The mascot was the same — a lion. The school colors were still blue and white. The Lions were still the nickname. Battle Royal was still played for the Brigadettes. And "Big Bad John" still echoed through the stadium.
However, the Rose City school's debut under the new name of the old name of Tyler High was not the tradition of old-school John Tyler football.
Tyler fell to Texas High, 41-21, before approximately 4,000 socially distanced masked-up fans on 114th season debut of Lions football on Earl Campbell at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler.
All-everything linebacker Clayton Smith was all over the field for the Tigers. The Oklahoma commit had three sacks and was in on numerous plays.
"Coach said if we knock off (Tyler) we knock off the three big hands of East Texas, we knocked off Lufkin, we knocked out Longview and now we knocked off (Tyler), so we got big things coming," said Smith. "I loved (playing Thursday night in the opener). Honestly, we didn't think we were going to get to this point, but the fact that we did, we are just happy to be out here, we have some things to clean up, but we're happy to be out here."
As for his three sacks, Smith said, "It felt great to be back out here, I've been rusty, I haven't tackled in so long. So for week 1, for my last first game, I feel like I did some good."
Tiger running back Braylon Stewart rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Vontrey Anderson added two TD runs and Oscar Hernandez booted two field goals.
The Lions, who started four sophomore at wide receivers, were led by senior quarterback Ken'Yontae Pinkard and the hard-running speedster Kameron Medlock.
Also, sophomore wide receiver Makavion Potts made a spectacular varsity debut by snagging nine balls for 156 yards, including a 41-yard TD reception.
Pinkard hit on 17 of 31 passing attempts for 231 yard, displaying nice technique as the game went on. Medlock rushed for 72 yards on 13 carries with Pinkard adding 47 yards and a TD on 13 attempts.
Pinkard tossed two TD passes, along with the 41-yarder to Potts, who made nice adjustments on the ball and then jetted into the end zone, and a 34-yard laser to a wide-open Montrel Wade, who caught the ball the 10, fumbled at the 1 and recover six yards into the end zone to compete TD play.
The total yardage was close — Texas High (263 rushing, 108 passing, 371 total) and Tyler (121 rushing, 231 passing, 352 total).
Upfront for the Lions were senior center LeTavion Erwin, guards Sergio Munoz (junior) and Cornelius Hartsfield (junior), and tackles Avery Coleman (sophomore) and Ka’Darius Tave (junior).
Texas High snapped a six-game losing streak to the Lions and now pulled with 40-20-1 in the series. The last time the Tigers won was in 2008, 42-14.
LIONS TALES: The Lions' next game is against crosstown rival Tyler Legacy at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2. ... So does the series start over? with the new names or is it still ongoing? We shall find out. ... One of the big questions of the night was would the Tyler High School continue with its tradition of playing "Big Bad John", one Texas High School football's iconic fight songs. The Big Blue Band answered that in pregame, much to the delight of the home fans. ... Texas High will make their home debut in Texarkana on Oct. 2 against Denison. ... Fans were required to wear masks (except under 10).
---News Editor John Anderson contributed to this story.
Texas High 41, Tyler High 21
Texas High 6 7 14 14 -- 41
Tyler High 0 7 0 14 -- 21
TEX -- FG Oscar Hernandez 23, 7:40
TEX -- FG Hernandez 25, 6:16
TEX -- Vontrey Anderson 2 run (Hernandez kick), 10:43
TYL -- Makavion Potts 41 pass from Ken'Yontae Pinkard (Kendell Howard kick), 4:56
TEX -- Braylon Stewart 1 run (Hernandez kick), 5:22
TEX -- Stewart 23 run (Hernandez kick), 3:17
TYL -- Montrell Wade 34 pass from Pinkard (Baylor Gonzalez kick), 9:25
TEX -- Stewart 13 run (Hernandez kick), 8:20
TEX -- Anderson 9 run (Hernandez kick), 7:08
TYL -- Pinkard 3 run (Howard kick), 5:32