John Tyler wide receivers making some noise By Harold Wilson
November 28, 2010John Tyler Football
John Tyler's wide receiver corps caught on rather quickly.
The same unit which opened the year with 33 yards receiving now rates as a team strength, needing only 226 yards to set a single-season school record.
With four sophomores among the bunch, JT (10-1) treks into the area round at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Pflugerville Connally (10-1) receiving notice for its efforts - 1,625 yards receiving to date.
All seven rotation players posted seven catches or more through 11 games, with six scoring thus far, and five going over the century mark yardage-wise.
The group consists of seniors Ben Gordon and Jaylon Thorn, junior Devonte Haggerty, and the sophomore quartet of Darion Flowers, Fred Ross, Greg Ward and DeQuante Woods.
Former Lions star quarterback Antoine Bush, in his first year as an assistant, directs the inside receivers, with longtime JT coach Michael Johnson concentrating on the outside targets.
"They're close, coachable and willing to go out and do their best," said Antoine Bush, the older brother of Lions senior quarterback David Bush. "(Their depth) is a credit to them coming to practice each day working on their skills. You never know who's going to make a play. They all prepare themselves for when that time comes."
The Lions logged their second 200-yard receiving game last week.
Ward went into the triple-digit department for the first time with seven caches for 107 yards. Ward (5-10, 140) tops the team with 38 receptions for 474 yards and four TDs after playing quarterback as a freshman and during the spring and summer.
"I talked to last year's quarterback Jeremy Johnson and he told me to calm down and relax," said Ward, who works from the Z position out wide. "As soon as I stepped on the field everything was different, people were faster. I had to bring my ‘A' game and depend on the linemen, quarterback and the other receivers"
Haggerty hauled in a TD pass last week, his ninth total of the season. Haggerty (6-0, 170) ranks fourth on the team in rushing yards (293) and TDs (seven), and second in receptions (19) and receiving yards (304).
"We've seen how many points we can put up," said Haggerty, who scored three times in JT's 73-point explosion against Pine Tree earlier in the season. "Saturday we're looking to play all four quarters. They made it to the second round, so obviously they must be good. We're expecting a tough game."
Flowers (6-0, 165) pulled in a 7-yard TD on fourth-and-goal for the game-clincher late in the fourth quarter last week.
"I never thought it would happen like that," said Flowers, who along with Thorn lines up outside at the X. "I was the right person in the right spot at the right time."
Ross (6-1, 180) reeled in three receptions for 26 yards against Texas High, after making a mark in his first regular season with two rushing TDs and another receiving.
"Everything's much faster so we've had to depend on each other," said Ross, a slot receiver along with Gordon. "Every practice we try to go out and get better."
Woods (5-10, 175) averages 7.3 yards per rush and caught a TD pass earlier in the season.
"(My confidence) has grown a lot," said Woods, who plays the A position inside along with Haggerty. "Every game we just get better and better, and come together (more) as a team."
Thorn (5-11, 160) took his turn in the spotlight against Nacogdoches with three receptions for 73 yards, including a season-long 57-yard TD grab.
"I feel like since we spread it out so much, once you get it you're even hungrier," said Thorn, who caught two passes for 20 yards in last week's bi-district win over Texas High. "It makes us stronger since everyone's not guaranteed to get the ball each play."
Gordon (5-11, 200) gives the Lions a much-needed leadership voice after playing on last year's state quarterfinalist 5A squad, along with Thorn. JT graduated a 1,000-yard receiver, and lost two other starters while the other regular, David Bush, moved to quarterback.
"I knew we were losing a lot of talent, but I knew we had some (more) coming this season," said Gordon, who leads the team in yards per catch at 17.9. "We're going to keep working hard to get to where we're trying to get. We're going to have to play physical. It's a playoff game and nothing comes easy."
LIONS' TALES: John Tyler locked up its 12th 10-win season last week, joining previous teams in 1930, 1938, 1955, 1973, 1978, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2009. Connally clinched its third 10-win season in a seven-year span with a victory over Lancaster last week. Connally, a part of the Pflugerville ISD, although located in the Austin city limits, opened in 1996. Connally advanced to the 2004 Class 4A Division II state semifinals, and to the state quarterfinals the next season. Connally competed in Class 5A for two seasons in 2008 and 2009 before returning to 4A. ... Tickets to Saturday's JT-Connally game, scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. start at Waco ISD Stadium, can be purchased until noon today on the JT campus (students and faculty only) and until 1:30 p.m. at the TISD Athletic Office. Tickets cost $4 for students, $6 for general admission and $7 at the gate.