There aren’t many teams in the state capable of replacing top-notch Division I talent on a yearly basis. For the John Tyler Lions, that isn’t a problem.
Despite losing QB Bryson Smith to the University of Houston and graduating one of the top wide receivers in the state in Damion Miller, the Lions still find themselves among the best teams in the state.
Heading into Friday’s non-district showdown against the Lufkin Panthers, the Lions sport a perfect 2-0 record. John Tyler is the 12th-ranked team in the latest Associated Press poll and it was also the preseason No. 23 team in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
All those factors mean the Lions are sure to provide the Panthers with a big-time test when the teams continue their rivalry on Friday night.
“Any time you’re talking about John Tyler, they’re going to have big-time athletes,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said.
Taking the reins for the Lions is QB Devlen Woods. He was a receiver on last season’s team who caught five passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
He has filled in nicely at quarterback this season. Last week he threw for 147 yards on 8-of-15 passing with four touchdowns. Those three scores helped turn a 17-7 deficit into a 27-17 lead in a 27-23 victory.
Ke’Andre Street was the team’s leading receiver in that game with a pair of catches for 72 yards that included a 30-yard score.
Jaivon Williams also had a pair of touchdown receptions last week while Roderick Hawkins caught a touchdown pass.
However, John Tyler has done more of its damage on the ground this season with Cameron Grant being the top threat. He started the season with a 200-yard game in a 49-13 season-opening win over Plano West. In that game, John Tyler finished with more than 500 yards on the ground.
Last week, he ran for 88 yards against an Ennis defense that held the Lions to a total of 253 yards.
He is running behind a talented offensive line. Offensive tackle Chance Billington recently committed to play for SMU starting next season.
On the defensive side, John Tyler has been strong in the first two games. The Lions were dominant in the opening win over Plano West.
In last week’s game, John Tyler fell in a 17-7 hole in the final two minutes of the first half but didn’t allow another score until 20 seconds remained in the game.
Martrevious Allison is the leading returning playmaker for John Tyler after making 118 tackles last season.
On the defensive line, DeKalen Goodson and Tabias Marshall promise to be disruptive forces.
Tyus Grayson and Nick Thompson are a pair of playmakers in the secondary.
Lufkin will bring some momentum into this week’s game. Last week,
Nacogdoches had a pair of leads before Lufkin took control with 21 straight points.
That came after a season-opening 35-16 loss to Longview in a game Lufkin trailed by four points late in the third quarter.
“Whoever is on the other side, you need to play a full 48 minutes,” Quick said. “The key is coming to play every Friday night.”
Kickoff for Friday’s night’s game is set for 7:30.