Much-Anticipated Matchup Between JT, Whitehouse Goes Down Tonight By HAROLD WILSON
October 15, 2010John Tyler Football
While the head coaches pumped the game as another in a line of big ones, many on the outside circled tonight's date before the season even started.
Tradition-rich John Tyler and upstart Whitehouse clash for the first time in history, with the District 14-4A lead and Smith County bragging rights on the line, tonight at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
The much-anticipated contest, featuring arguably the area's top offense in Whitehouse, versus possibly the best defense in all of East Texas in John Tyler, gets top billing as ETFinalScore.com Game of the Week.
The Lions (5-1, 3-0 in 14-4A) look to continue their mastery over Class 4A opponents after outscoring their first district foes 157-23.
"From our standpoint, it's another district game," said JT head coach Dereck Rush, whose team won a share of the 11-5A title last year. "Any district game we have to be excited because we have to play it in order to reach our goal of being district champions."
The Wildcats (5-1, 3-0) want to win to signal their rise among the elite.
The Wildcats won 10 games in 2008, made the playoffs with a losing record last year, and lost their one game in non-district by one point to Sulphur Springs, a recent 4A Division II state champion.
"It's big -- two undefeated district teams playing each other," Whitehouse head coach Randy McFarlin said. "I think we match up well. They're talented and we've got some talent also. I think it will be a great game."
Whitehouse dominated its first three district opponents as well, winning by a combined score of 125-47, an average victory of 26 points. But while Whitehouse played against one 3A in non-district, JT tuned up playing three top-tier programs in the largest classification, that after advancing to the Class 5A state quarterfinals last year.
"I don't know about it being a signature game or such," McFarlin said. "We've had lots of big games. I don't know if it's any different. We go in hoping to execute and win."
JT understands it comes in with a bull's-eye on its chest. The Lions lit up the scoreboard in last week's 73-6 win over Pine Tree, establishing a school record for points.
"We talked to our team about that when we realized we'd drop to 4A, how teams would be out to knock you down," Rush said. "Our kids have stayed focused and realize they are going to get everyone's 'A' game. We can't afford to relax and assume we'll beat anybody just because we're John Tyler. They understand we can be beat."
JT's first-team defense has allowed only two TDs in the five games since a season-opening three-point loss to 11th-ranked Lufkin (Class 5A), one of those coming on a 12-yard drive after a blocked punt. JT's stout secondary depends on the quartet of FS Triston Wade (38 tackles, eight passes defended, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries) and SS Chris Hackett (29 tackles, nine passes defended, three INTs) back deep, and CB Robert Wheeler (38 tackles, four passes defended, one INT, one fumble recovery) and CB Rickey Beasley (11 tackles) on the edges.
The Lion stop unit expects perhaps their biggest test yet going against a Whitehouse team averaging a district-high 40 points per game.
The Wildcat offense features a trio of standouts in QB Hunter Taylor, who ranks first in the district with 1,784 passing yards and 22 TDs; WR Trey Metoyer, the East Texas leader in the three main receiver categories of catches (54), yards (857) and TDs (14); and the player ranked right behind in each department in WR Jonathan Aldridge (37-608-7 TDs).
Metoyer, an Oklahoma commit, and the nation's second-ranked receiver prospect according to one service, already owns an 18-catch game and caught a staggering five TD passes in the first half of last week's 48-19 win over Nacogdoches. Aldridge surpassed the 200-yard mark earlier in district.
"They're probably one of the best offenses we'll face this year," Rush said. "Their quarterback has a strong arm. They have two or three outstanding receivers that can catch ball and put a bind on the defense. We'll have to pass-protect and block well. Offensively they're well coached and do a good job."
Besides the Lions stout defense, McFarlin knows one other thing capable of slowing down the Wildcats: turnovers.
Whitehouse fumbled the ball six times last week. Meanwhile, JT recovered three fumbles versus Pine Tree, and has 22 takeaways to its credit already.
"When you have two good football teams, usually the team that commits the fewest turnovers will win," McFarlin said. "It's going to be exciting. It'll be fun."