Whether it was defensive lineman Pierre Leonard running out of the wildcat formation or brothers Jamal and Jamar Cuba hooking up for a reception, John Tyler seniors had a nice day at the park on Saturday.
In all, eight different players scored touchdowns for the Lions as John Tyler cruised to a 57-21 victory over Jacksonville on Senior Day at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, ensuring at least a share of the District 16-5A title.
"That's the versatility of the team, knowing we've got weapons we can use at our disposal," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. "It was a team effort. All of the seniors - I've got to put this on all the seniors today."
With their second win in less than a week after beating Corsicana on Monday, the Lions (6-3, 6-0) clinched the top seed in the Class 5A Division I playoffs by winning their sixth straight. JT can claim its first outright title since 2012 with a road win over Nacogdoches next Friday in the final week of the regular season.
Bryson Smith threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, adding 47 yards and a score on the ground, but didn't lead the team in scoring for the second time this season as 10 different players carried the ball. That doesn't include Duntayviun Gross, who was credited for a 5-yard rushing touchdown after picking up a teammate's fumble and carrying it into the end zone.
Gross had a team-high five catches for 49 yards while Texas commit Damion Miller pulled down four passes for 106 yards, including a 51-yard strike from Smith. The other passing TD was on a 54-yard screen pass to Joshua Parker, who was playing against his brother DeShaun Whitaker, a Jacksonville senior defensive back.
Also scoring rushing touchdowns for the Lions were Dejuan Beal, James Allen, Michael Givens-Washington and Leonard, who took three straight snaps out of the wildcat on goal-to-go situations on JT's first series.
Leonard ran for 4 yards on the first wildcat snap before handing off to Jesse Darden for a 1-yard gain on the next play. On third-and-goal, Leonard bowled his way in for the game's opening touchdown.
"It was fun," Leonard said. "We've been practicing it for a while and when we finally got to do it, I was just like, ‘Don't fumble, don't fumble, don't fumble.'"
"It was fun to get the opportunity to line up in the wildcat. Maybe since I did good, scored off it, I can get it again."
Leonard had less fun chasing Jacksonville (2-7, 1-5) quarterback Cameron High, who ran 27 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns, accounting for 70 percent of the Indians' ground game.
"He's a tough kid, very athletic," Holmes said of High, a junior. "He's a kid that's going to be able to make some plays for them. As long as he stays healthy he's going to be dangerous."
The Lions secondary had more success with High, who completed 1 of 9 passes for 4 yards. Da'Quaylon Kennedy and Javontavious Mosley both nabbed interceptions, giving JT's secondary more receptions than all of Jacksonville. The Indians did pick off Smith once, with Tradarrious Wagoner snaring a pass that went through Miller's hands.
John Tyler took a 13-0 lead after one quarter before Jacksonville got on the board with High's first touchdown run. But the Lions held a 27-7 lead at the break thanks to two scores in less than three minutes, including Smith's bomb to Miller that they made look easy and Beal's 1-yard dive.
The Indians made things interesting to start the second half, with Jaeshun Bush catching an onside kick on the fly, which led to High's second touchdown run to pull within 27-14.
Jacksonville recovered another onside kick after that score, but the offense stalled out and John Tyler scored the next four touchdowns for a 54-14 lead. Devan Salazar tacked on a 27-yard field goal with 31 seconds left to complete the Lions' scoring.
The Lions scored two touchdowns in two plays to start the fourth quarter. Givens-Washington took a receiver sweep 13 yards for a score on the first play of the period before Mosley's acrobatic interception gave JT the ball one play later. Parker than took a screen pass down the left sideline for a 54-yard strike.
The Lions, who wore pink socks to support breast cancer awareness, held the Indians to 239 total yards of offense, a season-best for the JT stop unit. Taking High out of the equation, Jacksonville averaged 3.3 yards per rush.
Seniors Braylon Jones and Leonard led the effort against the run inside as two of 23 seniors honored before the game on Senior Day.
"It was bittersweet," Leonard said. "Bitter because this is our last time playing at Rose Stadium.
"Knowing this was my last game playing at Rose Stadium it's kind of tough but I know we've got a long season ahead of us still."
The Lions will go for the district title that has evaded them the last two seasons in Nacogdoches next week, though they know they already have a spot in the postseason.
"Nacogdoches is not a team to look past," Leonard said. "Nacogdoches is going to come and give it their all. They're trying to play spoiler and we're trying to win. Nobody wants it to end without us winning a district championship."
Added Holmes: "We've still got a lot more football to be played."
John Tyler 57, Jacksonville 21
Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium
Jacksonville 0 7 7 7 - 21
John Tyler 13 14 7 20 - 57
JT-Pierre Leonard 1 run (kick fail), 7:51.
JT-James Allen 4 run (Devan Salazar kick), 1:05.
JAX-Cameron High 5 run (Juan Nunez kick), 6:53.
JT-Dejuan Beal 1 run (Salazar kick), 5:03.
JT-Damion Miller 51 pass from Bryson Smith (Salazar kick), 2:48.
JAX-High 6 run (Nunez kick), 10:56.
JT-Smith 1 run (Salazar kick), 0:32.
JT-Michael Givens-Washington 13 run (kick fail), 11:54.
JT-Joshua Parker 54 pass from Smith (Salazar kick), 11:30.
JT-Duntayviun Gross 5 run (Salazar kick), 7:37.
JAX-High 46 run (Nunez kick), 4:33.
JT-Salazar 27 FG, 0:31.
First Downs 11 22
Rushes-Yards 48-235 39-198
Passing Yards 4 235
Comp.-Att.-Int. 1-9-2 14-22-1
Punts-Avg. 5-29.2 2-25.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 9-56 3-15
RUSHING-Jacksonville, Cameron High 27-166, Vadall Johnson 10-52, J'modrick Taylor 8-16, Daehvion Spencer 3-1. John Tyler, Dejuan Beal 12-53, Bryson Smith 6-47, Dicarlo Dudley 4-28, James Allen 6-25, Jamal Cuba 1-15, Michael Givens-Washington 1-13, Jesse Darden 4-12, Duntayviun Gross 1-5, Pierre Leonard 2-5, Cordarion Johnson 1-0, Martrevious Allison 1-(-1), Team 1-(-4).
PASSING-Jacksonville, High 1-9-2-4. John Tyler, Smith 11-19-1-211, Cuba 3-3-0-24.
RECEIVING-Jacksonville, Josh McDowell 1-4. John Tyler, Duntayviun Gross 5-49, Damion Miller 4-106.