LONGVIEW — John Tyler's Fred Ross and Greg Ward starred on offense, hooking up for three scores as the Lions claimed a marquee matchup in a scrimmage with Longview.
Ross reached the end zone four times and Ward totaled 345 yards of offense to lead John Tyler to a 24-20 victory over Longview in two live halves of action between state-ranked teams Friday at Lobo Stadium.
Counting the controlled portion, JT outscored Longview 38-34.
The JT defense and special teams played a key part in the victory. Terry Ausborne returned a fumble 30 yards for a Lions score and the kicking game marked the four-point difference thanks to a 38-yard field goal by JT's Noe Diaz and a Longview missed PAT.
"The offense is doing everything they did last year," first-year JT head coach Ricklan Holmes said. "The defense is better than it was. Guys are flying to the ball. With those guys doing what they were doing, that's where the improvement came from."
The contest pitted JT (No. 3, Class 4A) and its high-powered offense featuring 10 returning starters from a unit that averaged more than 40 points per game against Longview (No. 9, Class 5A) and its heralded defense bringing back eight regulars, including the state's reigning defensive player of the year in senior linebacker DeMarkus Lathan.
The teams ended the controlled portion knotted at 14-all before JT's passing game kicked it into another gear during the final 30 minutes.
Ross reeled in four catches for 176 yards while Ward completed 19 of 32 passes for 266 yards and four TDs, plus rushed 10 time for 79 yards. Ross, an Oklahoma State pledge, scored JT's first TD on a 66-yard reception from Ward on a deep post route. Ward, a Houston commit, scrambled outside the pocket and spotted Ross later for a 47-yard score.
During the live segment JT received the ball first and immediately went to work. The Lions needed just seven plays to score with Ross rushing 5 yards to paydirt on a jet sweep to the left side.
Two plays later JT increased its lead to 14 points when junior linebacker Andrew Clark jarred the ball loose after a short completion. Ausborne scooped up the pigskin and raced the other way for another JT score.
Longview answered with Tory White's 16-yard TD on a hard run. The momentum proved short-lived as Ross ran another post route, winning the one-on-one matchup again to hand JT back a two-TD cushion.
Longview later reached the end zone two more times but failed to catch JT by the end. The Lobos finished with more total yards (501-438) and first downs (26-17). The Lions captured the turnover battle (4-2) and more importantly came out on top.
Bivins Caraway, a senior quarterback committed to Louisiana-Monroe, passed for 260 yards and three TDs to lead the Lobos. Justin Spady topped Longview receiving with six grabs for 130 yards and two scores, and White rushed 10 times for 92 yards and a TD.
"Everything's about winning and losing," Holmes added. "The Lobos bring that toughness, speed and enthusiasm. To line up against them and do the things we did was impressive."
JT opens the regular season at home Friday against Lufkin in the Trinity Mother Frances Classic, now even more confident after a trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.
"I think with another good week of practice we'll clean up the mental mistakes," Holmes said. "This was a measuring stick for the rest of the season. The Lobos are going to pop you in the mouth and you have to be ready to bounce back, and our guys did that."