NACOGDOCHES — John Tyler's coaches and players preached focus all week, specifically the nearsighted variety.
For JT, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A, that means not looking too far past tonight's contest against winless Nacogdoches. Regardless of the outcome, JT and Whitehouse, tied at 3-0 in the District 16-4A standings, play for at least a piece of the district championship in the regular season finale next Friday at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
"We have to play Nacogdoches first," JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "We have to take one game at a time. Anytime you start looking ahead, you put yourself in position to fail. To be successful you have to follow the necessary steps. That's what we're doing."
Nacogdoches head coach Bobby Reyes weighed in on the district's team to beat. Nacogdoches dropped to 0-8 overall and 0-3 in district with last week's 52-21 loss to Whitehouse.
Not far away in Smith County, John Tyler pounded Jacksonville 59-7. JT averaged 52 points in its first three district games, led by the efforts of all-state quarterback Greg Ward (Houston commit) and all-state receiver Fred Ross (Oklahoma State commit). Ward has accounted for 2,146 yards of total offense and 26 TDs, with Ross responsible for 898 yards and 12 TDs.
"They are the best team we have played," Reyes said of JT. "Their quarterback (Ward) is a special talent. They are a threat to score any time he touches the ball."
Nacogdoches neared victory lane in its district opener against Jacksonville, a game the Dragons lost 35-29. Nacogdoches trailed Whitehouse 21-13 at halftime before the Dragons lost steam.
The Dragons want to shorten the game and limit turnovers against the Lions. The Dragons rotate a pair of quarterbacks: Patrick Ledet and Hunter McClellan, who have combined to throw for more than 1,400 yards and 12 TDs.
"What we have to do is try to keep the ball away from them," Reyes added. "We have to be smart offensively and drive the ball down the field.
"When they have the ball, we have to make them work for it. We have to make it a long field for them and hope they make a mistake."
JT moved up one spot in the latest Associated Press poll, the Lions' highest position since a one-week stint at the top in Week One. Pearland Dawson (8-0) holds the top spot.
"Everybody wants to knock off who's at the top," Holmes said. "Right now we're easing our way up there. You have to understand they're going to give you their best game."
LIONS' TALES: JT has defeated Nacogdoches 11 straight times since the teams tied 10-10 in 1992. Nacogdoches last defeated JT in 1989 (17-10). The former district rivals went eight consecutive seasons without playing (2002-09) after Nacogdoches dropped to Class 4A. JT joined Nacogdoches in 4A in 2010. … Former John Tyler standout Teddy Williams was signed to the Indianapolis Colts practice squad earlier in the week. Williams, who did not play football in college but instead starred in track and field at UT San Antonio, spent three seasons on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad as a receiver and cornerback. He was waived a third time by the Cowboys in late August. At UTSA, Williams was a four-time All-American, who sported the world's fastest time in the 100 meters (9.90) for more than two months as a junior.
Probable Starting Lineups
JOHN TYLER — QB 1 Greg Ward (6-0, 170, Sr.), RB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Sr.), WR/A 22 Reggie Gipson (5-9, 175, Jr.), WR/Z 8 Fred Ross (6-2, 185, Sr.), WR/Y Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), WR/X 3 Justice Liggins (6-1, 190, Sr.), LT 62 Emmanuel Terrazas (6-2, 235, Sr.), LG 56 Adrian Pulido (6-0, 255, So.), C 55 Chris Starling (5-11, 250, Sr.), RG 54 Carnelius Davis (6-0, 240, Sr.), RT 52 Travaughn Moore (6-2, 260, Jr.), K 36 Porfirio Benitez (5-6, 145, Sr.).
NACOGDOCHES — QB 10 Patrick Ledet (Sr.), RB 31 Coronado Tolbert (So.), WR/X 18 Reed Watson (Jr.), WR 4 Tae Thomas (So.), WR/Y 21 Gus Partin (Jr.), WR/Z 15 James Barnes (Jr.) LT 77 Sam LeBlanc (So.), LG 75 Tyler Johnston (Sr.), C 55 Jacob Bragg (Jr.), RG 765 Uriel Scott (Sr.), RT 74 Malik Gilder (Jr.).
