John Tyler's ready to start the 2014 football season bright and early. Well, so early it may not yet be bright.
The Lions embark on a new campaign at 5 a.m. Monday, nearly two hours before sunrise.
"We're gonna love it," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said of the early-morning practices, scheduled for every day this week. "(We're) just making sure we don't have to fight the heat."
John Tyler will go for four hours Monday through Thursday and three hours Friday and Saturday. The Lions will be working toward their scrimmage against Mount Pleasant on Aug. 22 before school starts on the 25th. The season opener is Aug. 29 against Plano at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
On the 20-year anniversary of John Tyler's last state title, the Lions return 16 starters, including nine on an offense that averaged 421.5 yards and 38.1 points per game.
In the first week of practices, Holmes said he's looking to build on a strong spring practice that in turn led to a good summer of 7-on-7 and offseason workouts.
"They've been working out all summer," he said. "They're in really good shape so we're going to spend a majority of the time focusing on football."
In 7-on-7, the Lions reached the championship bracket for the first time in two years. They eventually bowed out in the quarterfinals against rival Whitehouse, which went on to finish as runner-up.
Senior quarterback Geovari McCollister played a key role in JT's 7-on-7 run after throwing for 2,605 yards and running for 841 during the 2013 season.
"I'm very excited because we just had a great showing at the state 7-on-7 tournament," McCollister said. "I think that's a lot of momentum for us to carry into the season.
"I really think I can take (from 7-on-7) sitting in the pocket longer, going through my reads so I can get it to my playmakers like (Nick) Cain."
Cain is one of many returning skill players for McCollister to be excited about, a list that includes Rodney Bendy, Jeremy Wilson and Duntayvion Gross. With seven more starters returning on defense, prospects are once again looking up for the Lions.
"Expectations are always high at John Tyler High School," said Holmes, who was a freshman on the ‘94 title team. "Every year we expect to compete for a district championship, then a state championship."
So while it may still be dark when the Lions take the field Monday morning, expectations are as bright as ever.
2014 John Tyler Football Schedule
Aug. 22 at Mount Pleasant#
Aug. 29 Plano (TMF Classic)
Sept. 5 at Longview
Sept. 12 at Robert E. Lee
Sept. 19 Idle
Sept. 26 at Whitehouse*
Oct. 3 Lindale*
Oct. 10 Lufkin*
Oct. 17 at Ennis*
Oct. 24 Corsicana*$
Oct. 31 at Jacksonville*
Nov. 7 Nacogdoches*
All games at 7:30 p.m.
# — Scrimmage
* — District 16-5A
$ — Homecoming