The starting offense scored on EVERY possession they were in, and the Black Flag Defense shut down the Foxes, with the starters not giving up a single point during their time in the contest. The Black Flag may not have as much dominating talent as in recent years, but they have continued to improve every week, and have turned it up a notch in each of the last three games, and are peaking at the perfect time after two playoff contests. We talked with Defensive Coordinator Todd Barr after the impressive win and asked him about his unit’s improvements and fantastic outing on Friday night.
“No doubt, the last three weeks including the playoffs we’ve gotten better, we’ve taken some small steps. Last week we probably didn’t play as well as we could have and I think the kids felt bad about that and they had a great week of practice and they were determined, and tonight they came out and showed what three good days will do for you. We’re very happy, very excited for them.”
“We’re not the most talented that we have been, but just the trust factor of the guy beside you, the guy behind you, the love that we have for each other, and you can tell right now that’s showing right now and we’re starting to gel at the right time I believe.”
We asked Coach Barr if the fact the Buckeyes have had such close games the starters have had to play for the better part of almost all of the games was not a big factor in the Black Flag’s improvement each week.
“It’s definitely a big factor for us as far as getting the kids the reps we need to see. We’ve faced some great opponents this year, probably one of the toughest schedules that we’ve had, so it’s really benefitted our kids to play all the snaps and getting ready now for when we really have to. It’s a good thing.”
One big factor in the improvement over the last three weeks is that the coaches decided to go back to working more on blocking and tackling. We asked Coach Barr how big a factor that has been in the emergence of a dominating Black Flag Defense. “I’ll tell you what, this week was all about fundamentals, having a little physicality in us and getting after it, and we were just determined, you know. They were going to come out and try to run the ball and control the clock and our kids knew that, and that’s what we had to do to stop that, and that’s how we practiced and we were pretty successful tonight doing it so we’re very happy.”
We concluded our visit by asking how much better the Black Flag can get as the Bucks move deeper into the playoffs. “You know, I think we started gelling later than we normally have, so I still think there’s room for improvement. We can still take steps; we can still do the things that we need to do in order to get better, so I’m excited about that. We’re all excited about getting better. We can all take steps. It’s about us and not our opponent. The kids, they’ll do it.”
The Buckeyes won the coin toss and elected to receive to begin the game, and Poppy Brown and company wasted little time in setting the tone of the contest. After a return from the Gilmer 30 to the 45 by JaMareon Granville, Gilmer took just 40 seconds and 3 plays to move the 55 yards into the end zone. The score came on a 29-yard quarterback draw by Brown with 11:20 still left in the opening quarter. Adan Ibarra, coming back off an injury had his PAT attempt hit the left upright and fall back in front of the goal post, but Gilmer led 6-0.
The Black Flag allowed just 7 yards in three plays and forced a three-and-out. With the wind at his back, Hunter Aycock boomed a 68-yard punt that went into the end zone, and the Bux were back on the offensive again.
This possession took just one play to cover the 80 yards, and took just 17 seconds off the clock. The score was an 80-yard TD pass and run by Brown to Bran Webb with 8:49 left in the first quarter. Webb got the direct snap out of the swinging gate formation and ran into the end zone for the 2-point conversion, and Gilmer led 14-0.
The Black Flag came right back and forced another three-and-out, and after a 39-yard punt by Cullen Brown down to the Gilmer 37, Brown and his charges hit the field on offense again.
The Buckeyes moved the 63 yards in 6 plays and took 1:45 off the clock when Webb ran in from the 2 with 5:10 left in the quarter. Ibarra split the uprights on the PAT, and the lead raced out to 21-0.
The Foxes managed to pick up two first downs on their next possession, but on a fourth down play in the third series Payton Hammons was hit 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and Gilmer recovered at the Buckeye 42 on the last play of the quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Gilmer found the end zone again in just 1:12 on a 4-play, 58-yard drive. The score came on a 45-yard TD pass from Brown to Braydon Bates with 10:48 left in the first half. Ibarra’s kick was good once again, and the lead was 28-6, and everyone in the stadium knew the game was over except for the mere technicality of playing the remaining almost three quarter.
The Black Flag came swarming to the ball again on the next Caddo Mills possession, and on the third play of the possession, Tra Fluellen intercepted Cade Hayden at the Caddo Mills 40 and returned the pick to the 26. Just one play later, Gilmer was in the end zone again. It took just 22 seconds, and the score came on a 26-yard pass from Brown to Webb with 9:04 left in the half. After Ibarra’s point after kick, the score vaulted to 35-0.
Once again the Black Flag forced a three-and-out and after a 37-yard punt by Cullen Brown and a 9-yard return by Morgan Lusty, Gilmer set up at their 35 following a 15-yard personal foul assessment.
This time it took just 44 seconds and 3 plays for the Buckeyes to move the 65 yards for another TD. The score came on a 42-yard run by Webb with 5:20 left in the half. Ibarra’s extra point was good, and the lead extended to 42-0.