JOHN TYLER — DE 81 Tyus Bowser (6-2, 230, Sr.), NB 28 DeAndre Miller (5-11, 230, Sr.), DT 29 Chris Mobley (6-1, 235, Sr.), DE 5 Kavante Jefferson (6-2, 195, Sr.), WLB 15 Andrew Clark (6-0, 205, Jr.), MLB 24 Richard Gipson (6-2, 220, Sr.), SLB 4 DeQuante Woods (5-11, 185, Sr.), CB 25 Traven Johnson (6-1, 190, Sr.), CB 2 Darion Flowers (6-0, 180, Sr.), SS 21 Elliott Hart (5-11, 175, Sr.), FS 13 Terry Ausborne (5-11, 170, Jr.), P 40 Noe Diaz (5-10, 195, Sr.).
NACOGDOCHES — DE 95 Greg Roberts (Jr.), NT 94 Zach Verhalen (So.), DE 90 Daniel Chatman (Sr.), OLB 17 Gavin Nesbitt (Sr.), ILB 40 Brian Scott (Jr.), ILB 26 Jadarrius Ervin (JR.), OLB 20 Mason Hardy (Jr.), CB 33 Augustin Johnson (Sr.), B 1 Jamar Woodard (Jr.), SS 27 Lavinski Whitaker (Jr.), FS 19 Brandon Jones (Fr.).
Where: Dragon Stadium, Nacogdoches (8,000, grass).
Records: John Tyler 7-1 (3-0 in 16-4A); Nacogdoches 0-8 (0-3).
Radio: KTBB 600-AM.
All-time series: John Tyler leads 29-3-1.
2012 Results: John Tyler — Lufkin, W 35-21; Lancaster, L 21-26; Robert E. Lee, W 21-0; Mesquite Horn, W 35-30; UANL (Mexico), W 20-10; Corsicana, W 63-14; Lindale, W 35-0; Jacksonville, W 59-7; Nacogdoches — Henderson, L 14-26; Lufkin, L 7-45; Carthage, L 21-44; Hallsville, L 12-40; Pine Tree, L 21-28; Jacksonville, L 29-35; Corsicana, L 7-28; Whitehouse, L 21-52.
Players to watch: John Tyler — RB Rod Smith (20-101-2TDs), LB Andrew Clark (30 tackles); Nacogdoches — QB Patrick Ledet (63-148-5 INTs, 842 yards, 7 TDs), WR Tae Thomas (42-405-3TDs).
Quick slant: In its largest victory to date, JT piled up 527 yards. Smith scored a rushing TD, helping the ground game produce a season-best 306 yards. Clark made five stops as JT kept Jacksonville out the end zone the first 42 minutes as part of a 10-quarter scoring streak. JT is averaging 36 points and 397 yards (161 rushing, 236 passing) per game and allowing 13.5 points and 260 yards (140 rushing, 120 passing). …Whitehouse outgained Nacogdoches 338-226 in total yardage. The Dragons rushed for just 30 yards and turned the ball over three times. Nacogdoches is averaging 16.5 points and allowing 37.2
Visiting sideline: "Offensively, (Nacogdoches has) the people to do the things that are necessary to score points. They have to make sure they establish the running game because our passing defense is pretty stout right now. Defensively, they have to stop the big plays, and make sure they stop our running game. The way we're playing now, it's going to be difficult to do." — John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes
Home sideline: "(John Tyler is) a real athletic team. They are solid defensively. They are great in the kicking game. They don't have many weaknesses." — Nacogdoches head coach Bobby Reyes
Directions to Dragon Stadium: Take Highway 64 East to Henderson. Go south on Highway 259. Turn left on Loop 224 in Nacogdoches and the stadium is two miles ahead on the right.
Next up: Whitehouse at John Tyler, Nov. 9; Nacogdoches at Lindale, Nov. 9.