By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
MESQUITE — Tyler John Tyler had too much firepower for Jesuit to keep pace in its Class 6A Region II area round game on Saturday.
The Lions scored on six their seven first-half possessions and cruised to a 69-21 victory at Mesquite Memorial Stadium, handing the Rangers a season-ending loss that abruptly halted an eight-game winning streak.
John Tyler quarterback Bryson Smith, who has verbally committed to Houston, was almost unstoppable, throwing for 269 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 161 yards four more scores.
“It just wasn’t our day,” said Jesuit head coach Brandon Hickman. “And hats off to Tyler John Tyler — that’s a great football team.”
The Rangers (8-4) were flagged for two personal fouls on the opening kickoff return, giving John Tyler a short field. Two plays later, Smith connected with Damion Miller, who has verbally committed to Texas, for an 18-yard completion. On second and goal, Cameron Grant scored on a 7-yard run, giving the Lions an early 7-0 first quarter lead.
Jesuit answered immediately. Using a balanced attack, the Rangers drove the ball 69 yards and tied the score when John Wunderlick took a handoff from Jacob Palisch and ran 26 yards for a touchdown.
That’s when Smith took over. With 6:37 left in the first quarter, he scored on a 22-yard quarterback draw to give John Tyler a lead it never relinquished.
Jesuit was forced to punt on its next possession, and Smith then guided the Lions on a 65-yard drive capped by his 15-yard run to give John Tyler a 21-7 lead with 2:28 left in the opening quarter.
The Lions (11-1) extended the lead to 42-7 in the second quarter, and with three seconds to go before halftime, intercepted a Palisch pass intended for Wunderlick. John Tyler attempted a 39-field goal as time expired, but the kick was blocked by Jesuit’s Jack Metz.
Momentum stayed with John Tyler at the start of the second half. After forcing another Jesuit turnover deep in Ranger territory, it took one play for Smith to rush for his fourth touchdown. He faked a dive up the middle and bootlegged 38 yards for the score and a 49-7 John Tyler lead.
Jesuit cut into the deficit at the 5:17 mark of the third quarter when Wunderlick scored his second touchdown on a 48-yard burst up the middle.
Wunderlick rushed for 100 yards on just nine carries, and became the first Jesuit player to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark since the Rangers joined the UIL in 2003. He and fellow senior Evan Jackson combined for 290-yards of total offense and all three of Jesuit’s touchdowns.
“This was a great group of seniors,” Hickman said. “They left a strong legacy and some large shoes to fill.”
After a John Tyler punt late in the third quarter, Jesuit capitalized when Palisch threw a touchdown strike to Jackson on a third-and-10 from the 15-yard line, cutting the deficit to 55-21.
Palisch, a senior headed to Stanford on a baseball scholarship, threw for 213 yards and a touchdown, and as a two-year starter for Jesuit, finished his career with just under 4,000 passing yards.
“It’s been a memorable season,” Hickman said. “I’m very proud of this team, and I told them to keep their heads up and be proud of their great season.”