Catching stride: JT WR Fred Ross playing big

John Tyler's Fred Ross runs toward the end zone in a district-championship clinching win over Whitehouse. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Few debate the best running back to play for John Tyler.

As for the top receiver to ever wear blue and white for the Lions, the argument appears one-sided in favor of Fred Ross, hands down.

The John Tyler offense likes to think it's in good hands with all-state receiver. With Ross on the field, JT's chances to avoid a loss naturally decrease. In his first 40 games on varsity, Ross and the Lions tasted defeat just seven times.

The Lions lean on Ross for production in the ground game, passing game, return game, and this week in the secondary with the blue-chip standout slated to start at safety along with outside receiver.

Ross leads the Lions with 1,465 all-purpose yards and 19 TDs. He scored on a 75-yard reception from Greg Ward on JT's first play of the season from scrimmage. The senior stated his latest case as the state's top receiver last week, catching six passes for 180 yards and two TDs.

In the regular-season finale against Whitehouse, Ross raked in seven catches for 187 yards and three TDs.

"I feel I have to make more plays," said Ross, who is listed among the ESPN 300 and Rivals 250 top national recruits. "Every game's getting tougher and tougher. Leaders are going to have to step up. I have to do things to help this team win."

Thanks in large part to Ross, JT's offense appears to be in the highest of gears after setting a school record for points in last week's 77-20 win over Waxahachie. JT set the school record for points in a season (645) during last year's run to the Class 4A Division I state semifinals, with Ross playing a big part with 1,759 yards of total offense, including 100 receptions for 1,320 yards and 21 TDs (15 receiving, six rushing).

"Our mindset is to score every drive," said Ross, who has accounted for 3,407 career yards of total offense and 45 TDs through 40 games. "Every time we get the ball we feel like we have to get it in the end zone. We have to outscore the other team."

The 6-2, 190-pounder possesses elite hands, runs precise routes, and separates himself from other receivers with his ability to run with the football. Ross scored on an 87-yard reception last week, using his speed to outrun the defense the last half of the play.

"He has the size, speed, and he understands the concept he plays within the offense," JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "He finds the holes on the field, and makes sure he gets the ball where he needs. That's what he does week in and week out."

The big-play receiver ran his career count for TDs 80 yards or longer to three last week. The speedster also has seven TDs of 70-plus yards, eight for 60 or more yards, 13 covering at least 40 yards, 16 for 30 yards or longer, and 21 varsity TDs of at least 20 yards.

Despite what the lists say, Ross ranks first in his coach's opinion. The most-decorated receiver to walk the halls at JT, Ross holds the school record for receptions (176), career yards (2,720) and receiving yards in a single season.

"He's still the No. 1 receiver in the state of Texas to me," Holmes said of Ross, who has committed to his alma mater, Oklahoma State. "The things he's able to do to change the game, that's what you have to put into account. Everything he's done to this point has made us successful."

Ross knows how he's remembered depends on how far the 2012 Lions go. Earl Campbell, the Hall of Fame running back who led JT to the state title in 1973, cemented his place in Lions lore with a championship trophy.

"It's real important," Ross said of completing the course. "Nobody cares unless you win state. They'll always say Fred Ross was on that team. We want to leave our legacy like that."

LIONS' TALES: JT takes on Wylie in the Class 4A Division I area round at 6 p.m. Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Lions will be hosting a game past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1994, when JT defeated A&M Consolidated 45-21 in an area contest before going on to win state. JT won home playoff games in 2011 (Texas High, 46-14, bi-district), 1998 (Dallas Carter, 10-6, bi-district) and 2009 (Copperas Cove, 49-21, bi-district). The JT-Wylie winner advances to regionals to meet either Frisco (8-3) or Dallas Samuell (7-4). Possible locations include the brand-new, $60-million Eagle Stadium in Allen. JT also discussed the possibility of playing at Cowboys Stadium should they win. Cowboys Stadium will be unavailable to host any high school playoff games the next two weeks, however, reported the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. The Class 4A Division I state championship game is scheduled for Dec. 22 at noon at Cowboys Stadium.



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