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John Tyler secondary has opposing QBs seeing blue By Harold Wilson

November 28, 2010
John Tyler Football

John Tyler's secondary ranked second to few, if any, during the regular season.

The Lions saw passes coming their way just fine, displaying 20-20 type vision. After all, JT picked off 20 passes the first 10 games.

The Lions intercepted one pass or more in nine of the 10 games, two or more in seven, and four in two different contests. JT held five teams under 100 yards passing, while only one team completed more than 50 percent of its passes versus the Lions.

Five seniors comprise the rotation in the defensive backfield: cornerbacks Rickey Beasley, L'Rae McGee and Robert Wheeler, and safeties Chris Hackett (pictured above) and Triston Wade.

Hackett and Wade share the team lead with six interceptions each.

"We all try to compete with the picks, see who comes out with the most," said Wade, who returned an interception 29 yards in last week's victory over Jacksonville. "The line's putting pressure on the quarterback, and we (stay) around the ball."

Hackett, committed to TCU, earned the Fox Sports Southwest Right Guard Total Defense Class 4A award as Week 9 player of the week after forcing a pair of fumbles and intercepting a pass. He snagged two more interceptions in last week's 20-point win over Jacksonville, which gave JT the district title outright.

No team topped 17 points against JT during the regular season, with the secondary allowing just seven passing TDs.

"It felt like ours. We didn't have to share it," said Hackett, who mans the strong safety position, and also averages close to 15 yards per punt return. "We have a goal - to try to keep people under 18 points. It starts in practice - we try to go as hard as possible and it leads into the game."

While the safeties see the most fruits from the defense's labor, the cornerbacks cause the havoc leading to it, along with a defensive line unit heavily responsible for 17 sacks.

"If we jam up the No. 1 receiver, it gives them only one read and leaves them open for a lot of opportunities to catch a pick," said Wheeler, who has intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble, and is fourth on the team in tackles. "Our defensive line is amazing - we have Tank (Eric Davis) coming off the edge. And a person that really doesn't get a lot of credit is Keland Gipson - he takes double teams and everything. He's a good player down there (along with) Jarod Haggerty."

Wheeler usually goes isolation style on one edge, leaving Beasley and McGee to split the duties on the other side. McGee missed the first five games with a broken pinkie, but made his mark against Marshall, forcing a fumble returned 22 yards by Wade for a TD.

Like Wheeler, McGee credited his help for making his job easier.

"Just knowing they're behind me - I know I won't get beat deep," McGee said of JT's secondary duo. "It's good knowing they're back there."

Beasley brings another physical presence to a defense where three of the top six tacklers play in the secondary.

"Basically (we're) just a swarm defense - head hunters," Beasley said. "It's been a lot of great DBs that's come through JT so we try to keep this tradition going."

With the third season set to begin with Friday's Class 4A Division I bi-district playoff game at Texas High in Texarkana, JT plans to treat it with urgency.

"We know if we lose it's our last game," said Hackett, who has also forced three fumbles on the season. "We're not taking anybody lightly."

Texas High's offense poses a test with the likes of senior running back Kody Sutton (1,638 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback Levi Saxby (1,549 yards, 18 TDs, 3 INTs) leading the way.

But to pass the ultimate test five more weeks away, JT knows it needs to stop the pass, as well as the run.

"The running back, he's very hard to tackle so the secondary's going to have to help on the running game," Wheeler said. "We're trying to win it all. I'm not trying to have that feeling the seniors had last year - being so close."

LIONS' TALES: John Tyler will hold a community pep rally on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the practice field. Tickets to Friday's game can be purchased on the John Tyler campus, and at the TISD Athletic Office, T&T Lewis Texaco and Tyler Athletics through Thursday. Pre-sale tickets cost $4 for students, and $7 for general admission, with all tickets at the gate running $8. Texas High (6-4) finished third in District 13-4A with a 4-2 mark behind Sherman and Sulphur Springs. The JT-Texas High winner moves on to area to face either Lancaster (7-3) or Pflugerville Connally (9-1).

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