JT meets Midway one win from Arlington

John Tyler quarterback Greg Ward and the Lions face crosstown rival Robert E. Lee, leading the all-time series 28-26-1. (Jaime R. Carrero | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

John Tyler faces a two-sided dilemma heading into tonight’s yearly showdown with cross-town rival with Robert E. Lee.

Two represents the number of games JT dropped the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons, and the Lions’ current loss-count just two games into the 2011 campaign.

Two also depicts the number of consecutive wins JT eyes against Lee. JT, which snapped a four-game losing slide to Lee a year ago, last won consecutive games versus the Red Raiders in 1997-98.

The “Rose City Rivalry” ranks among the most competitive inner-city rivalries state-wide and only two games separate the teams in the all-time series. JT pushed its lead to 28-26-1 with last year’s shutout victory over Lee.

“It’s one of the biggest rivalries in Texas,” JT head coach Dereck Rush said. “It’s a rivalry game. Anything can happen in a rivalry game.”

To end the losing slide at two, and increase the series streak to two, JT finds itself playing its top athletes both ways — to compensate for injuries and increase the odds of winning.

The Lions piled up more than 500 yards of offense last week, but appeared to wear down late again after leading midway through the third quarter before falling 38-22 to Longview.

The second and fourth quarters in particular, plagued JT, with the Lions getting outscored 45-12 in the two stanzas by Lufkin and Longview.

“I think in the big picture, it’s going to help us depth-wise,” Rush said of the platoon-system. “Offensively we’re definitely taking strides in the right direction. We’re executing, but not consistent. We’re making mistakes at crucial times. Defensively the kids are showing effort, we just have to again be more consistent. They’re doing things right, but it’s fundamental stuff we have to work on.”

While JT gets a small pass for losing to a pair of 5As in eighth-ranked Longview and Lufkin, so does Lee. The Red Raiders dropped their first two games to third-ranked Trinity and the same Lufkin team receiving votes in the state rankings.

Lufkin defeated JT by three points on a late touchdown pass. Lufkin topped Lee by 18 points. Lee never led in its first two contests, while JT held second half advantages in both contests. JT trailed Longview by one point with less than eight minutes remaining.

“Tyler Lee, competition-wise, is like us,” said Rush, who holds a 1-3 mark against Lee. “They’ve faced Euless Trinity and Lufkin. The last two weeks they’ve played quality teams.”

Recent history suggests an edge on paper for JT, winners of 24 of its last 30 games. Lee lost last week for the 11th time in its past 13 contests. But Rush knows better than assume anything. JT entered the 2009 meeting unbeaten and nationally-ranked, only to lose to Lee.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Rush said. “Every team you play can beat you every Friday night, and you can beat them, especially everyone on our schedule.”

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