The '94 John Tyler Lions remain legendary in Texas - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

The '94 John Tyler Lions remain legendary in Texas

Former JT Running Back Jessie Taylor Former JT Running Back Jessie Taylor
With a perfect 16 and 0 record, The 1994 John Tyler Lions were stars in the 'Rose City.'

"I felt like Emmitt Smith playing for the Cowboys," said former John Tyler running back Jessie Taylor.

"The Dallas Cowboys won that year too," said former John Tyler tight end Ken Austin. "And people thought I played for the Cowboys when I wore the (championship) ring."

Those state championship rings nearly slipped away on a wild night at Texas Stadium in the 5A Division II Regional Playoff.  Leading by 24 points with less than 3 minutes to play, the Lions blew a 24 point lead to Plano East. It's been called the greatest game ever played.  The Lion s don't really see it that way.

"I hated it," said former John Tyler player and current head coach Ricklan Holmes.  "If you look at that game from the beginning to where the excitement came in, we were dominating that game. We let them back in the game."

Austin recalls the starters taking off their pads early in the game.

"Coach turned around and told everyone, 'Put your pads back on.'" said Austin.  "'We have to play this game.'"

"I thought we were on our way home crying on the bus," said Taylor.  "I was ready to find a seat and start crying because that's what I thought was coming next."

The only tears, would be tears of joy. Roderick Dunn's kickoff return for touchdown would win the game as time expired.

"When I crossed the end zone line he (Dunn) passed me up," said Taylor.  "When he passed me up I realized it was real. I took my helmet off and I threw it across to Plano East. I said I'm going to give them something take back home with them. For anything to happen like that it was God sending a message it was time for John Tyler to win another state championship. After that game I had no doubt we were going all the way."

No more miracles were needed on the way to state.  John Tyler followed with a 27-7 win over Lake Highlands.

The Lions thumped Arlington in the semifinals 45-20.

Cujo closed on the incredible run with a 35 to 24 win over Austin Westlake in the state championship game.

"We had everyone from Tyler was there," said Taylor.  "Everybody came to see us play. To capitalize all that, the first touchdown in the state championship game, I scored the first touchdown."

"That whole year was about guys doing what they needed to do to get the job done," said Holmes.

20 years after winning state as a player, Holmes is the head coach at John Tyler., hoping to lead Cujo to another state championship.

"I've been on both ends of the spectrum and I talk to them and let them know, I know what it takes to get there," said Holmes.

"It would do me proud for them to do it (win state)," said Taylor.  "So they could stop talking about us and talk about somebody else. I'm Cujo all the way, never quit, never die. It's going to make me feel like the way I felt when we won."

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