MIDLOTHIAN — With 6:51 left in Friday night’s Class 4A Division I state semifinal, Guyer led Tyler John Tyler by 19 points and the game seemingly had been decided.
Some of the John Tyler fans vacated the packed visitors’ sideline and headed for the exits at Multi-Purpose Stadium. The Georgetown coaches scouting their potential opponents stacked their papers and left the press box.
Those who left early missed the end of a game that surely will go down as one of the best Texas high school football games to be played. The emotion on the field after the game said it all, the noise from the Guyer stands emphasizing the point.
Guyer defeated John Tyler 57-53 to advance to the 4A Division I championship game against Georgetown or Leander Rouse.
In the final 6:51, the Lions (13-2) made an incredible comeback, led briefly after scoring 22 straight points in 74 seconds and were thwarted at the end by Guyer’s rushing attack.
“We worked so hard for this,” Guyer senior linebacker Connor Allen said. “Four years. We worked way too much to have it taken away like that. We pulled it together.”
It all almost unraveled majestically in a whirlwind of offense that spanned 170 seconds.
John Tyler scored four of five touchdowns, capped by a 1-yard TD run by senior Tyus Bowser with 3:44 left, giving John Tyler its first lead of the game.
The Lions reeled off two successful onside kicks and turned those recoveries into touchdowns, almost scoring as soon as they got the ball. Guyer (13-2) resembled a fighter overwhelmed by a flurry of punches it never saw coming, a team trying to pick itself up off the canvas and survive until the bell finally rung.
The Guyer crowd that had roared ferociously all night and released a plume of powder into the gusty south winds earlier was now stunned and quiet. The Lions were on the verge of the unthinkable.
“It didn’t feel hopeless,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “It just felt like we had to get the ball. We were just fighting. It wasn’t over. They had a one-score lead. We had to get the ball back. I can’t believe they didn’t onside kick again. If it was me, I would have onside-kicked it.”
The build-up throughout the week added to the game’s tension, with Lions coach Ricklan Holmes loosely giving his opinions on Twitter all week, making Friday night’s game feel like a mesh of a prizefight and a classic Texas high school football game.
“It’s been the most hype we’ve had yet,” Allen said. “They took some personal shots at us and our character. We’re a good ballclub. We’re better than that. They shouldn’t be talking like that about a group like us.”
All of that emotion finally let loose with 1:14 left in the game. The crowd stood in unison and watched as Guyer senior running back Richard Whitaker sprinted up the middle and cut to his left and into the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown.
A Wildcat jumped up and down in the middle of the field, faced the John Tyler sideline and waved his arms across his body, wishing the Lions farewell.
John Tyler was sent packing for good when Wildcats senior linebacker Terence Belton leaped up and intercepted senior quarterback Greg Ward.
Guyer’s stands erupted once again. The visiting sideline fell still.
“I had veins popping out of my head,” Guyer receiver Ellis Jefferson said. “I was really excited. I was too excited. I grabbed my helmet and I knew we were about to win the game.”
One John Tyler player was spread out on his stomach, face down on the field. One of his teammates tried to peel him off the turf, but his efforts were in vain.
On the last drive, as Guyer quarterback Jerrod Heard — who carried his team with a school-record 318 rushing yards — took a snap inside the John Tyler 5-yard line, the clock expired and Guyer fans disobeyed orders and jumped the railing to pour onto the field.
As Jefferson was jumping all over the field, John Tyler senior kicker Porfirio Benitez kneeled on the field, looking into the tunnel as a teammate helped him to his feet. They joined the rest of the Lions as they walked off with their school song playing at the other end of the field.
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is email@example.com.