Highland Park Stuns John Tyler With Fourth Quarter Comeback, 42-35
FRISCO -- It seemed Cujo's run through the playoffs was destined to continue.
John Tyler entered the fourth quarter the same way it had in its three previous playoff games: with a sizable lead. Neither the Lions nor anyone in attendance at the Ford Center on Saturday could have anticipated what transpired in the final 12 minutes.
Trailing by three touchdowns, Highland Park rallied to provide one of the more mystical moments in this year's Texas high school football playoffs.
Chandler Morris' goal line touchdown with nine seconds remaining capped an awe-inspiring fourth quarter and gave the Scots a 42-35 victory against the Lions in a 5A D-I state quarterfinal.
Benner Page caught a screen pass, going 6 yards for a touchdown with 10:18 remaining to start the run. But it was the Scots' defense that would come through with the play that seemed to create a palpable shift in momentum.
On JT's ensuing possession, Devlen Woods threw an errant pass that Hudson Clark intercepted, his second of the game. The next play, Morris found a wide open Bennett Brown downfield for a 28-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 35-28. In a matter of two minutes, Highland Park put itself back in the game.
JT (10-3) ran some time off the clock with its next possession, but was ultimately forced to punt for the first time all game. Highland Park scored a couple of minutes later when Morris ran 14 yards on the quarterback keeper to tie the game with 3:25 remaining.
The Lions' next drive was stalled after a 40-yard run from Woods was called back because of a holding penalty. JT coach Ricklan Holmes said the penalty, as well as several others, was a major factor in the game's outcome, disrupting the flow of his offense.
“It took the wind away," Holmes said. "It took the momentum that we had. When that happens in a game of this caliber, it’s hard to come back from. It’s two good teams playing each other. When you let penalties play a factor, you’re gonna have the outcome that we had.”
The Lions finished with nine penalties for 85 yards compared to two penalties for 15 yards for Highland Park (14-0). That included two penalties for 20 yards before the Lions punted for the second and final time all evening. The setback allowed Highland Park to begin its game-winning drive at the JT 46-yard line.
“Bad calls (were the main factor)," Holmes said. "I believe that. It wasn’t just in the last 12 minutes. In the first half, we had some holding calls that negated a touchdown. It’s human error. It is what it is. I tell my kids every week that we’re not just playing the other team. We’re playing everybody. Everybody affected us from coming out with the W.”
The Lions separated themselves early in the third quarter after Woods completed a 40-yard pass to K'Lon Warren to set up a 5-yard touchdown run from Cameron Grant. A couple of possessions later, Woods scored on an 11-yard keeper to give JT its largest lead of the game with a little more than a minute remaining in the third.
Woods finished with 319 total yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Roderick Hawkins added 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
As heartbreaking as Saturday's result was, Holmes said he was still proud of his team. After failing to make the playoffs in 2017, the Lions surprised many by making a run four rounds deep and nearly knocking off the defending state champions.
Several key contributors, including Woods and Hawkins, graduate next year and Holmes said he knows he will have his work cut out replacing them. Although the loss rings fresh in their minds now, Holmes knows that, with time, the senior class will look back on this season fondly.
"They set the tone back to being what we expect out of John Tyler football," Holmes said. "This season was special. It started out the way I wanted it to. Us learning who we were. Struggling against really good teams and getting better week in and week out. As you see, we made it to the fourth round. We played in December. That’s a good season.”
Highland Park 42, John Tyler 35
Class 5A Division I, Region II Final
At Ford Center, Frisco
John Tyler 14 7 14 0 – 35
Highland Park 7 7 0 28 – 42
JT– Rodrick Hawkins 13 run (Frankie Sanchez kick), 8:36.
HP—Ben Smith 18 pass from Chandler Morris (Wesley Winters kick), 7:00.
JT—Devlen Woods 64 run (Sanchez kick), 5:06.
HP—Morris 31 run (Winters kick), 3:46.
JT—Hawkins 49 run (Sanchez kick), 1:11.
JT—Cameron Grant 5 run (Sanchez kick), 9:26.
JT—Woods 11 run (Sanchez kick), 1:16.
HP—Benner Page 6 pass from Morris (Winters kick), 10:18.
HP—Bennett Brown 28 pass from Morris (Winters kick), 8:18.
HP—Morris 14 run (Winters kick), 3:25.
HP—Morris 1 run (Winters kick), 0:09.
First Downs 20 22
Total Yards 516 472
Rushes-Yards 41-347 23-155
Passing Yards 169 317
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-17-2 21-33-0
Punts-Avg. 2-45.0 4-38.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 9-85 2-15
RUSHING—John Tyler, Devlen Woods 10-150, Roderick Hawkins 22-144, Cameron Grant 6-43, Ka'Darian Asbell 1-5, K'Lon Warren 1-5, Kitan Crawford 1-0. Highland Park, Benner Page 7-75, Chandler Morris 12-69, Hunter Heath 2-10, Avery Lewis 2-1.
PASSING— John Tyler, Woods 11-17-2--169. Highland Park, Morris 20-32-0--303, Finn Corwin 1-1-0--14.
RECEIVING—John Tyler, Warren 4-69, Ke'Andre Street 4-45, Asbell 1-32, Grant 1-17, Hawkins 1-6. Highland Park, Finn Corwin 9-128, Ben Smith 4-49, Drew Dodge 2-49, Bennett Brown 1-28, Drew Scott 1-25, Page 3-24, Morris 1-14.