Second-Ranked John Tyler Spurred By QB Greg Ward + Dynamic Collection of Skill Players
TYLER -- Ever since Greg Ward took the field as the starting quarterback for the John Tyler Lions, yards and touchdowns have followed. And many of them.
The senior standout, who committed to Houston over the summer, amassed more than 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns last season in leading the Lions to the Class 4A Division II semifinals.
The 2012 version of Ward has been just as impressive. He's passed for 2,150 yards and 25 touchdowns without throwing an interception.
“He doesn’t force the ball where they’re supposed to be; he puts them where they need to be," John Tyler coach Ricklan Holmes said. "And that comes from him understanding the offense and our receivers running the routes they need to be running, not freelancing and trying to make things happen that they don’t need to try to make happen.
"He knows that if that breaks down, he doesn’t need to try to make a throw that he can’t make. He uses his feet to get us another fresh set of downs and start over.”
Helping out Ward is a fast, physical and athletic corps of receivers led by Oklahoma State commit Fred Ross. The 6-1, 185-pound star leads the team with 41 catches for 736 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But he's not alone.
Seniors Darion Flowers and Justice Liggins have combined for 59 receptions, 911 yards and nine touchdowns.
“I’m very comfortable with them and that all starts with knowing each of them outside of football and outside of school, too," Ward said of his receivers. "Coming together as a family, that’s what makes us (special).”
The receivers may score the touchdowns, but each of them is quick to give credit to the leader.
“Greg’s an exceptional athlete," Ross said. "He makes a lot of plays with his arm and his legs. We’re proud to call him our quarterback.”
Added Liggins: "With Greg, it’s hard to find quarterbacks like that around. He can run, he can throw and we also have the communication. He knows where to put the ball and how a route should be run.”
The Lions' high-flying offensive attack isn't limited to big plays through the air. JT, led by senior DeQuante Woods and junior Reggie Gipson, has averaged 204.5 rushing yards per game in District 16-4A play.
Woods and Gipson can also catch passes out of the backfield, or line up wide and make big plays in the open field at receiver.
“We’ve been having trouble in the backfield, but the team’s been picking it up," Woods said. "I just came down there to help and have actually been doing good.”
Gipson's a potential game-changer as well.
“I’ll say I’m an elusive back, an all-purpose back," he said. "I can play receiver, I can play running back, I can do both.”
Ward and the JT offense have a big test Friday in their regular-season finale against undefeated Whitehouse (9-0, 4-0), which has thrived on capitalizing on opponents' mistakes. The Wildcats have forced 25 turnovers, 19 of which have been interceptions.
“In order to win this battle, we’ve just got to run our routes hard, execute, be on the same page, block for each other and just be smart out there," Flowers said. "That’s all we can do. They’ve got a really good defense, but we’ve just got to play hard.”
Holmes has simplified his team's approach to Friday's colossal matchup.
"We’ve got to go out there and compete against ourselves," he said. "Yeah, we’re going out there and we’re going to play Whitehouse, but we’re not competing against Whitehouse. We’re competing against John Tyler High School.”