District 14-4A Supremacy On Line Tonight When JT, Mavs Renew Rivalry By HAROLD WILSON
November 28, 2010John Tyler Football
MARSHALL -- With a playoff berth locked down, John Tyler still covets the all-important district football crown for its trophy case.
After taking over the top spot by itself, John Tyler puts its district lead on the line again tonight.
Making its first trip to Marshall in nine years, the Lions renew an old series with 14-4A supremacy still unsettled tonight at Maverick Stadium.
Only JT (6-1, 4-0 in 14-4A) remains untouched in district play. But Marshall (5-2, 3-1) can pull even, and create anywhere from a two to four-way tie for first with an upset win over the Lions.
"We're 4-0 and they're still in it. Anything can happen," JT head coach Dereck Rush said. "We have to stay focused and handle business. We're at the homestretch, three games left. We have to stay at a high tempo."
Marshall reclaimed its mojo after dropping to 4A in 2002, reaching the title game in 2004 and 2005 and just last year went three rounds deep. The Mavericks hold high hopes still for this season, including the same gold-ball aspirations as the Lions.
"We still want to compete for a district championship, which we have the opportunity to do," Marshall coach Thedrick Harris told the Marshall News Messenger.
The Lions look to remain unbeaten away from home, where they earlier became the first team to win at Longview in seven years. JT played five of its first seven contests, however, in Tyler, and winning at Marshall presents another challenge, where one website claims the Mavericks sport better than a 70 percent all-time winning percentage.
The Lions last visited Marshall in 2002, when the teams competed together in the 5A district before going separate ways with the Mavericks descent to 4A.
Marshall won for the second straight time last week on the road at Nacogdoches after starting district with a three-point loss to Jacksonville. JT increased its winning streak to six games with a victory over Whitehouse.
"Going into Marshall is going to be another hostile environment," added Rush, who joined the JT coaching staff in 2003 as an assistant before becoming head coach in 2007. "I'm pretty sure a lot of fans are rekindling the fire, telling the players about the old East Texas rivalry. Our kids have to understand it's going to be a dogfight for four quarters. They've got to be up for the challenge."
Two tough defenses expect to be on display, with JT leading the district in yards allowed per game (272.1) and Marshall right behind (285.4). Marshall matches JT possibly better than any other district team in running ability.
Both offenses feature firepower, with JT putting up more than 33 points per game, and Marshall more than 29 a game.
The teams share three common opponents. JT won by 14 over Longview, the same team Marshall lost to by 22. JT averaged 33-point wins over Hallsville and Nacogdoches, the same two teams Marshall bested by an average of nine points.
While Marshall reached the regional round last year, JT advanced to the state quarterfinals. The two topped most district preseason polls, in part because of rich history which saw each win a 5A state title during the 1990s -- Marshall in 1990 and JT in 1994.
"Marshall's probably the most athletic team -- as a whole -- we've faced in district so far," Rush said. "They've got a lot of speed on the field, a lot of athletes on both sides of the field. We have to play physical for four quarters in order to win."