KILGORE — John Tyler received a close call, but answered in the end to win its third consecutive gold ball.
JT made a big defensive stand to start the third overtime and capitalized on the chance when Greg Ward darted 19 yards for the deciding points as the Lions defeated Kilgore 55-49 with the District 14-4A football championship on the line Friday night.
Ward’s run ended a thriller that saw Kilgore keep pace with JT’s high-powered offense thanks to the running exploits of Ladarius Anthony, and a host of penalties (15 for 138 yards) called on the visiting team. The Kilgore senior standout and TCU commit carried 44 times for 278 yards and five TDs.
JT (6-3) improved to a perfect 6-0 in the district while Kilgore (5-4, 4-2) saw its title hopes end.
The Lions, who won their first five district games by an average of 37 points, survived their biggest scare in two years from a district foe. JT ultimately set a new school record for three straight district titles. The Lions tied their all-time record with 14 consecutive district wins, including a perfect 13-0 mark in 14-4A.
“We talk to our kids all the time about playing for four quarters, and if need be, overtime,” JT head coach Dereck Rush said. “Tonight was one of those situations where kids didn’t quit. They made mistakes but kept fighting.”
Anthony scored on a pair of 5-yard runs in the fourth quarter, the last with 2:05 left, to even the score. Ward nearly scored on the final play of regulation on a 21-yard scramble to the Kilgore 5, only to see time expire.
Kilgore captured its first lead when Anthony plunged over from the 1 to start overtime. JT needed one play to get even after Ward spotted Darion Flowers for a 25-yard score.
Possession flipped back to JT to start the second overtime and the Lions responded with Ward’s 19-yard TD to Fred Ross. Kilgore converted a big fourth-and-12 when Riley Toler avoided a heavy pass-rush and connected with JD Jones to force a third overtime.
Back on defense to begin the third OT, JT’s Tyus Bowser tripped up Anthony on first down for a 1-yard loss. JT pressured Toler into two incompletions, setting up a 47-yard try by Hugo Orta which sailed wide left. The Lions capped the suspense in two plays, with Ward’s feet finishing the wild affair. Ward rushed for a team-high 131 and a pair of scores, and completed 21 of 27 passes for 210 yards and three TDs.
Flowers accounted for Ward’s other TD pass, a 4-yard grab that put JT up 28-14 late in the third quarter before Toler took it in on a 1-yard sneak to get Kilgore back within a touchdown (28-21).
On JT’s opening series, Ward went 5-for-5 for 54 yards, and carried twice for 19 yards, including a nifty cutback on an 8-yarder keeper for the first score.
JT doubled its lead to 14-0 on Devonte Jones’ 59-yard punt return. Jones surged past midfield with an initial burst toward the home sideline, then drifted behind a wave of blockers en route to the end zone.
Kilgore kept the ball nearly 15 of the first 24 minutes, tying the score at 14-14 with a pair of Anthony short TD runs (1 and 3 yards).
JT rushed the length of the field in five plays, capped by Justice Liggins’ 22-yard score on a sweep out the slot.
John Tyler 55, Kilgore 49, 3OT
At R.E. St. John Stadium, Kilgore
JT 14 7 7 7 7 7 6—55
Kilgore 0 14 7 14 7 7 0—49
JT—Greg Ward 8 run (Porfirio Benitez kick), 9:20
JT—Devonte Jones 59 punt return (Benitez kick), 0:04
KIL—Ladarius Anthony 1 run (Hugo Orta kick), 7:57
KIL—Anthony 3 run (Orta kick), 2:28
JT—Justice Liggins 22 run (Benitez kick) 0:39
JT—Darion Flowers 4 pass from Ward (Benitez kick), 4:54
KIL—Riley Toler 3 run (Orta kick), 1:03
KIL—Anthony 5 run (Orta kick), 7:04
JT—Tyus Bowser 5 run (Benitez kick), 6:04
KIL—Anthony 5 run (Orta kick), 2:05
KIL—Anthony 1 run (Orta kick)
JT—Flowers 25 pass from Ward (Benitez kick)
JT—Fred Ross 19 pass from Ward (Benitez kick)
KIL—JD Jones 15 pass from Toler (Orta kick)
JT—Ward 19 run
First Downs 26 20
Rushes-Yards 39-263 59-343
Passing Yards 210 45
Comp.-Att.-Int. 21-27-1 4-10-1
Punts-Avg. 2-43.0 3-42.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 15-138 8-65
RUSHING—John Tyler, Greg Ward 21-131, Reggie Gipson 5-40, Fred Ross 3-29, Justice Liggins 2-24, Tyus Bowser 2-15, Rod Smith 3-14, DeQuante Woods 2-9, DeVonte Haggerty 1-1. Kilgore, LaDarius Anthony 44-279, Dondra Halton 12-63, Riley Toler 3-1.
PASSING—John Tyler, Ward 21-27-1—210. Kilgore, Toler 4-10-1—45.
RECEIVING—John Tyler, Ross 8-96, Darion Flowers 5-69, Haggerty 4-24, Liggins 3-22, Gipson 1-(-1). Kilgore, Halton 2-15, JD Jones 1-15, Shelton Tolliver 1-15.