When it comes to defense, the safeties play a vital role on John Tyler's football team.

How important? Just count the adverbs used by Lions coach Ricklan Holmes.

"They're the guys back there that are supposed to keep everything in front of them so that we don't get beat deep," Holmes said. "So their job is really, really, really, really, really important."

And if repeating "really" five times wasn't enough to get the point across, John Tyler's two starting safeties are ranked second and fifth on the team in tackles.

Free safety Tyus Grayson is second on the team with 70 tackles. Not far behind is strong safety Da'Qualyon Kennedy, who has tallied 49 tackles.

Grayson has one interception while Kennedy has broken up five passes, including two against Longview in last week's 38-24 victory.

The two combined for 13 tackles in the win over the Lobos and 12 the week prior in the 48-0 rout of Rockwall-Heath, with Grayson nabbing the only interception thrown this year by the Hawks.

Along with Damion Miller and, when he returns from injury, Clark Edwards, the John Tyler safeties have helped the Lions become the best defense in the district.

Through five games, JT is allowing 22.2 points per game against District 11-6A competition. The next best team (Rockwall-Heath) is allowing 31.6 per game.

"Can't let anything get behind you; last line of defense," Kennedy said. "Gotta have some pride about it."

Kennedy is a returning starter, having finished third on the team with 79 tackles last year. His fellow safety last season, Bryston Gipson, led the squad with 97 tackles, but he's now playing at Henderson State.

Last year Gipson took Kennedy, then a first-year varsity player, under his wing and guided him to a successful season.

This year Kennedy, who took over Gipson's No. 6 jersey, is doing the same with Grayson.

"I try to treat him as my little brother, like last year with Gipson treating me as his little brother, trying to step up, show him the ropes and lead by example," said Kennedy, a 5-10, 175-pound senior. "(I have) more of a leadership role, leading the secondary, making sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to do."

That's allowed Grayson to blossom, racking up nearly nine tackles per game in his first year on varsity.

"Just effort, just getting to the ball," said Grayson, a 5-10, 165-pound junior.

Grayson is the younger brother of former Robert E. Lee receiver Tyrec Grayson, who graduated last May and signed with Cisco College.

Tyrec owns the Red Raiders records for longest receiving touchdown as well as the second-longest touchdown run, which came against John Tyler last year. If only Tyus wasn't on junior varsity at the time, he might have stopped his brother.

"It's kind of off because most of my family, they went to Lee," Tyus Grayson said. "It's a little rivalry in this side of the house, but it's just football."

Holmes said the year on junior varsity after transferring in served Grayson well and as a result he's started every game this year.

Grayson and Kennedy have built a strong rapport on the field, constantly communicating to make sure no one gets behind them.

Their chemistry has helped the JT defense limit explosive plays. The Lions are allowing 323.8 yards per game on defense, improved from 395.9 last year against Class 5A competition.

"Coach just always tells us every day we've got to be on the same page," Grayson said. "Even if we're wrong we've got to be wrong on the same page.

"On the field we've got to communicate a lot, about switching routs and stuff. That's No. 1. We talk a lot on the field."

Added Holmes: "Kennedy's real quiet; Tyus isn't. They're kind of like oil and water back there."

The Lions also have depth with Miller, a Texas commit at receiver who has 17 tackles, and Edwards, who tallied 19 tackles in his first three games before suffering an injury. Miller (6-2, 195) used his size and speed to make a touchdown-saving tackle early in the second half against Longview.

"I think we've got a pretty good safety corps back there that's being coached up by coach (Chris) Wrighten," Holmes said. "(Miller) just creates depth, making sure that he's still rested well enough to play offense but also knowing we're going to need him a little on defense."

The JT secondary will be tested on Friday when the Lions host Mesquite Horn at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

John Tyler controls its own destiny for the 11-6A crown with two games remaining, but will have to slow down a Jaguars offense leading the league with 50 points per game against district competition.

Quarterback Chris Robison, an Oklahoma commit, is completing 74 percent of his passes and has 16 touchdowns with two interceptions in five games since returning from injury.

After two weeks of shutting down run-oriented offense, the safeties will be front and center to stop the Horn passing attack.

"They're going to have to govern what goes on back there," Holmes said. "They're going to have to make sure that nothing gets behind them and they make sure that the corners are lined out and doing what they need to do.

