Students stick to protocol as Cujo nears state title
When John Tyler High School students board the bus to Midlothian today for their next playoff game, there is a certain protocol to be followed.
The band, Brigadettes, Lion Guard and cheerleaders will board the exact same buses they have the past few weeks. Each person will sit in the same seat.
And some students will go so far as to take the same pillows and the same covers.
Why? Because the Lions don't want to mess with success.
And if it's worked the past few weeks, they want it to work tonight.
Today, John Tyler heads to the Class 4A Division I State Semifinal.
The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. in Midlothian ISD's Multi-Purpose Complex and the Tyler team will face Denton Guyer.
"At this time, it's a joyous moment for us, for the school, for the administration," John Tyler senior and Student Council President CeRon Ford, 17, said.
Ford, who is also a Lion Guard captain, said these aren't just football players out on the field, but friends, relatives and classmates. And he and his fellow students are ready to see them go all the way.
Ford and several of his peers gathered in a John Tyler conference room Thursday to talk about what this game and this year's playoff run means to the school community.
"It feels as if you're playing in the game with the boys," junior Jillian Kegler, 17, a varsity cheerleader, said.
Each Friday the entire school gathers in the gym for a pep rally. Senior Briana Callier, 17, a varsity cheer captain, said she and her fellow cheerleaders take seriously their role to keep everybody motivated and spirits high.
Certain actions have become, to some degree, rituals for the John Tyler students. For the football team, one of those is dying their hair or at least portions of it blond.
Ford said the students always pray before they leave for games. Drum major Ja-vonte Johnson, 17, a senior, said the band gathers in the band hall and hums the school song while somebody prays.
And one custom involves Robert E. Lee High School.
Theodore Timms, associate principal of John Tyler's Freshman Academy, said the past four Fridays, Lee Principal Gary Brown has brought over a banner signed by students and staff to wish the team well.
Timms said they already called to make sure a banner would be coming today. And it is, Timms said.
Outside the campus, JT spirit is alive and well. Tyler resident Thorndike Lewis long has been a John Tyler supporter.
Lewis, 71, is a retired TISD educator who once served as a John Tyler assistant principal. He said he allows the football team and cheerleaders to have fundraisers, such as car washes and garage-type sales at his T&T Lewis Station on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He also sells tickets for the games as well.
"I just do it to help them because I have a passion and love for the school and for the kids that are being educated," said Lewis, whose two daughters went to JT.
As the team goes deep into the playoffs, it brings pride to the community, he said. And he is looking for a victory tonight.
"If you don't think it, it won't happen," Lewis said. "Our purpose is to be able to bring some more notoriety to the city of Tyler and to bring home a state championship."
Marcus L. Jeter, 39, a Tyler business owner, sells John Tyler flags and scarves, something he started this year. During games, he throws them into the stands when John Tyler makes a touchdown, he said.
"This is my first time doing it, and (I'm) just doing it to excite the people here," he said.
TISD athletic director Rod Kaspar said it's been hectic working out the logistics leading up to the game, but it's a good hectic.
"I'm excited like everybody else is because we're back to where we were last year," he said.
Kaspar said the team is talented, focused and ready to win this game so they can get to the state championship.
"We're one of four teams left in 4A Division I, so we're not going to get an easy game," he said. "We're going to have to go out and play from start to finish."