A John Tyler team yet to get a wakeup call from District 14-4A opponents snoozed past its 12th straight opponent from its new circle last Friday.
After jumping out to a 21-point first-quarter lead, JT appeared to doze off at times before settling for a 56-35 win over Marshall. Still, the win continued a trend as the Lions won by double digits for the 11th time since joining their outclassed competitors from the East Texas circuits.
Excuse the Lions and followers for falling to sleep, seeing JT holds a 12-0 record in District 14-4A dating back to last year while outscoring the opposition 555-161, an average victory of 46-13.
For anyone considering the last game a scare, think otherwise. JT put the contest to bed early by jumping out to a 21-0 lead.
The Lions even unveiled a new wrinkle with their goal line attack, a wildcat-type formation putting three defensive lineman in a backfield power set. JT scored twice out the alignment.
Four players produced two TDs each, Tyus Bowser in the aforementioned alignment, Greg Ward (two rushing), DeVonte Haggerty (two rushing) and Darion Flowers (two receiving).
JT broke the 50-point barrier for the fourth time in five district games. Ward became JT’s all-time single-season passing leader with 193 yards. Ward (1,982 yards) surpassed David Bush, who threw for 1,963 yards last year before signing with TCU.
A plethora of weapons make JT’s offense hard to stop these days, with six backs and five receivers over the century mark rushing. The Lions, averaging 44.1 points per game, remain on pace to leave as the highest scoring attack in school history. The 2009 state quarterfinalists set the standard by averaging 41.4 points per game.
But how far these Lions last figures to be about one thing, and one thing only: defense.
Marshall moved up and down the field on JT, finishing with twice as many points as any other district team, but not quite enough to concern JT head coach Dereck Rush any more than necessary.
JT shut Marshall out in the second and third quarters while building a 42-14 lead. Marshall scored once off a double-pass. In the meantime JT forced five more turnovers, putting its takeaway total at 28 — plus-16.
“I’m not worried at all. We got relaxed,” Rush said. “We just have to work harder in practice. And they showed a couple trick plays we hadn’t worked on. We just have to have our kids ready for things like that.”
As good as JT has played the previous five games, the Lions still face a hurdle before adding a district title to the trophy case.
JT (5-3, 5-0 in 14-4A) visits Kilgore (5-3, 4-1) on Friday with the gold ball still up for grabs. A JT win gives the Lions the district title outright. A win by Kilgore puts the Bulldogs in prime position to tie for the title.
Of note, JT lost to Kilgore in its previous trip to R.E. St. John Stadium, including a nail-bitter and controversial three-point loss in overtime back in 2005. Of interest, JT needs two more wins, against Kilgore and at home versus Jacksonville to end the regular season, to break the school record for consecutive district victories, currently at 14.
“We talk to our kids about being so close, taking one game at a time,” said Rush, whose team has won two straight district titles, splitting it three ways it in its final season in Class 5A after a victory over DeSoto in the finale. “We have to have a good week of practice, correct the mistakes we made (Friday) and have a good game against Kilgore.”