Are you ready for this week's Friday Night Faceoff?
Each week, WFAA.com brings you live coverage of a top high school football matchup in the DFW area. Follow along with high schools contributor Reece Kelley Graham (@ReeceKelleyG) as he provides updates on the teams throughout the week, plus live coverage on social media and the postgame recap.
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Week 4's matchup: Tyler John Tyler Lions at Rockwall Yellow Jackets
Who: Tyler John Tyler Lions (2-1, 0-0 District 11-6A) at Rockwall Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-0 District 11-6A)
Where: Rockwall's Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium – 7:30 p.m.
Our first Friday Night Faceoff of district play takes us to Rockwall for a game that could go a long way in determining the champions of 11-6A. John Tyler and Rockwall, two of the more underrated teams in the class and the favorites in the district, will clash for an early lead in the standings. Boasted by an aerial circus on either side, talented quarterbacks and receivers should make for a fun, can't miss night of scoring. For the Yellow Jackets, this game will be about showing the district they mean business despite a 1-2 start to quality opponents. For the Lions, it'll be about avenging last week's disappointing loss to Lufkin and last season's one-point loss to Rockwall at home.
Here's what you need to know about the Rockwall Yellow Jackets
Go big, or go home. That's what Rockwall's staff must have been thinking when putting together the Jackets' non-district schedule two years ago.
The Yellow Jackets scheduled home-and homes to begin the year against Highland Park, Rowlett, and Southlake Carroll, none of whom are pushovers by any stretch. The Jackets lost the first leg of all three series.
And they haven't fared much better this season.
With the exception of their opener against the Scots, that is, who won a 5A state title last year. The Jackets trailed late but went on to recover an onside kick, eventually winning the game 53-49.
Upsetting Highland Park at home was one thing, but pulling off another big win the following week In Rowlett proved to be too much. And this time, it was the Jackets giving up the lead.
Rockwall entered the locker room up a touchdown, but allowed Rowlett three scores in the third, enough for the Eagles to hold on for the win, 48-41. Ironically, an easy pick six surrendered by the Jackets in the first quarter made the difference.
Winning in Southlake wasn't much easier, and the Jackets fell again 52-38.
To the Rockwall fans reading this, I'm sorry – It's been a rough three weeks and I'm not trying to pile on.
But here's my point: The Jackets are much, much better than their record suggests and are going to be right there at the end for the district crown.
And it's not a "the Jackets look better than they do on paper" type of deal either, because actually, Rockwall looks pretty made decent on paper too. It's just the record that's deceiving. Considering Rockwall's strength of schedule so far, all is forgiven.
These guys can score. And you don't need to look much farther than Rockwall's opener to see that.
Junior QB Jacob Clark completed 75 percent of his passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns. Three backs, led by senior Lo'Yer Bailey, rushed for 90 more and two scores.
Through three games, this offense is averaging 491 yards of total offense and 44 points per game.
Think about that. I'll wait.
That's up there with some of the more prolific offenses in the area. Even Allen, who's ranked No. 1 in the state for another week, isn't producing like that.
The passing attack is obviously the bread and butter. Clark has passed 1021 yards in three games, good enough for seventh in the state in that area. Between the 20s, Rockwall's QB will be hurling passes. Luckily for him, he has a highly talented group of receivers at his disposal.
Jaxon Smith has already hauled in 30 catches for 519 yards and two TDs on the year. He averages 17 yards per catch. He's only a sophomore.
Senior Cameron Crayton is just ridiculous -- he caught five TD receptions against Highland Park and one against Southlake Carroll. He has reported offers from Bowling Green and Louisiana-Monroe... He might be the biggest sleeper at this position in recent memory, at least in DFW. Cole Talley has impressed early as well.
The biggest question for Rockwall is defense. The Jackets give up just shy of 500 yards per game – but again, don't jump to conclusions. This defense spends a lot of time on the field because the offense can score so quickly. Also, the caliber of teams Rockwall has faced might have something to do with inflation.
If Rockwall's defense can improve just a hair (or stinger, antennae... I don't know, something bee related), I predict the Jackets will win this district. The talent is already there, everything just needs to come together.
Vanderbilt commit Alston Orji is an absolute beast at linebacker, flanked by Korrey Barron, a defensive end who's transitioned into a defensive back. Don't forget about Orji's brother Anfernee, a junior who looks to be just as dominant as big brother at linebacker and safety. Drew Gladney ain't too shabby either.
Arkansas State commit Triston Anderson is the highlight of the Jackets' secondary, recording 40 tackles and 17 pass break-ups last season.
The bottom line: Fortunately for the Jackets, they won't have to worry about defending an offense like Southlake Carroll this week – John Tyler can score, but won't be overwhelming. However, the Lions win games with defense, and if Rockwall's passing attack can't get the job done, the Jackets are going to have a bad time. If Clark, Smith and Crayton can put up big numbers again, they'll give Rockwall's defenders room to bend and not break. The passing game must be effective, as the ground game will be limited to short yardage situations. John Tyler plays elite linebackers too, including SMU commit Tre Allison, believed by many to be the single best defensive weapon in the district.
Rockwall's motto is, "Jacket Fight Never Dies." Forget the 1-2 start – this team can win 11-6A, and it starts this Friday.
Look out for our John Tyler preview coming Wednesday!
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