JT Rewind: Lions still confident after district streak ends

John Tyler's Geovari McCollister (3) runs for a touchdown Friday night against Whitehouse in Whitehouse. (Sarah A. Miller | Tyler Morning Telegraph)

John Tyler coach Ricklan Holmes doesn't get too high after wins or too low after losses.

After Friday night's 55-54 loss to No. 3 Whitehouse, Holmes was as confident as ever in his team's abilities.

"I don't feel anything about this because I felt like we did everything we needed to do to win the game, we just came up short," Holmes said.

John Tyler ended a 23-game district winning streak and failed to win a league title for the first time in five years, but the Lions boss was all positives after the loss.

After falling behind 48-34 late in the third quarter, JT rallied back against the state's third-ranked team. Junior quarterback Geovari McCollister went toe-to-toe with Texas Tech commit Patrick Mahomes, the Wildcats' senior signal caller, to spark the Lions.

Down 14, JT's largest deficit of the game, McCollister threw four straight strikes for 61 yards to get the Lions to the Wildcat 3. He then bowled his way in on the next play to pull within 48-41 with 1:51 to play in the third quarter.

The John Tyler defense then forced Mahomes and the Wildcats off the field in less than two minutes, setting up one of the Lions' biggest drives of the year.

Starting on their own 33 as the fourth quarter began; the Lions took 15 plays to tie the game when McCollister scrambled to the right threw to a diving Nick Cain to convert on fourth-and-goal from the 12. The score tied the game at 48-48 with 5:39 to go.

"It just shows how we can fight," Holmes said of his team's resilience. "We've got to keep that same fight for six more games."

Of course, John Tyler (7-3) is only guaranteed one more game of the maximum six remaining, starting Saturday against Mansfield Legacy, which went 8-2 and 5-2 in District 15-4A. The winner of that game plays either Texas High (9-1) or McKinney North (6-4) in the area round. Texas High and McKinney North play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lobo Stadium in Longview.

After a one-point loss to Whitehouse in which the game was decided on a failed two-point conversion attempt in the final minute, Holmes said he's feeling "pretty good" about his team heading into the postseason.

"I like feel our team has got to the point to where we can make a pretty successful run and be playing at Cowboy Stadium," he said, referring to the state championship game in AT&T Stadium.

Likewise, Holmes said he thinks Whitehouse, which beat JT for the first time ever and gave the Lions their first loss to a 4A team all year, can make an equally long run.

"I think they're going to go as deep as we're going to go," Holmes said. "I think we'll probably be playing on the same day."

(Note: The Class 4A Division I and Division II finals are on different days at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, respectively.)

In a game that seemed to mean everything for Whitehouse both as a football program and as a city, John Tyler didn't even play all its cards in going for the District 16-4A title.

Starting running back Reggie Gipson dressed for the first time since Oct. 25, but didn't make it into the game. Holmes said Gipson, who leads the Lions with 16 touchdowns, probably would have played had playoff seeding been on the line.

"With us knowing we were going to get the first seed anyway, it really didn't matter with him playing tonight," Holmes said.

So while the Lions will be disappointed to have lost out on another gold ball, they have bigger things in mind. They can start proving their ambitions on Saturday.

 

John Tyler Rewind

Final score: No. 3 Whitehouse 55, John Tyler 54

Turning point: John Tyler went for a 2-point conversion with 59 seconds left, trailing 55-54. While Whitehouse would have had two timeouts to work with in attempting a final comeback, the Lions might have won the game on the PAT attempt. But Geovari McCollister came under immediate pressure and threw incomplete.

The game was over when: John Tyler recovered an onside kick after the missed PAT, but the ball only went 7 of the requisite 10 yards, giving Whitehouse possession and allowing Patrick Mahomes to kneel twice to run out the clock.

Key stats: John Tyler ran a season-high 73 plays, but Whitehouse ran 81 plays, a season-high against the Lions. Both teams averaged nearly the same yards per play (6.0 for JT, 6.3 for WH), but the Wildcats held a 2-1 advantage in turnovers.

Warning signs: While the Lions are unlikely to play another quarterback as good as Mahomes this year, they allowed a season-high 371 passing yards to the Wildcats start QB. Mahomes was able to spread the ball around to eight different receivers and might have completed a higher percentage than 23 of 46 had his receivers not dropped a handful of balls or Coleman Patterson not been out injured.

Positive signs: Rodney Bendy had his best game of the season. The 6-4 junior receiver caught seven passes for 99 yards, both team highs. Bendy has caught 14 passes for 204 yards in the last three games, more than doubling his output the previous seven games.

What this loss means: John Tyler lost for the first time ever to Whitehouse, ending a 23-game district win streak. The Lions had won at least a share of four straight district titles before the Wildcats snatched the District 16-4A crown. In terms of the season, the loss affected little as JT had already clinched the top seed in the Class 4A Division I playoffs.

Fast forward: The Lions open the postseason against Mansfield Legacy (8-2). The bi-district playoff is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday at City Bank Stadium in Forney. The teams have one common opponent: Lancaster. JT beat the Tigers 31-28 on a last-second field goal; the Broncos beat them 44-30 in District 15-4A play.

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