The Foxes managed one first down on their next possession, and following a 27-yard punt, Brown and his offensive unit hit the field at the Caddo Mills 49. Just 4 plays and 40 seconds later the Bucks were in the end zone again. The score came on a 12-yard pass from Brown to Qua Heath with 1:01 left in the half. After Ibarra’s PAT, the scoreboard ready 49-0 in favor of the Buckeyes.
The Foxes ran two plays on their next possession before the clock ran out and the teams headed to their respective locker rooms.
Things continued to get worse for Caddo Mills in the second half. They were forced into yet another three-and-out by the Black Flag, and following a 32-yard Cullen Brown punt, the Foxes were penalized 15 yards for a personal foul and the Bucks set up shop at the Caddo Mills 31. It took just 3 plays and 51 seconds before Gilmer found the end zone yet again. The score came on a 5-yard run by Larry Montgomery with 8:24 left in the third quarter. Ibarra connected on the extra point, and Gilmer led 56-0.
After another three-and-out by the Black Flag, Cade Camp came in to relieve Brown at quarterback, and he continued the offensive shots at the Foxes. He led a group of mostly second team players who looked very sharp into the end zone for what would be the final Buckeye score of the game. Camp led a 7-play, 36-yard drive that consumed 3:36 before Dylan Fuller capped off the possession with a 5-yard TD run with 1:47 left in the third quarter. Ibarra was true on the extra point once again, and the score moved to 63-0 in favor of the Buckeyes.
The starting unit of the Black Flag departed and the Foxes managed two scores against their replacements, but both scores came with the starting offense in for the Foxes. The first TD came with 5:04 left in the game on a 6-play, 80-yard drive that took 3:53. Hunter Aycock found the end zone from 36 yards out. Cullen Brown added the PAT, and the Foxes were on the board, but still trailing by a blowout score of 63-7.
As expected, they kicked onside and the ball bounced perfectly and Kaulin Stanger recovered for Caddo Mills at the Gilmer 48. This time the Foxes moved the distance in 2:51 seconds over 5 plays. The score came with 2:13 left in the game on a 12-yard run by Hammons. Cullen Brown was true on the extra point and the lead was cut to 63-14.
Another onside kick was recovered by Malik Williams. Camp came in and took a knee three times and the clock ran out.
We asked Coach Matt Turner his thoughts after the big win. “Our guys really played well. We came out and really executed. The effort was tremendous, and really, defense and kicking kind of set the tempo for that at the start of the game, and you know. I’m proud of the guys. I know how hard they’ve worked, and so it’s always good to see the fruits of your labor. Caddo Mills has a good team and Coach Sumrow does a good job and his staff. We just played really well tonight.”
We also asked his thoughts on the performance of the Black Flag Defense. “I was really proud of them, and we played a lot of guys on defense. I was just proud of the way we tackled and hit. We executed the plan and that’s always good to see. Coach Barr and his staff did a great job putting it together and the kids did a great job executing it all the way down to the last guys that were out there. I thought we had just a couple of missed tackles here and there or we might not have even given up a score, but we just want to play well, and the guys did.”
Coach Turner said he was proud of the way the team was coming along in the playoffs. “We felt like that we’ve gotten better every week. That was the goal and the goal, and these guys are tough, scrappy, sharp, heady guys. They’re getting better and that’s important because we’ve got some big games ahead and we’ve got another one next week, and we’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve had guys get hurt and other guys have to step up and all the things that normally happen in the season, but it’s helped us. I think we’ve grown a little bit from it and I think it’s something we can keep building on.”
We asked how much better the team could get. “Well, you never know. I always tell the guys that’s the beauty of every team. Every team is its own unique personality. There’s no two that are ever alike. There’s no way to know how good we’ll be. That’ll be written when it’s done. We’re not going to worry about what’s written, we’ve just got to worry about getting better, and if you get better, that’s all you can do, and there’s a tremendous satisfaction in that. Right now, we get another chance to get better.”
We ended our interview by asking Coach Turner his thoughts on Melissa, next week’s opponent. “(They are) Well-coached, they’ve got good players, so they are going to be a handful. We’ll prepare and do our best to play another really good team that’s really well coached.”
Melissa earned the right to face the Buckeyes by virtue of their 56-34 win over Rusk in Corsicana Friday night. The Gilmer-Melissa game will be played this coming Friday night at Mesquite Memorial Stadium, a venue that has almost become a home away from home for the Buckeyes in the playoffs in the past several years. Be sure to be there and be loud, rowdy and proud and cheer on the Bucks to another playoff win. With a victory in Mesquite, the Buckeyes would face the winner of the Celina-Pleasant Grove game that will be played in Sulphur Springs this coming Friday night. Gilmer fans have been hoping for a rematch with PG to get a chance to even the score after the 41-38 loss to the Hawks to open district play at Jeff Traylor Stadium in Gilmer back in October.