UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- Seventeen years ago, John Tyler (Tyler, Texas) became a nationally-recognized high school football team, and “Cujo” became a nationally-known nickname.
In one of the greatest -- and most unpredictable -- finishes in Texas high school playoff history, John Tyler defeated Plano East, 48-44, in a Class 5A Division II regional semifinal. Cujo went on to win the state championship. The game’s finish was so popular, it not only was shown on ESPN2, but it also won the 1995 Showstopper of the Year ESPY Award.
This year’s Cujo team, a Class 4A team, may not have had the dramatics the 1994 team, but it definitely has the tools to follow in the footsteps by winning a state championship. John Tyler routed Sherman (Texas), 45-21, last Friday to advance to the 4A Division I state semifinals.
Here are five John Tyler players -- in alphabetical order -- to keep an eye on Friday, as the Lions face Midway (Waco, Texas) for the right to play for a state title next week.
QB Greg Ward, Jr.
Ward put on an outstanding performance, completing 25-of-26 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound signal-caller completed his first 20 passes and was 17-of-17 in the first half. Ward has passed for more than 3,500 yards and 32 touchdowns with only five interceptions this season. He also has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, making him a legitimate dual-threat quarterback. Ward has early looks from Texas, TCU, SMU and Oregon.
WR Fred Ross, Jr.
Ross, a big target at 6-1 and 185 pounds, has been a stud all year, but he really put his name on the map against a Sherman team that features three-star cornerback and Baylor commit Ryan Reid. With Reid defending him most of the night, Ross caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, and he also scored a rushing touchdown against Sherman. Ross has 1,250 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. He is six receptions away from 100 on the season. Texas, Arkansas, Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State are among the schools interested.
DE Eric Davis, Sr.
On a team loaded with talented 2013 players, Davis -- in addition to being a BCS recruit -- is a senior leader. A shade under 6-3 and 240 pounds, Davis sacrifices himself for the good of the team, playing more at defensive tackle than his natural defensive end position. His quickness, agility and overall football IQ made him a highly-touted college recruit. Davis originally verbally committed to Texas A&M in February, but he switched his commitment to Oklahoma State in September.
LB Richard Gipson, Jr.
Gipson (6-1, 195 pounds) was nonexistent in the first half against Sherman, but there may not have been a more dominant defensive player at SMU in the second half. Gipson finished with three game-changing sacks, all of which led to John Tyler’s 24 unanswered second-half points. Gipson has 114 tackles on the year, and he is emerging into a dependable playmaker and college recruit.
DE Tyus Bowser, Jr.
At 6-1 and 210 pounds, Bowser may be slightly undersized as a defensive end. In contrast, he may be the perfect size for a college linebacker. Bowser showed his ability to get to the ball and make plays against Sherman. He also lined up as a Wildcat quarterback in goal-line situations, scoring a second-quarter touchdown and adding a 2-point conversion. Bowser is getting looks from Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Oregon.