WYLIE, Texas -- Coach Bill Howard insists the best thing about this particular Wylie team is the way it plays the full 48 minutes.
Good thing, too. Because the Pirates needed to go full out for every tick to win Friday’s 20-16 thriller over Tyler John Tyler before a near-capacity crowd at Wylie Stadium.
The Pirates (11-3) went 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:06 remaining, then stopped John Tyler's desperation attempt at an answer with an interception by Relus Harris on the game’s final play.
By winning the Region II championship of Class 4A Division I, the Pirates will advance to a state semifinal against Saturday’s Denton Ryan-Wichita Falls winner.
“We don’t quit,’’ Howard said. “We have great young men that are a pleasure to coach, and when they are on the field they give it everything they’ve got.’’
Jermaine Merdock’s 53-yard catch and run on a middle screen pass from quarterback Nico Ramirez set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Vincent Bryan for the winning points.
“I knew the pass was going to me, and I knew I had to make the play,’’ Merdock said. “I saw open field when I turned, and I got a great block.’’
Said Ramierz: “It was do or die on that last drive. We call it the ‘48 rule,’ fighting for the full 48 minutes.’’
Wylie needed some good fortune to have a chance at the end.
Things looked bleak when John Tyler’s Greg Ward appeared on the verge of scoring an insurance touchdown with just over five minutes left. But he fumbled the ball at the Wylie 1, and it went through the end zone for a touchback.
The Lions led, 16-13, at the time.
“I’ll have to look at the video to know for sure,’’ Howard said, “but somebody on our defense hit the ball and made a great play. That’s a perfect example of not giving up.’’
The Lions had the ball at the Wylie 47 when Ward hauled in a short pass from David Bush, broke a tackle and was close to ending the Pirates' season.
Preceding the fumble was a tipped Ramirez pass that turned into a diving interception by the Lions' Jaylon Thorn.
John Tyler fell behind for the first time, 13-9, on Ramirez’ 10-yard touchdown run on the second play of the fourth quarter. Wyle had to go only 23 yards following an unsuccessful Lions’ run out of punt formation from its own end zone.
The Lions went back in front on a 66-yard, 10-play drive that ended on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Bush to Ward.
Ramirez’ 29-yard touchdown pass to Logan Holster accounted for Wyle’s first points of the game midway through the third quarter, cutting the Lions’ lead to 9-7.
John Tyler’s defense set up the game’s first touchdown with a 24-yard interception return by Eric Davis to the Wylie 2 in the first minute of the second half.
Wylie, trailing 2-0 at halftime, started all three of its first-half possessions inside its 10, thanks to some excellent Lions punting.
The Pirates’ longest drive of the half, 86 yards in 19 plays, ended in a missed 25-yard field goal.
Bad field position eventually took its toll on the Pirates for the only points of the half.
Lions defensive end Tyus Bowser sacked Ramirez in the end zone for a safety midway through the second quarter.