John Tyler Offensive Line Moving Forward By Harold Wilson
November 28, 2010John Tyler Football
For a John Tyler football team halfway through the state playoffs, the finish line looks within sight, thanks to an offensive line finally healthy.
John Tyler's first-team unit all played for the first time in six games in last week's area-round playoff win over Pflugerville Connally. And the results reverted back to JT's dominance earlier in the season, when the Lions won their first six games by an average of 27 points.
The unit controlled the line all day, keeping Connally without a sack, something which last happened in a 73-6 win in Week 6 win over Pine Tree -- when all worked in the trenches together before the injury bug stung the group.
"They've come along, gelled and exceeded everyone's expectations," JT assistant coach Paul Frye said. "We'll keep riding them."
The revamped unit battled injuries most of district, and in the first week of the playoffs when center Chris Rodriguez went down in practice and missed the bi-district victory over Texas High.
Rodriguez returned last week as JT tallied 48 points, a season-high 486 total yards (353 rushing) and paved the way for quarterback David Bush to step off 225 yards.
"We have so many great backs and receivers, and (quarterback David) Bush. That makes us want to block harder," Rodriguez said. "We know we have the talent and that pushes us. We know if we do our job they're going to get their job done and they're going for a touchdown."
The starting unit features left tackle Alvaro Velasquez-Barrozo (6-3, 240, Sr.), left guard Jarren Gipson (5-10, 260, Jr.), Rodriguez (5-10, 301, Sr.), right guard Martin Perez (5-9, 225, Sr.) and right tackle Fred Smith (6-3, 350, Sr.). The o-line at times included Chris Mobley (5-10, 215, So.) at left guard and Tehron Brown (6-3, 230, Sr.) at right tackle.
Only Perez played a starting role on last year's 5A Division II state quarterfinalists. Nevertheless, the 2010 team averages 35 points and 360 yards, injuries and all.
"We're like a family," said Perez, a second-team all-district selection, who missed four games before returning for the playoffs. "We just have to do what we've been doing since two-a-days."
Gipson, one of three linemen under six-feet, started each of the first 12 games along with Smith, one of two 300-pounders on the unit.
"We're not the biggest, we're not the strongest," Gipson said. "But we work harder than anyone else on the field, every down every series, until the other team gives up."
But not blocks, size, or even yardage concerns the line, only taking care of their assignments.
"We're just blockers doing our job," said Velasquez. "We have to protect our quarterback."
The protection suffered somewhat after the Pine Tree game, with JT allowing just one sack in the first three district contests and 12 over the next five. Still, victory remained a constant.
"It stayed the same because we have great backups that can win, and they did what they were supposed to do," said Rodriguez, "We all can move around to different positions and that's helped a lot."
In perhaps JT's biggest win in district, Mobley manned the guard position for Perez as the Lions defeated Whitehouse in a game which ultimately decided the gold ball.
"I have a lot of mentors that have experience," Mobley said. "They can help me with anything I need."
In the same game, Brown came on for Velasquez.
"I always knew my name could be called at any time," said Brown, "so in practice I have to go hard every snap."
Smith summed up the group as a workmanlike unit, one set on going down in school history. JT owns an 11-game winning streak, the school's longest in 15 years.
"We're unselfish, and we live as a family and we always work together," said Smith, who leads the team with more than 50 pancake blocks on the season. "We came up during the summer to prove people wrong and you see what we're doing now. We're showing all of Texas we can do it."
Rodriguez remembers how last year ended, and hopes for a different script this go-round.
"Even though we didn't play with the starters last year we all hurt when we lost and we don't want to feel that again," Rodriguez added. "This is my family and I love these guys. We're (hoping) to get the job done and play next week."
LIONS TALES --
John Tyler (11-1) will face Carrollton Newman Smith (7-5) in a Class 4A Division I regional football playoff game on Saturday at Waco ISD Stadium. Kickoff is 2 p.m. Danny Long, Tyler ISD athletic director, said there will be no pre-sale tickets on Friday for the JT-Newman Smith game.
JT and the Tyler ISD will be on Thanksgiving break.
All tickets must be purchased at the gate. Tickets will cost $4 for students and $6 for adults. JT will be the home team. Gates are scheduled to open at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The winner of the JT-Newman Smith game will face either West Mesquite or Wylie next week in the quarterfinals.