John Tyler’s special teams were a bit of a mixed bag on Saturday night.
In the end, however, struggles with long snaps and point-after kicks were outweighed by the legs of Luis Duran and Jose Perez, whose 22-yard field goal with one second left lifted the Lions to a 31-28 victory over Lancaster.
Perez notched four field goals on the night, including lengthy kicks of 38 and 41 yards. However, his night in itself was symbolic of the up-and-down nature of JT’s special teams.
Minutes before his dramatic game-winner, Perez missed a PAT kick that would have put the Lions ahead 29-28 with 4:24 to play.
Of course, the special teams defense had put JT in that position by blocking a Lancaster PAT near the end of the third quarter that kept it a 6-point game.
The Lions missed two PAT kicks on the night, the first coming on a bad snap, something of a theme for the Lions in the first half.
On JT’s first three punt attempts, high snaps put Duran in trouble and he was unable to get a kick off and taken down for losses.
The first two times, however, the Lions defense stepped up with important stops.
First, JT held Lancaster on first-and-goal from the 10, forcing two straight incompletions by Tigers quarterback Chris Thomas.
Minutes later the defense found itself in a similar position, with Lancaster taking over at the JT 5. This time sophomore Braylon Jones came through, falling on a bad snap that sailed over Thomas’ head.
“We have a defense that’s going to be able to make some important stops to help us win football games,” Lions coach Ricklan Holmes said.
Eventually, the third failed punt was too much to ask of the defense. Midway through the third quarter when Lancaster was again gifted possession at the JT 5, Shannon Simpson ran in from 3-yards out. Simpson then tied the game at 22 with a two-point conversion run thanks to a Lions facemask penalty that gave the Tigers a second chance after an incompletion on the first attempt.
That touchdown came in the middle of a momentous 21-0 run by Lancaster, however the blocked PAT helped John Tyler regain a little momentum with the Tigers leading 28-22.
What also helped the Lions regain a foothold was the punting of Duran. When he was able to get his kicks off, the junior averaged 43 yards on three punts, with a long of 53, allowing his team to reverse field position.
Additionally, although JT wasn’t always able to punch in touchdowns, the consistency of Perez proved pivotal.
The junior was good from 38 yards for the Lions’ first points early in the second quarter to make it 7-3. He added two more in the second quarter, including the 41-yarder as time expired in the first half as JT went into the break up 15-7.
“He’s a tough kid and he knows exactly what he needs to do to help us win ball games,” Holmes said.
The same could be said of the entire squad after a gutsy win over a team that was playing in Cowboys Stadium last December.
John Tyler Rewind
Final score: John Tyler 31, Lancaster 28
Turning point: Down 28-22, junior quarterback Geovari McCollister caught fire, completing his final nine passes for 116 yards. He was 3 for 3 on a 1 minute, 4 second drive to tie the game at 28 with a perfect touchdown pass to Reggie Gipson from 29 yards. He then went 6 for 6 on the final series to get the Lions into field goal range. “That just lets you know how special Geo can be,” Holmes said.
The game was over when: Jose Perez booted his fourth field goal of the night, this from 22 yards, to put the Lions up 31-28 with 1 second left.
Key stats: A week after McCollister was sacked 14 times by Lufkin, the JT O-line allowed one sack against Lancaster.
Warning signs: The Lions converted just 3 of 12 third downs against Lancaster. However, with the game on the line, McCollister found Duntavion Gross for a 13-yard reception on third-and-10 with a minute left to set up the last-second field goal.
Positive signs: John Tyler held Lancaster to a 3-for-12 conversion rate on third downs, including a key stop on third-and-8 with just over three minutes to play to set up the game-winning drive.
What this win means: The Lions avenged last season’s last-second loss to Lancaster and proved they’re still among the top teams in the state by beating the 14th-ranked Tigers. JT evened the all-time series with Lancaster at 1-1.
Fast forward: After a tough loss to Lufkin to open the season, the Lions can take some positive momentum into the rivalry game with Robert E. Lee on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. The Red Raiders are flying high after two big wins to start the year, including Friday night’s impressive 42-30 win over the Panthers.