John Tyler Survives Long Battle With Mesquite + Jumps Into Tie For Second In District 11-6A
TYLER -- How often does the home team roll out first?
That happened Friday after John Tyler's 20-14 win against Mesquite at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The final whistle blew and the Lions were totally done mingling with well-wishers and gone from their off-campus stadium in 15 minutes.
It was a gritty win. It gave the team a real chance for a come-from-behind District 11-6A championship. But it wasn't the win head coach Ricklan Holmes anticipated against a team that is now dangerously close to elimination from the postseason.
"We got the win, but it was an ugly win," Holmes said. "It wasn't a John Tyler win. But, at the end of the day, it is a win. The kids came out and fought. They had to. They put their backs against the wall earlier in the game and had to come out in the second half and get off that wall."
The Lions (5-1, 2-1) trailed 14-7 at the break and put up 13 unanswered points in the third quarter. Their defense made five second-half stops, including cornerback Javonta Mosley's game-ending interception at the 7-yard line with 1:04 to play.
Mesquite (2-4, 0-3) might have gone the distance on its final drive if it wasn't for injuries that decimated its offensive backfield.
Running back Chance Fisher dinged the John Tyler defense for 133 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 75 yards before an injury in the third quarter sidelined him for the rest of of the game. Starting quarterback Jonathan Garza, who led the team in rushing afterward, was lost during his team's final drive on a face mask penalty.
Yet Mesquite got a new set of downs from John Tyler's 48-yard line thanks to the penalty and backup signal caller Ant Tennison threw a 14-yard strike his first passing attempt to get the team down to the 34-yard line with 1:12 to go.
Mosley won a jump ball the next play.
Mesquite took longer to exit Rose Stadium and did so in mixed spirits. Although the loss largely shelved the team from the playoff conversation without major upsets and help from other teams down the road, it went wire-to-wire with the best district team it has faced.
The Lions, rather, think they themselves can win the district and contend for a state championship.
A performance like Friday's against league-leading Longview -- the only undefeated team left in the district -- in three weeks is not thought to be enough by their coaching staff.
John Tyler, which will be idle this upcoming week, faces Rockwall-Heath on Oct. 14 just ahead of Longview. Heath was undefeated within the district before a loss to North Mesquite around the same time the game in Tyler ended and is still a threatening opponent.
"We've put ourself back in position to win these next two games," Holmes said. "That's what we've got to focus on. We can't focus on everybody else, who wins and loses. We've got to make sure we go out every Friday and we win."
Two missed field goals from 41 and 37 yards in the first quarter ultimately could have allowed Mesquite to force overtime even with the team's sole turnover killing its potentially game-winning drive. The 37-yard attempt was blocked by Damion Miller.
Could've, should've, would've.
The game turned in an interesting way. Mesquite got a stop, but it got stuck with bad field position and could not capitalize on the stop.
Down 14-7 at the half, John Tyler desperately wanted to tie the score after suffering quarterback Bryson Smith's second of three interceptions in the end zone on the final play of the first half. Desperation resulted in a turnover on downs at Mesquite's 13-yard line.
The Lions' defense allowed one yard on the ensuing drive and teed their offense up at the Mesquite 47-yard line. Smith got back to even with his second touchdown thrown of the game, a 6-yard scoring pass to Michael Givens-Washington.
Mesquite meant to punt again, but a bad snap lost 30 yards and Smith ended the next possession with 31 seconds to play in the third quarter on a 10-yard touchdown throw to Ke'Andre Street ahead of a bad snap on the point after attempt.
In between those plays was sophomore running back Cameron Grant. He got the start in lieu of injured back Justin Samples and finished his night with 162 yards on 25 carries.
Grant got the Lions down to Mesquite's 11-yard line after another punt to almost put the game away early in the fourth quarter before the third interception.
The two teams traded punts as the clock went inside five minutes and Mesquite began its game-defining drive from its own 11-yard line. Fifty-three yards in four minutes with no touchdown payoff thanks to Mosley.
Mesquite wanted to avoid Mosley most of the night and therefore picked on cornerback Kieran Freeman on the other side of the field. It attempted four fade routes against Freeman, only won once and didn't win on the final drive.
"It was real close," Freeman said. "It got (tense) at times. We still did what we needed to do and pulled it out. Hands on, keep my eyes on his hip and just play the ball."
Mesquite drew first blood on its first drive in spite of gaining just two yards its first two plays.
An offsides penalty baited the Lions into correctly believing Mesquite would run for the first down, so the safeties crept into the box. Fisher got past the defensive line, broke a tackle at the second level and was off for a 64-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead 1:25 into the contest.
Smith threw his first interception on the ensuing drive, which allowed Mesquite to drive down and attempt its failed 41-yard kick.
Smith answered that turnover by driving the team 71 yards in five plays and found Devlen Woods for a 14-yard strike.
Mesquite, which also has an open date this upcoming week, moves on to host Tyler Lee on Oct. 14. It can only hope that's the turning point.
The Lions rolled out victoriously. And the stars are aligning.
"For us, this is going to be amazing," Grant said before heading to the bus. "Everyone doubted us because we moved up to 6A. We're out to prove everybody wrong."
John Tyler 20, Mesquite 14
CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, Tyler
Mesquite 7 7 0 0 -- 14
John Tyler 7 0 13 0 -- 20
MES--Chance Fisher 64 run (Eddie Sanchez kick), 10:44
JT--Devlen Woods 14 pass from Bryson Smith (Devan Salazar kick), 4:52
MES--Semaj Hunter 10 pass from Jonathan Garza (Sanchez kick), 3:41
JT--Michael Givens-Washington 6 pass from Smith (Salazar kick), 6:34
JT--Ke'Andre Street 17 pass from Smith (pass failed), :31
First Downs 20 19
Total Yards 367 399
Rushes-Yards 41-168 38-272
Passing Yards 199 127
Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-30-1 13-21-3
Punts-Avg. 4-37.3 3-34.6
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 11-95 8-62
RUSHING--Mesquite, Chance Fisher 18-133, Jonathan Garza 16-42, Tylon Sanders 4-16, Larsen Watson 1-9, Ant Tennison 1-(-2), TEAM 1-(-30). John Tyler, Cameron Grant 25-162, Bryson Smith 10-88, Devlen Woods 1-18, Kiante Stoker 2-4.
PASSING--Mesquite, Garza 18-28-0--185, Tennison 1-2-1--14. John Tyler, Smith 13-21-3.
RECEIVING--Mesquite, Fisher 5-75, Ja'Wan Edosomwan 4-52, Semaj Hunter 4-27, Carlos Aguilar 2-24, Lester James 2-14, Kaleb Boger 1-4, Sanders 1-1. John Tyler, Devlen Woods 5-62, Ke'Andre Street 2-26, Damion Miller 2-20, Grant 3-13, Michael Givens-Washington 1-6.