District-Leading John Tyler Could Face Test At Resurgent Corsicana
John Tyler Lions (4-3, 4-0)
Corsicana Tigers (6-1, 3-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Tiger Stadium, Corsicana
- John Tyler: Ricklan Holmes
- Corsicana: Steve Hoffman
- John Tyler: vs. Jacksonville
- Corsicana: at Lufkin
- WR Damion Miller, Jr., 6-2, 205 (22 catches, 460 yards, 4 TDs; committed to Texas)
- OL/DL Braylon Jones, Sr., 6-3, 285 (42 tackles, 1 for loss, 10 QB pressures, 1 forced fumble; committed to Houston)
- QB Bryson Smith, Jr., 6-0, 170 (94 of 147, 1,395 yards, 10 TDs, 4 INTs; 106 carries, 782 yards, 10 TDs)
- DL Pierre Leonard, Sr., 5-8, 245 (45 tackles, 10 for loss, 2 sacks, 18 QB pressures)
- RB James Allen, Sr., 5-5, 160 (52 carries, 232 yards, 1 TD; 10 catches, 132 yards)
- WR Duntayviun Gross, Sr., 5-10, 160 (41 catches, 569 yards, 4 TDs)
- LB Dewayne Jones, Soph., 5-11, 170 (48 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries)
- DB Bryston Gipson, Sr., 5-11, 175 (57 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 INT, 6 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked kicks)
- QB/ATH Kishawn Kelley, Jr., 6-2, 202 (24 of 61, 376 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs; 96 carries, 493 yards, 8 TDs)
- RB JaMicha Polk, Jr., 5-6, 160 (113 carries, 923 yards, 7 TDs)
- RB John Woods, Jr., 5-8, 165 (74 carries, 594 yards, 9 TDs)
- WR Daveon Crawford, Jr. (58 carries, 283 yards, 2 TDs)
- WR/DB Trevor Denbow, Jr., 6-0, 190 (5 catches, 134 yards, 3 TDs)
- LB Desmond Hawkins, Jr., 5-10, 215
- OL Jonathan Estrada, Sr., 6-4, 270
- DL Devarius Colbert, Sr., 6-0, 245
Just the facts
- This is the 25th meeting between John Tyler and Corsicana. John Tyler leads the series, 20-5.
- John Tyler is the only 4-0 team in 16-5A, but holds just a one-game lead on three other teams in the district standings -- Corsicana, Ennis, and Lufkin.
- John Tyler is averaging 35 points and 395.7 yards per game -- 188.9 rushing and 205.8 passing.
- The Lions are allowing 36.3 points per game overall, and 29.8 during their four-game district winning streak.
- John Tyler is 19-2 in district games under coach Ricklan Holmes, and 37-3 since 2009.
- Corsicana is averaging 38.3 points and 397.8 yards per game -- 343.9 rushing and 53.7 passing.
- The Tigers are allowing 22.7 points per game after surrendering an average of 44.6 in 2014.
- Corsicana's six wins this year are its most since the Tigers went 13-2 on the way to the Class 4A Division II state semifinals in 2011.
Key matchup: Corsicana rushing attack vs. John Tyler defensive front. After a brief hiatus from regularly competing for postseason appearances, the Corsicana Tigers are experiencing a return to glory of sorts in 2015. Corsicana, the state's 12th all-time winningest program, has won six of its first seven games on the year after struggling to a 9-21 record the previous three seasons. And there's no denying what's been at the forefront of the Tigers' resurgence: a deep and productive running game.
Led by junior running back JaMicha Polk, who's 77 yards short of 1,000 for the year, Corsicana is putting up almost 350 rushing yards per game as a team. Polk is coming off his best game of the year, as he rushed for 310 yards and three touchdowns, including scores of 67 and 72 yards in the rout of Whitehouse. But Corsicana is far from a one-man show on offense. Quarterback Kishawn Kelley, a 2017 safety recruit who already holds an offer from SMU, and fellow juniors John Woods and Daveon Crawford have combined to run for 1,370 yards and 19 touchdowns in seven games.
If there is a downside to Corsicana's offense as it pertains to this week's game, it might be the Tigers' difficulties to make plays consistently through the air. Kelley has only attempted 61 passes this season, and less than 40 percent of them have been completed. That ultimately could play right into the hands of the John Tyler defense. In last week's impressive defeat of defending district and state champion Ennis, the JT defense smothered an offense that came in hot on the ground, but lacked consistency in the passing game. Ennis did finish the night with 190 rushing yards, but the bulk of that came during a 14-point fourth quarter after the game had been all but decided. The JT defense, which is led by its two senior interior linemen Pierre Leonard and Houston commit Braylon Jones, made eight tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, and forced three turnovers.
Don't be surprised if: John Tyler continues to improve on offense. After struggling to find an offensive rhythm during a stunning 0-3 start to the year, the Lions are beginning to live up to the high expectations they had for themselves on that side of the ball. Through three weeks, JT was averaging 23.3 points and an underwhelming 315.3 yards per game. In the four district wins since, which include victories over Lindale, Lufkin, and Ennis -- three of the current top five teams in the 16-5A standings -- the Lions averaged 44 points and 456 yards.
To John Tyler's credit last week, the Lions established superiority up front by turning to a running attack that was spearheaded by senior James Allen, who finished with 94 yards on 20 carries -- his second consecutive game with at least 20 rushing attempts. But the key to JT's turnaround has been junior quarterback Bryson Smith, who's beginning to become a serious threat as a passer. In district, Smith, one of East Texas' best pure athletes, is completing 75 percent of his passes. And he turned in his most efficient performance of his young career last week in the Lions' biggest game to date by going 16-of-17 for 213 yards and a touchdown.