Rockwall Comes Back To Steal One From John Tyler, 59-58
TYLER -- Take your pick in John Tyler's 59-58 loss Friday to Rockwall at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
The Lions fumbled one possession away. They failed to recover an onside kick in a pretty obvious situation. They gave up a two-point conversion after Rockwall's final touchdown. Up 30-17 at the time, they false started on their own two-point conversion after missing a PAT earlier in the game.
If any of those things went the other way, John Tyler could have at least forced overtime. If two of those mistakes went the Lions' way, they would have made a statement to the rest of District 11-6A against a team that went four rounds deep in the Class 6A Division II playoffs a year ago.
The East Texas side blew a 44-27 lead with less than 19 minutes to play instead, squandered a six-touchdown performance by quarterback Bryson Smith and fell one game off the lead in the league opener.
"We've got to do better around him to get things going in the right direction," John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "It's going to take a team effort. I know there's going to be times where the defense plays really good and the offense is not. I know there's going be times where the offense is not going to play very good and the defense is not. I know there are going to be times when special teams isn't going to play very good.
"But, as an overall team, we cannot put a lot of pressure on each phase. We've got to make sure each phase is at least taking care of their business. I don't think tonight all three of our phases did that."
Rockwall (1-3, 1-0) earned its first win of the year by converting a two-point conversion after scoring to make the game 58-57 in favor of the Lions. Quarterback Matt Jones rolled out right on the try, found no one and took it in himself with 3:13 to play.
John Tyler (3-1, 0-1) converted 4th-and-6 from its own 30-yard line in response and then 4th-and-7 from its own 44 with 21 seconds left down to Rockwall's 30. A holding call, the team's 12th flag toward 125 penalty yards, negated its second conversion.
The game ended on 4th-and-17 when Smith tried to dump off a pass underneath the coverage and the intended receiver didn't look for the ball coming in behind him.
Things looked pretty good for the Lions through their first drive of the second half. It owned a 30-20 halftime advantage and extended it to 37-20 3:37 into the third quarter.
That's when star Rockwall receiver Sam Crawford started to come alive.
Crawford was held to 29 yards on four catches in the first half -- although he dropped an easy touchdown in that span -- and added 171 yards from there. Four of his five second half touches went for touchdowns, and three were from 45 yards or farther.
Rockwall made it a 10-point contest once again, 37-27, on a 59-yard bomb from quarterback Matt Jones to Crawford.
John Tyler dodged a bullet the ensuing kickoff when a successful onside attempt was flagged back on an offsides penalty.
Rockwall pinned the Lions at their own 4-yard line in its do-over, but Smith and running back Justin Samples overcame the odds for a 96-yard drive capped by Samples' run from four yards to reset a three-possession lead.
Crawford took a dink pass 45 yards a few minutes later and then Rockwall got the onside kick it was seeking and started at the Lions' 49-yard line.
Feature back Lo'Yer Bailey ran in from nine yards four plays later for a 44-41 deficit.
John Tyler fumbled its next play from scrimmage. That set up a 33-yard field goal from Chris Talley -- who made two earlier kicks from beyond 33 yards -- for a 44-44 score with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"The difference on special teams was the kicker," Holmes said. "He was just better than ours. He's got a leg on him and is a good kid. When it was time for him to get it done, he got it done. That's something we're going to have to continue to work on as a team. Our special teams is going to have to pick it up. Offense and defense have to pick it up."
Smith ran 23 yards off tackle to open fourth quarter scoring, which gave the Lions another shot to close the game with a 51-44 lead.
Crawford caught a 50-yard touchdown a few minutes later to tie the score again.
Smith found Michael Givens-Washington behind Rockwall's coverage for a 71-yard, go-ahead score with 6:28 to play. It was Givens-Washington's second score of the game.
Crawford came back out and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jones to set up Jones' two-pointer.
"We knew he was a playmaker," Holmes said. "You're not going to be able to stop him, but you've got to be able to contain him. I said (in an interview earlier in the week) that was the guy we were going to have to make sure didn't beat us. And he did today. He beat us."
Smith, a Houston verbal commitment, passed for 383 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another 224 yards and three scores.
John Tyler put up 105 yards around him toward 712 total yards. Samples got 93 of those yards.
Rockwall was not an ordinary 0-3 team with opening losses to Dallas Highland Park, Rowlett and Southlake Carroll. At the same time, it was a team down 17 points.
Nevertheless, Rockwall joined Longview, North Mesquite and Rockwall-Heath in the district win column.
Rockwall will move on to play Rockwall-Heath.
The road won't get much easier for John Tyler. It travels to North Mesquite next week and will play the other teams that won Friday through the next four weeks.
"I don't look ahead on people," Holmes said. "I try to take care of the task at hand. The task at hand was to make sure we took care of Rockwall. We didn't do that. We fell one point short. At the end of the day, we're 0-1 and they're 1-0."
Rockwall 59, John Tyler 58
CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Fances Rose Stadium
Rockwall 10 10 17 22 -- 59
John Tyler 3 27 14 14 -- 58
ROCK--Cole Talley 41 field goal, 8:07
JT--Devan Salazar 40 field goal, 5:26
ROCK--Matt Jones 4 run (Talley kick), 5:26
JT--Bryson Smith 11 run (Salazar kick), 11:09
JT--Justin Samples 2 run (Salazar kick), 7:35
ROCK--A.J. Blacknall 1 run (Talley kick), 5:01
JT--Michael Givens-Washington 40 pass from Smith (kick failed), 4:44
JT--Tre Allison 1 pass from Smith (Salazar kick), :22
ROCK--Talley 49 field goal, :00
JT--Smith run 14 (Salazar kick), 8:23
ROCK--Sam Crawford 59 pass from Jones (Talley kick), 8:23
JT--Samples 4 run (Salazar kick), 4:39
ROCK--Crawford 45 pass from Jones, 3:19
ROCK--Lo'Yer Bailey 9 run (Talley kick), 2:06
ROCK--Talley 33 field goal, :10
JT--Smith 23 run (Salazar kick), 9:32
ROCK--Crawford 50 pass from Jones (Talley kick), 6:57
JT--Givens-Washington 71 pass from Smith (Salazar kick), 6:28
ROCK--Crawford 19 pass from Jones (Jones run), 3:13
First Downs 21 27
Total Yards 494 712
Rushes-Yards 39-199 53-339
Passing Yards 295 383
Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-22-0 22-27-0
Punts-Avg. 2-32.5 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 4-27 12-125
RUSHING--Rockwall, A.J. Blacknall 27-141, Matt Jones 11-49, Lo'Yer Bailey 1-9. John Tyler, Bryson Smith 22-224, Justin Samples 26-93, Cameron Grant 1-5, Devlen Woods 1-5, Tre Allison 2-2.
PASSING--Rockwall, Jones 14-22-0--295. John Tyler, Smith 20-27-0--383.
RECEIVING--Rockwall, Sam Crawford 9-200, Reid Rakow 2-50, Cole Talley 1-14, Blacknall 1-11, Hunter Jistel 1-10. John Tyler, Michael Givens-Washington 6-178, Devlen Woods 6-93, Ke'Andre Street 3-62, Damion Miller 4-47, Tre Allison 1-3.