"They're going to be in a lot of pass coverage. Won't be playing in the box as much as they normally have against running teams. They're going to have to be smart back there and make some plays. "

LIONS TALES: Tickets for the John Tyler-Mesquite Horn game at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium will be sold on campus to students and faculty Wednesday-Friday. Additional ticket sales will be at the TISD athletic office (807 W. Glenwood), T&T Lewis (903 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) and Tyler Athletics (5520 Old Jacksonville Hwy) during regular business hours Wednesday-Friday. Presale tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Gate tickets cost $6 for general admission and $8 for reserved. Additional ticket sales are available at https://tylerisd.brushfireapp.com/.

TWITTER: @TYoestingETFS

John Tyler Season Statistics

Scores

Non-District

John Tyler 45, Plano West 14

John Tyler 30, Ennis 14

John Tyler 41, New Orleans Warren Easton 6

District 11-6A

Rockwall 59, John Tyler 58

John Tyler 42, North Mesquite 28

John Tyler 20, Mesquite 14

John Tyler 48, Rockwall-Heath 0

John Tyler 38, Longview 24

Score By Quarters

    1st    2nd    3rd    4th       OT        Tot. 

Opponents    31    40    39    35    0    —    145

JOHN TYLER    61    92    86    83    0    —    322

———

Team Statistics

Scoring

    JT    Opp.

Rushing    138    54

Passing    126    60

PAT    40    15

FG    18    12

Defense/Special Teams    0    0

2 Pt Conversion    0    4

Total    322    145

———

First Downs

    JT     Opp.

Passing    72    54

Rushing    112    71

Penalty    4    9

Total    188    134

——— 

Third Down Conversions

JOHN TYLER    51-98 (52%)

Opponents    38-110 (35%)

Fourth Down Conversions

JOHN TYLER    9-14 (64%)

Opponents    9-23 (39%)

Field Goals Made/Attempted

JOHN TYLER    6-11 (55%) 

Opponents    4-6 (67%) 

PATs Made/Attempted

JOHN TYLER    40-43 (93%)

Opponents    15-16 (94%) 

———

Team Yardage

Rushing

JOHN TYLER    2064 (258.0)

Opponents    1211 (151.4)

Passing 

JOHN TYLER    1860 (232.5)

Opponents    1379 (172.4)

Total Yards

JOHN TYLER     3924 (490.5)

Opponents    2590 (323.8)

Punts-Avg.

JOHN TYLER    20-650 (32.5)

Opponents    38-1312 (34.5)

Fumbles-Lost

JOHN TYLER    12-2

Opponents    25-9

Interceptions Thrown

JOHN TYLER    6

Opponents    5

Turnover Ratio

JOHN TYLER    +6

Penalties-Yards

JOHN TYLER    81-651

Opponents    56-462

———

Individual Statistics

Rushing

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Bryson Smith    101    919    9.1    9    53

Cameron Grant    82    602    7.3    5    64t

Justin Samples    79    357    4.5    5    15t

Kiante Stoker    21    106    5.0    1    37t

Martrevious Allison    17    45    2.6    3    6

Victor Campbell    3    22    7.3    0    10

M. Givens-Washington    3    19    6.3    0    -3

Devlen Woods    4    4    1.0    0    18

Jaivon Williams    2    3    1.5    0    4

Hakeem Williams    3    3    1.0    0    2

KeEric Franklin    1    0    0.0    0    0

Team    7    -16    -2.3    0    -1

Total    323    2064    6.4    23    64t

Opponents    328    1211    3.7    9    79t

———

Passing

Player    Co.    Att.    Yds.    TD    INT    Lg.

Bryson Smith    116    197    1849    21    6    93t

Jaivon Williams    1    4    11    0    0    11

Devlen Woods    0    1    0    0    0    0

Total    117    202    1860    21    6    93t

Opponents    95    184    1379    10    5    62

———

Receiving

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Devlen Woods    34    414    12.2    2    33

M. Givens-Washington    30    520    17.3    6    71t

Damion Miller    24    556    23.2    6    93t

Ke'Andre Street    14    259    18.5    5    35

Cameron Grant    5    45    9.0    1    19

Jaivon Williams    4    32    8.0    0    16

KeEric Franklin    4    21    5.3    0    13

Bryson Smith    1    11    11.0    0    11

Martrevious Allison    1    2    2.0    1    2t

Total    117    1860    15.9    21    93t

Opponents    95    1379    14.5    10    62

———

Punting

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    N20    BK    Lg.

