Nacogdoches Must Beat John Tyler To Have A Chance At Postseason Life
John Tyler Lions (6-3, 6-0)
Nacogodches Dragons (4-5, 3-3)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Dragon Stadium, Nacogdoches
- John Tyler: Ricklan Holmes
- Nacogdoches: Bobby Reyes
- John Tyler: TBA, 5A Division I playoffs vs. Longview or Texas High
- Nacogdoches: TBD
- WR Damion Miller, Jr., 6-2, 205 (29 catches, 652 yards, 6 TDs; committed to Texas)
- OL/DL Braylon Jones, Sr., 6-3, 285 (58 tackles, 1 for loss, 11 QB pressures, 2 forced fumbles; committed to Houston)
- QB Bryson Smith, Jr., 6-0, 170 (113-186, 1,732 yards, 14 TDs, 5 INTs, 124 carries, 941 yards, 13 TDs)
- DL/FB Pierre Leonard, Sr., 5-8, 245 (62 tackles, 8 for loss, 3 sacks, 22 QB pressures; 8 carries, 11 yards, 5 TDs)
- WR Duntayviun Gross, Sr., 5-10, 160 (49 catches, 655 yards, 5 TDs)
- DB Bryston Gipson, Sr., 5-11, 175 (77 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 INT, 8 PBUs, 1 fumble recovery, 2 blocked kicks)
- DB Kieran Freeman, Jr., 5-8, 155 (32 tackles, 4 INTs)
- DB Brandon Jones, Sr., 6-0 , 190 (124 tackles, 16 for loss, 2 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 forced fumble; blue chip recruit)
- DB Corey Lane, Sr., 6-0, 185 (95 tackles, 8 for loss, 2 INT, 8 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
- RB Phillip Jones, Sr. (232 carries, 1,189 yards)
- QB Noah Hildebrand, Jr., 6-1, 180 (94 of 175, 1,557 yards, 17 TDs, 5 INTs)
- WR Alex Gregory, Sr., 6-0, 175 (37 catches, 886 yards, 8 TDs; committed to Stephen F. Austin)
- DL Kyle Consford, Sr., 6-2, 200 (52 tackles, 7 for loss, 6 sacks, 9 QB pressures)
Just the facts
- John Tyler leads the series, 32-3-1. Nacogodches' last win against the Lions came in 1989.
- The Dragons have clawed back to the playoff bubble with three straight wins, but they must defeat John Tyler and also need Corsicana to simultaneously lose to Ennis to clinch District 16-5A's fourth and final playoff seed.
- Nacogdoches has reached the playoffs the past two years.
- John Tyler has reached the state semifinals in three of the past four years, including last season.
- The only two district teams completely out of the playoff picture entering the final week of the regular season are Jacksonville and Whitehouse.
- Lindale will win the fourth seed if Nacogdoches and Corsicana both lose Friday.
- John Tyler has already won the district's first seed and will be attempting to win its first outright district championship since 2012. A Lufkin win against Jacksonville and a Lions' loss to Nacogdoches would allow Lufkin to claim a co-championship.
- Dragons quarterback Noah Hildebrand has really stepped up during the winning streak. He has not thrown an interception since throwing five through the team's first six games, and he has 15 passing touchdowns to his credit through the year.
- John Tyler quarterback Bryson Smith is one of three quarterbacks to average more than 100 yards per game both through the air and on the ground. The others are Liberty-Eylau's Ke'Mon Freeman and Tyler Bishop Gorman's Michael Goodwin.
- John Tyler won last season's meeting with the Dragons, 44-14, at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Key matchup: John Tyler quarterback Bryson Smith versus Nacogdoches' ever-improving defense.
Smith has exploded on scene through the Lions' district schedule and his passing numbers have improved every single game. But, he's a real dual-threat quarterback and is capable of putting the team on his back in the running game as the team's leading rusher as well as its passer.
Be assured Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones -- who is regarded as one of the absolute best at his position nationally -- won't go down without a fight. Not only will he be patrolling the air, he's crept up on opposing offenses for 16 tackles for loss this season.
Jones won't be alone. Fellow safety Corey Lane has similar numbers, and the duo present every reason in the world for John Tyler to be more conservative than usual in the passing game. However, the Lions are at their best when they can feed receivers Damion Miller and Duntayviun Gross the ball.
But should the Dragons be able to minimize the damage John Tyler's passing game does Friday, the defense must account for Smith's running ability.
Defensive lineman Kyle Consford, who has six sacks, and the rest of the Nacogdoches front will need to be at their best in containing Smith. No team has been successful in that facet through the Lions' current six-game winning streak.
The Dragons will need to score points to save their season, but the team can buy a small margin for error if they can limit a signal caller involved with absolutely everything offensively.
Don't be surprised if: Nacogdoches turns in its best performance of the season. This certainly is a team peaking at the right time, but it has a monumental task in front of it. Historically and schematically. The Dragons will have to play a perfect game. The incentive to do so is clear.
John Tyler has an incentive of its own though -- its first district title since 2012. The Lions won't be resting players or looking to do other district teams favors ahead of their assured playoff berth.