a series of costly penalties and a pair of lost fumbles by John Tyler.

JT got on the board with a 27-yard field goal by Porfirio Benitez and a 26-yard pass from Ward to Ross with just 17 seconds remaining in the half.

The Lions cut the deficit to 24-17 on their first series of the third quarter, scoring on a 25-yard pass from Ward to Flowers.

Mahomes connected with Dylan Cantrell on a 35-yard scoring play on the Wildcats' first drive of the half, putting Whitehouse ahead 31-17.

Four plays later, John Tyler found the end zone on Ward's 54-yard pass to Ross and tied the game at 31-31 on a 54-yard run by Ward with 4:40 remaining in the third.

"I just wanted to make a play to help my team so that we could win," Ward said.

John Tyler begins the postseason next Friday night against Waxahachie. Kickoff for the Class 4A Division I Region II bi-district playoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Garland's Homer B. Johnson Stadium.

"I think this game right here, more so than any other game we've played, mentally gets us ready for the playoffs," Holmes said.

Whitehouse faces Ennis in a Class 4A Division II Region II bi-district contest slated for 7:30 p.m. next Friday at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.


No. 2 John Tyler 45, Whitehouse 38
At TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
Whitehouse           17    7    7    7    --    38
John Tyler               0  10   21  14    --   45
First Quarter
WHI--FG Destin Wilkins 19, 5:35.
WHI--Brannon Beaton 17 pass from Patrick Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 3:04.
WHI--Mahomes 10 run (Wilkins kick), :11.
Second Quarter
WHI--Jaylon Dews 34 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 6:40.
JT--FG Porfirio Benitez 27, 4:15.
JT--Fred Ross 26 pass from Greg Ward (Benitez kick), :17.
Third Quarter
JT--Darion Flowers 25 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 9:00.
WHI--Dylan Cantrell 35 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 7:51.
JT--Ross 54 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 6:30.
JT--Ward 54 run (Benitez kick), 4:40.
Fourth Quarter
WHI--Jake Parker 25 pass from Mahomes (Wilkins kick), 7:24.
JT--Ross 71 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 7:02.
JT--DeQuante Woods 9 run (Benitez kick), 4:47.

                                       WHI                   JT
First Downs                          32                  16
Rushes-Yards                  44-95            31-208
Passing Yards                     441                323
Comp.-Att.-Int.              28-57-1          20-24-0
Punts-Avg.                      4-29.8            4-32.5
Fumbles-Lost                       2-2                 2-2
Penalties-Yards                   6-60               9-83

RUSHING--Whitehouse, Colby Campbell 6-29, Isaiah Burton 5-28, Dominique Hollie 6-20, Coleman Patterson 1-12, Patrick Mahomes 24-3, Jake Parker 2-3. John Tyler, Greg Ward 16-162, DeQuante Woods 5-23, Fred Ross 6-22, Tyus Bowser 3-1, Justice Liggins 1-0.
PASSING--Whitehouse, Mahomes 28-57-1--441. John Tyler, Ward 20-24-0--323.
RECEIVING--Whitehouse, Parker 7-94, Jaylon Dews 6-109, Patterson 5-93, Dylan Cantrell 3-91, Ryan Cheatham 3-15, Brannon Beaton 1-17, Campbell 1-10. John Tyler, Ross 7-188, Darion Flowers 7-110, Liggins 4-27, Woods 2-(-2).

Whitehouse's Ryan Cheatham protects the ball from John Tyler's Terry Ausborne (13) and DeQuante Woods during their game Friday in Tyler. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)