CORSICANA — John Tyler measures success by the amount of hardware in its trophy case, a collection getting larger by the season.
Gold balls from the past three years line the halls of the John Tyler field house. John Tyler's quest for a fourth straight district championship kicks off tonight against Corsicana in a matchup of two teams coming off appearances in the state semifinals last year.
"It comes with separating," JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said of the team's ability to focus come district time. "It's a whole new season and with that comes different opportunities to do different things. Our kids have understood that for the past several years."
To keep its run going, JT coaches stressed just that — the run — during the bye week. JT's rushing attack averaged 117 yards per game and 3.5 yards per rush in non-district. As a result, DeQuante Woods and Reggie Gipson flipped positions. Woods, a 5-11, 185-pound senior who also starts at outside linebacker, goes into the backfield with Gipson (5-9, 175, Jr.) now in the slot. Woods topped JT in rushing in the final non-district game, highlighted a play when he reversed the field on a 19-yard carry. He lowered his head and bowled over a defender while going out of bounds top end the play.
Gipson owns the team's longest reception of the season, an 81-yard TD against Lufkin in the opener.
"I think Reggie will do a better job in the slot with the way he knows how to get open," Holmes said. "And you get to use DeQuante's toughness in the backfield. He's durable, fast and now you put him in a better position to help this team win football games."
Corsicana controls the clock with the best of teams, averaging more than 250 yards rushing per game. Corsicana averaged almost twice as many points last year (43.7) as it did in non-district (22.2).
"We've played good at times, but we've been very inconsistent," Corsicana coach Phil Castles said. "The run game is not near as good as last year. We're not putting up those kind of numbers. Truthfully, that's been a source of frustration on our part."
Corsicana (1-4) returned only six starters from a 13-win team, and played several underclassmen while fighting a rash of injuries in non-district, the most notable to dual-threat junior quarterback Devontay Bell, who produced more than 2,900 total yards and 35 TDs a year ago.
Castles called on Zachary Rush in Bell's absence the past two games, and the senior expects to fill-in again under center tonight.
"The main thing is we're an inexperienced team that's had a lot of growing up to do," Castles said. "We've played good folks, and it's no different this Friday. John Tyler is probably the best team we've played so far."
JT (4-1) spent one week at No. 1 in Class 4A and enters tonight's game ranked third in the state. The Lions earned wins over three 5As in non-district, with their lone loss coming to No. 2 Lancaster (4A). JT defeated the Tigres, a Mexican national power, in its final non-district game playing amidst a downpour.
"That type of competition, I feel we faced all aspects of football: a power team, speed team, a passing team, good defense, good offense and a disciplined team," Holmes said. "Then with the Tigers national team, we also had the weather to be a factor. Going against all that I think it prepared us for the district season and to do the things we need to do."
LIONS' TALES: John Tyler and Corsicana last played in 1993, a game the Lions won 10-9 on the road thanks to a 41-yard field goal by Daniel Hernandez, who currently plays for FC Dallas, and a goal-line stand in the final minutes. Marc Broyles helped make the fourth-down stop on Corsicana's Ketric Sanford in a memorable matchup. The next year, Broyles earned defensive player of the year honors while leading JT to the 5A Division II state title; Corsicana reached the 4A state semifinals the same year as Sanford set the state record for carries in a season (475), a mark which stood for 16 years. .… JT's current district win-streak stands at 15, a run started with a win over DeSoto in the 11-5A district finale in 2009, creating a tri-district championship along with Robert E. Lee. JT went 7-0 in district the previous two seasons.
Probable Starting Lineups
JOHN TYLER (Spread) — QB 1 Greg Ward (6-0, 170, Sr.), RB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Jr.), WR/A 22 Reggie Gipson (5-9, 175, Jr.), WR/Z 8 Fred Ross (6-2, 185, Sr.), WR/Y 2 Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), WR/X Justice Liggins (6-1, 190, Sr.), LT Emmanuel Terrazas (6-2, 235, Sr.), LG 56 Adrian Pulido (6-0, 255, So.), C 55 Chris Starling (5-11, 250, Sr.), RG 54 Cornelius Davis (6-0, 240, Sr.), RT 52 Travaughn Moore (6-2, 260, Jr.), K 36 Porfirio Benitez (5-6, 145, Sr.).
CORSICANA (Multiple-I) — QB 16 Zachary Rash (6-0, 170, Sr.), RB 10 Donovan Fields (5-11, 180, Jr.), FB Hunter Easley (5-9, 170, Jr.), WR/X 8 Bobby Wallace (5-10, 180, Sr.), WR/A Ashton Newsome (5-5, 125, Sr.), WR/Z 11 Tygarius Sheffield (6-3, 185, Jr.) or TE 43 Tiano McDonald (6-0, 185, Jr.), LT 55 Donavon Hailey (5-11, 225, Jr.), LG 51 Floyd Shrestha (5-10, 230, Sr.), C 70 Chris Jones (6-1, 270, Sr.), RG 62 Jeffery Jordan (6-7, 350, Sr.), RT 65 Dean Fletes (5-10, 265, Sr.), K 1 David Cruz (Sr.).
JOHN TYLER (4-3) — DE 81 Tyus Bowser (6-3, 230, Sr.), NG 28 DeAndre Miller (5-11, 230, Sr.), DT 66 Chris Mobley (6-1, 235, Sr.), DE Kavante Jefferson (6-2, 195, Sr.), WLB Darius Amie (6-1, 200, Jr.), MLB 24 Richard Gipson (6-2, 220, Sr.), SLB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Sr.), CB 25 Traven Johnson (6-1, 190, Sr.), CB 2 Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), FS 13 Terry Ausborne (5-11, 170, Jr.), SS 21 Elliott Hart (5-11, 175, Sr.), P 40 Noe Diaz.
CORSICANA (3-4) — DE 74 Will Stubbs (6-2, 185, Sr.), NG 32 Darius Watson (6-1, 185, So.), DE 13 Jerrett Hall (6-0, 185, Sr.), OLB 24 D'Eriq Jordan (6-0, 190, Sr.), ILB 47 Treashun Williams (5-9, 175, Jr.), ILB 44 Jacob Grayson (6-0, 190, Jr.) OLB 25 Breyon Hill (5-10, 185, Sr.), CB 21 Alonzo Gipson (5-7, 170, Sr.), CB 8 Bobby Wallace (5-10, 180, Sr.), SS 2 Tenery Walker (5-10, 160, Sr.), FS 10 Donovan Fields (5-11, 180, Jr.), P 1 David Cruz (Sr.).