I still try to absorb the ingredients which made the John Tyler-Plano East arguably the most memorable ever. I know I sound like a homer, but I promise I’m not channeling my inner Uncle Rico when I say that this game was one of the greatest football comebacks of all time. ALL TIME.
The extraordinary events, which displayed two days after Thanksgiving on Nov. 26, 1994, at Texas Stadium in Irving, earned national recognition after John Tyler defeated Plano East 48-44 in one of the most freakish blowout-turned-comeback-turned-runback endings ever seen in the history of high school football.
The more than 30,000 who attended the game and the thousands who later observed the climactic outcome via television widely consider the encounter to be one of – if not the – greatest games to ever be completed in a high school football spotlight.
Plano East’s rally over the final 3:03 – in which the Panthers scored four touchdowns, recovered three onside kicks and directed a 24-point deficit into a 44-41 lead with 24 seconds left – warranted the unordinary attention of its own. Then, when Plano East appeared to be moving on in the playoffs, John Tyler stamped legendary status onto the game by Roderick Dunn’s 97-yard kickoff return right down the Lion sideline, much to the consternation of the remaining Plano East supporters, as well as local announcers broadcasting the game for a Plano-Richardson television station.
After presenting clips of the contest in the following weeks, ESPN granted John Tyler-Plano East an ESPY honor for Showstopper of the Year in 1995.
ESPN ranked the game among its top 10 premature celebrations of all-time, due in part to Plano East broadcasters Eddy Clinton, Denny Garver and Mike Zoffuto’s pro-Panthers commentary. Now DVD’s of the game, titled “The Greatest High School Football Game of All Time.”
The announcers of the game minted memorable folksy jargon and expressions before-mentioned as “Good gosh almighty Joe Friday,” “Yal done missed the greatest comeback of all-time,” “Oh, no,” and “God bless those kids, I’m going to throw up,” the broadcasters added spice to an already flavorful outing.
By most reports, the JT-Plano East event stood the test of time.
“You hear about it all the time,” replied Wilson, who coached John Tyler from 1991-2001. “Folks find out you’re from Tyler and that’s the first thing they want they want to know.”
Before the first of many kickoffs, the Class 5A Region II semifinal showdown promised to be exciting with both teams coming in unbeaten, and Plano East rated No. 2 in the state and John Tyler No. 3. Before the groups clashed, Wilson said, “It’s a classic. You don’t get too many classic games. You’ve got two 12-0 teams coming from diverse regions. It’s got the makings of a great ballgame.”
For John Tyler, gameday started with a different Saturday pep rally that morning on the school’s practice field. Shortly afterward, John Tyler and its legions of supporters traveled westwards identified as the school which produced one of the state’s most notable teams ever in 1973, led by one of Texas’ topmost football legends, NFL Hall-of-Famer Earl Campbell.
Still, think I am an Uncle Rico about this game? Google Plano East and you’ll become a believer. The game was one of the greatest comebacks of all time.