Tigers’ playoff aspirations cut short

John Tyler ends the Tigers postseason hopes for third consecutive year


Photo by Rachel Lewis

Texas High quarterback Cade Pearson is pressured by John Tyler defensive lineman Pierre Leonard. Texas High was defeated 48-21 ending the Tiger’s 2015 football season with a record of 8-3.

The Tigers fell to the John Tyler High School Lions on Saturday in Longview at the Lobo Stadium in the first round of the playoffs. After keeping up with the Lions for the first half of the game, the Tigers lost their footing as the Lions cruised their way to a 48-21 victory and ended the Tigers’ 2015 football season.

“It was a good season,” head coach Barry Norton said. “Our kids did a good job. I knew going in what our thought on this team were. I thought we met most of the challenges. Our kids fought hard. They did everything right all year long. I love them to death and couldn’t be [more] proud of them.”

The Tigers started their first drive at their own 34, but punted after a three and out. The Lions took over at their own 25.

Lions wide receiver Duntayviun Gross caught a 16-yard pass to get the Lions to their 34. Midway through the first quarter on a fourth and one on the Lions’ 43, running back Bryston Gipson converted a 6-yard run off of a punt fake. A facemask penalty brought the Lions further into Tiger territory to the Tigers’ 19. On the following play, Lions quarterback Bryson Smith found wide receiver Damion Miller in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game, putting the Lions up 7-0.

The Tigers countered within one minute after starting at their 41. Running back J’Kardi Witcher picked up a 17-yard run. On the next play, Tigers running back Devuante Walker scored on a 36-yard pass from quarterback Cade Pearson, tying the game 7-7.

The second quarter started with the both teams trading punts early, but Tigers linebacker Jacobe Ellis recovered a fumble on the punt at the Lions’ 20. The Tigers were unable to get a first down and turned the ball over on downs at the Lions’ 26. With four minutes into the quarter, Smith ran 40 yards on the quarterback keeper to put the Lions on the Tigers’ 32. Lions wide receiver James Allen caught a 15-yard pass to put the Lions 17 yards away from the end zone. Midway through the quarter, running back Pierre Leonard punched in a one-yard touchdown, setting the score 14-7.

The Tigers picked up at their 19. With four minutes remaining in the half, Witcher ran for 36 yards on two consecutive plays to put the Tigers on the Lions 47. A minute later, a screen pass to Witcher gets the Tigers 16 more yards down the field. An 11-yard pass from Texas High’s Cade Pearson to Quan Hampton got the Tigers 9 yards away from the end zone. The Tigers then scored their second touchdown of the game with what appeared at first to be a wide receiver screen to Hampton, but ended as a 9-yard pass from Hampton to wide receiver Tevailance Hunt.

John Tyler wasted no time countering the Texas High touchdown. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Lions quickly advanced down the field. Smith ran for 18 yards, James Allen caught a 12-yard pass and Smith ran again for 9 yards, putting the Lions at the Tigers’ 22. However, Lions kicker Frankie Sanchez’ 28 yard field goal attempt was blocked at the end of the half, leaving the score at 14-14.

“We made plays that we were supposed to make in the first half,” defensive back Jacorien Walker said. “We limited them, stopped them from making the big plays they were used to. That was the difference in the first half.”

The Lions began the second half on their own 26. On the second play of the half, Miller caught a 36-yard pass, leading the Lions to the Tigers’ 33. Miller caught another pass to get the Lions’ 12 yards away from the end zone. Smith scored on a 9-yard run to put the Lions ahead 21-14 three minutes into the second half.

The Tigers got the ball on the Lions’ 48 due to a facemask penalty. However, the Tigers failed to gain much yardage after and punted to the Lions’ 36.

Lions wide receiver Javontavious Mosley caught a 12-yard pass to get the Lions midfield. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Lions then forced the team to retreat to their 32. The Lions ended up punting to the Tigers’ 15.

The Tigers were unable to gain momentum in the third quarter and were forced to punt. With three minutes left in the quarter, Smith rushed for 12 yards to get the Lions to the Tigers’ 46. Lions Running back Dejuan Beal caught a 14-yard pass at the Tigers’ 25. Gross caught an 11-yard pass at the 14-yard line. Smith then ran for four yards to pad the Lions lead 28-14 at the end of the third quarter.

The Tigers receive the kickoff at their 42. Tigers tight end Kip Williams caught a 9-yard pass to bring the Tigers at the Lions’ 44. On a critical fourth and 10 at the Lions’ 44, Tigers wide receiver JaQualen Brown dropped a 40-yard pass at the Lions’ 4-yard line. The Tigers turned the ball over on downs.

“They made it 21-14. We had a chance to go down and score and match it, but we dropped the ball and those things happen,” Norton said. “We had our opportunities. We just didn’t take advantage of them”

The Lions converted quickly on another touchdown. Gross caught a 14-yard pass to bring the Lions to the Tigers 22. Several plays later, Beal punched in a 7-yard touchdown making the score 34-17.

“You know, coming out here, being tied at the half, the kids had to make some adjustments to get some things going and they turned it around,” Lions head football coach Ricklan Holmes said. “They got it going, and then we put up some big numbers for some big points. It had to do with our quarterback settling down instead of getting out of control and making things happen.”

The Tigers showed a little spark early in the fourth quarter. Hampton caught a 18-yard pass, which brought the Tigers to their 44. Pearson ran the ball to get the Tigers to the Lions 48. Hampton then caught a 17-yard pass, bringing the Tigers to the Lions’ 21. A facemask penalty got the Tigers 10 extra yards to get the Tigers to the Lions’ 11. Williams then hauled in an 11 yard touchdown pass from Pearson to cut the Lions’ lead 34-21.

“It felt good [to score] even though we we’re down,” Williams said. “It was just one of those things that you get to go out and do something that goes in the memory book.”

The Lions got the ball at the 50 after a failed onside kickoff attempt. Smith then exploded on the left side of the field on a keeper for 31 yards. Smith ran again for 18 yards midway through the quarter to put Lions up 41-20.

The Tigers got the ball on their 26. Pearson ran 23 yards on a busted pass play to the Tigers’ 48. The Lions’ defensive lineman Decorian Blaylock then deflected and intercepted Pearson’ pass at the Tigers’ 45 and ran to the Lions’ 17. With three minutes left in the game, Lions wide receiver Ke’Andre Street hauled in a 6-yard touchdown, which puts the game away from the Tigers’ reach with a score of 48-21.

“We came out in the third and [the Lions] made a couple of plays,” Norton said. “The simple deal is that quarterback. [Bryson Smith] is a great player and we couldn’t keep him contained, and we couldn’t get off the field on third down.”

The Tigers concluded their season with an 8-3 record and as one of the three district champions along with the Longview Lobos and Marshall Mavericks. John Tyler has won their third consecutive game against Texas High in the playoffs and will face Mansfield Lake Ridge in the next round.

“It hit me hard pretty fast before anybody else really,” Williams said. “I’ve never cried in front of anybody before, but you can’t help it but shed at least one tear when you walk off the field one last time, probably for the last time in your whole life.”