Football: John Tyler rallies past Frisco in regional semifinals
ALLEN — Facing the No. 2 Class 4A team in the state, Frisco’s football team managed to gain 300 yards on the ground, held an 11-point lead in the second quarter and forced John Tyler quarterback Greg Ward into his first interception of the season.
It still wasn’t enough.
The Raccoons (9-4) gave a spirited effort but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the athleticism of the Lions (12-1), falling in the third round of the Division I playoffs, 45-28.
“John Tyler was moving the ball in the first half when they had it but they were able to lengthen their possessions in the second half,” said Vance Gibson, Frisco head coach. “They scored and closed the game well and we weren’t able to match them. We had our opportunities though and against those guys if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to get beat.”
Trailing by three late in the fourth quarter, Frisco forced a turnover on downs and took over at its own 11-yard line with a chance to tie or take the lead. However, just as they did on the previous possession when the Raccoons had an opportunity to draw even, the Lions defense rose up and forced a turnover on downs of their own when a pass by Jake Battaglia on fourth-and-5 sailed high.
John Tyler took over at the Frisco 16-yard line and put the nail in the coffin with an 8-yard touchdown run by DeQuante Woods — who also tacked on a 21-yard score in the last minute for the final margin.
Frisco was seeking its deepest postseason run since 1973 and falls one round short of a Region I Finals showdown against cross-town foe Frisco Centennial, which won Friday night against Red Oak, 40-14.
“We were picked anywhere from fourth to sixth in our district in the preseason polls,” Gibson said. “And these kids end up vying for the district title and went three rounds in the playoffs. They’re really an overachieving group and deserve any accolades they’re going to get.”
The Raccoons demonstrated their ability to move the ball on the ground against John Tyler from the jump, opening the contest with an 11-play (all rushing), 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a 4-yard plunge from Matt Nollman.
Frisco also had a 12-play touchdown drive in the second quarter to push their margin to 21-10, as well as a 17-play drive that ate up more than 8 minutes on the clock in the third quarter — also entirely consisting of runs — to bring the Raccoons within three at 31-28 with 10:42 remaining in the final quarter.
It was Frisco’s lone score in the second half however, as the Lions outscored the Raccoons, 28-7.
“They didn’t really do anything different defensively in the second half,” Gibson said. “They just made some stops. They’re a good football team and an athletic football team. You have to give them some credit for making the plays.”
Nollman finished with 94 yards and a touchdown, while Ben Cole had team-highs with 29 carries, 185 yards and two scores. Battaglia also had a 29-yard reception on a halfback pass to set up a score.
“We knew coming in we weren’t going to be passing a lot because they had great coverage,” Battaglia said. “We wanted to run the ball. Just like every game, our goal is to work the clock. When we get the first down and continue the drive, that’s what we’re looking for.”
While Frisco’s Drake Hardy came away with Ward’s first interception of the season, the senior still managed to complete 21-of-25 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns to go with 57 yards rushing and a pair of scores.
Darion Flowers hauled in seven grabs for 97 yards and a score, while Fred Ross chipped in four catches for 55 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown reception on the first possession of the second half to give the Lions their first lead.
A big momentum swing occurred late in the first half as well.
With Frisco leading, 21-10, the Raccoons moved into John Tyler territory but an interception by Terry Ausborne halted the drive. The Lions immediately took advantage and pulled to within four at the half, 21-17, following a 71-yard drive that consumed just 22 seconds.
DeQuante Woods also had a big game for the Lions. The versatile player had 35 yards rushing and two touchdowns, six receptions for 67 yards and had a part in a pair of key Frisco turnovers in the second half with a fumble recovery and interception.
“In the second half, when we were trying to get outside, they began getting out there and stopping it more and more,” Battaglia said. “So we tried to pass a little more but there coverage was very tough and we knew that it would be coming into the game.
“It was just a mental mistake on our part. We tried our best, but unfortunately we turned it over.”
Battaglia, just a junior, hopes Frisco can continue to build on this season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” he said. “The work in the offseason and this summer paid off tremendously. Coach preached three things: play hard, play smart and play together. Throughout the season, we did that. There wasn’t a game this year where we didn’t play with any of those traits. I couldn’t have asked for a better senior group. I’m going to miss them next year. But we’re going to come out strong next year. This season was tremendous, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”