Right from the start it was evident. With the officials letting players fight for extra yardage, Mesquite Horn showed its desire, with almost the entire defense jumping into a masses of bodies surrounding John Tyler ball carriers.
The Jaguars showed the will to do whatever it takes to win — and they did.
For the second time this year, the Lions squandered a strong start with a poor third quarter, losing 47-17 on Friday night at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
For JT head coach Ricklan Holmes, the loss came down to one thing.
“Desire — that’s all it is,” Holmes said Friday night. “Nothing else to be said; kids didn’t come to play today.
“It’s not really up to us (coaches) to win a football game; it’s up to them. We put them in great positions to make plays on offense, defense and special teams, but if you don’t have the desire and will to do it, you’re just basically spinning your wheels.”
The Lions (2-2) led 10-7 early in the second quarter before the Jaguars (4-0) asserted their dominance. Horn took advantage of interceptions by defensive back Darreon Jackson on either side of halftime to turn a close game into a rout.
JT was outscored 24-7 in the third quarter. Similarly, in the season-opening 52-28 loss to Lufkin, the Panthers dominated the third quarter 18-0.
The Lions rebounded from that first loss with back-to-back wins, edging Lancaster in the final seconds and routing rival Robert E. Lee. Holmes said his team didn’t deal with the success well.
“We’ve just gotta understand that we’ve got to continue to do the things that made us successful for the last two weeks,” Holmes said.
While JT managed to hold Horn’s touted passing attack to more than 100 yards less than its average, the Jaguars were able to do what they wanted on the ground.
The difference between each team’s rushing attack was stark: Horn ran for 263 yards on 42 carries (6.3 yards per carry) while JT rushed for 84 yards on 36 carries (2.3 average), with 35 of those yards coming from the second-team offense with the game out of hand.
Holmes has been harping on his team’s running game for weeks, admitting he’ll probably continue doing so for as long as the season lasts.
After a season-high 210 rushing yards against Lee last week, the Lions regressed with their second-lowest output of the season. It was also a season-low in total yards and points.
“If they don’t have the desire and will to do it, you’re basically just beating themselves in the head,” Holmes said.
John Tyler Rewind
Final score: Mesquite Horn 47, John Tyler 17
Turning point: Looking to tie the game at 17 late in the second quarter, JT’s Geovari McCollister was intercepted by Darreon Jackson. Three plays later Horn scored to go up 23-10 at halftime and the Jaguars carried that momentum into a 24-7 third quarter.
The game was over when: McCollister was picked off a second time by Jackson, this on the Lions’ first possession of the second half. It took two plays for Horn to capitalize and take a 37-10 lead with 8:13 to play in the third quarter.
Key stats: The Lions allowed a season-high 263 yards rushing against a team that came in averaging 165 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, JT ran for 84 yards, its second-worst output of the year.
Warning signs: After two straight turnover-free games, the Lions threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. JT entered the game with a plus-eight turnover margin, which has fallen to plus-eight.
Positive signs: The Lions shut down the Jaguars’ passing game. Horn senior QB Destri White was averaging 244 yards and a 61 percent completion rate coming in, but he finished with 131 yards on 5-of-14 passing and no TDs on Friday. JT’s pass defense is allowing 122.75 yards per game through the air.
What this loss means: Any positive momentum built from beating Lancaster and Lee evaporated with Friday night’s performance. The Lions did lose to one of the top teams in Class 5A, albeit a former district rival that had only beaten JT twice before.
Fast forward: John Tyler has one more tune-up before district play begins. The Lions play the Tigres of Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon from Mexico. The Thursday night kickoff will be broadcast live on KCEB/Me-TV. JT has a bye week after this game before opening District 16-4A play against Corsicana on Oct. 11.