Devan Salazar    6    190    31.7    1    0    42

Frankie Sanchez    14    460    32.9    8    0    49

Total    20    650    32.5    9    0    49

Opponents    38    1312    34.5    6    1    56

———

Kicking

Player    XPM/A    FGM/A    TB    Lg.

Devan Salazar    34-37    6-10    5    70

Frankie Sanchez    6-6    0-1    1    70

Totals    40-43    6-11    6    70

Opponents    15-16    4-6    5    70

———

Kickoff Returns

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

Damion Miller    7    183    26.1    0    33

M. Givens-Washington    3    68    22.7    0    29

Kieran Freeman    2    50    25.0    0    28

Devlen Woods    1    38    38.0    0    38

Cameron Grant    2    14    7.0    0    15

Total    15    353    23.5    0    38

———

Punt Returns

Player    No.    Yds.    Avg.    TD    Lg.

M. Givens-Washington    8    120    15.0    0    55

Total    8    120    15.0    0    55

———

Scoring

Player    TD    FG    PAT    2PT    Tot.

Bryson Smith    9    0    0    0    54

Devan Salazar    0    6    34    0    52

Damion Miller    6    0    0    0    36

M. Givens-Washington    6    0    0    0    36

Cameron Grant    6    0    0    0    36

Justin Samples    5    0    0    0    30

Ke'Andre Street    5    0    0    0    30

Martrevious Allison    4    0    0    0    24

Devlen Woods    2    0    0    0    12

Frankie Sanchez    0    0    6    0    6

Kiante Stoker    1    0    0    0    6

Total    44    6    40    0    322

Opponents    19    4    15    2    145

———

Defensive Stats

Fumble Recoveries

Player    No.    TD    

Howard Hawkins    3    0

Dekalen Goodson    2    0

Tabias Marshall    1    0

Shaundrick Williams    1    0

Kiante Stoker    1    0

Javontavius Mosley    1    0

Team    9    0

———

Interceptions

Player    No.    TD

Kieran Freeman    2    0

Martrevious Allison    1    0

Javontavius Mosley    1    0

Tyus Grayson    1    0

Total    5    0

———

Sacks

Player    No.

Dekalen Goodson    8.0

Howard Hawkins    6.0

Shaundrick Williams    4.0

Dewayne Jones    2.0

Gregorio Guerrero    2.0

Martrevious Allison    2.0

Kaylon Douglas    1.0

Tabias Marshall    1.0

Total    26.0

———

Blocked Punts

Player    No.

Da'Quaylon Kennedy    1

Total    1

———

Blocked Field Goals

Player    No.

Damion Miller    1

Total    1

———

Individual Stats

Player    QBP    PBU    FF    TFL    SOL    TOT

Martrevious Allison    0    3    2    0    19    78

Tyus Grayson    0    1    0    0    17    70

Shaundrick Williams    0    1    0    0    11    56

Howard Hawkins    16    0    1    11    25    56

Da'Qualyon Kennedy    0    5    0    0    19    49

Dekalen Goodson    4    2    1    5    32    48

Kiante Stoker    0    0    0    0    12    40

Kieran Freeman    0    10    0    0    22    39

Javontavius Mosley    2    11    2    1    30    38

Dewayne Jones    0    0    0    0    10    34

Tabias Marshall    3    0    0    0    16    24

Clark Edwards    0    1    0    0    8    20

Kelton McGee    0    0    1    1    4    17

Damion Miller    0    1    0    0    1    17

Gregorio Guerrero    0    0    0    0    11    14

Kaylon Douglas    5    0    0    1    2    7

Nicholas Thompson    0    1    0    0    4    7

James Chevis    0    0    0    0    2    5

LaMarcus McCowin    0    0    0    0    1    4

KeEric Franklin    0    0    0    0    4    4

Victor Campbell    0    0    0    0    3    3

Keyon Washington    0    0    0    0    0    2

Jerry Young    0    0    0    0    1    2

Ke'Andre Street    0    0    0    0    2    2

Hakeem Williams    3    0    0    0    1    2

Jarod Buffin    0    0    0    0    1    2

Justin Samples    0    0    0    0    1    1

M. Givens-Washington    0    0    0    0    1    1

JaTayviun Asbell    0    0    0    0    0    1

Cameron Grant    0    0    0    0    1    1

Jackson Bridges    0    0    0    0    1    1

Totals    33    36    7    19    262    645

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