Gilmer Buckeyes head coach Jeff Traylor is so concerned about his team’s schedule the next three weeks; he hasn’t had time to consider a career milestone that is approaching. One more win for the Buckeyes’ boss will give Traylor 100 career victories as a head coach.
“I haven’t thought about it to be honest with you,” confessed Traylor. “I’m so worried about Liberty-Eylau I can’t even think about it. I would hate to be sitting on 99 for the next three weeks.”
Traylor’s concerns are valid. The Buckeyes travel to Liberty-Eylau this Friday, before coming home to host Kilgore and Daingerfield. Those three teams have combined for three of Gilmer’s six losses the past four seasons.
Of those three losses, the one that hurt the most was a 39-36 loss to Liberty-Eylau in the first round of the 2006 playoffs. “I was extremely disappointed after the Liberty-Eylau loss because I didn’t think we played very well,” said Traylor.
The Buckeyes gained a measure of revenge in the 2007 playoffs, knocking the Leopards out in the first round, 41-26. The two teams met in Gilmer during the 2008 regular season in a close game that Gilmer won 28-14.
Does that look like the beginning of a rivalry between the two programs? “I don’t know about a rivalry. I don’t know if we’ve played each other enough to be a rivalry,” said Traylor. “We have a lot of respect for their program. They’ve won two state championships in the last ten years.”
Liberty-Eylau head coach Pat Brady is okay with the rivalry term. “I guess you could call it kind of a rivalry. We’ve played each other the last four years now,” said Brady. “I know that when we play Gilmer, we want to beat them.”
Traylor said there are several reasons the Leopards are a tough match-up for his Buckeyes. “Liberty-Eylau is so athletic. They’re very physical, they run right at you, and those are things we don’t really deal with very well,” stated Traylor, who added. “They’ve been in a lot of big games, so they’re used to playing really good teams. They play a tough schedule. They always play us tough.”
That was evident in 2006 when the Buckeyes started the season ranked number one in the state and breezed through a perfect 10-0 regular season, only to lose to the unranked 7-3 Leopards, who went on to win the state championship.
Like the 2006 season, the Buckeyes are ranked number one in the state, and won their first two games in dominating fashion. The Leopards are 1-1, and not impressed with Gilmer’s ranking.
“I don’t put any stock into rankings whatsoever,” said Brady. “I don’t see how anybody knows who’s the number one team in the state of Texas. There are too many good teams. Rankings don’t mean a whole lot.”
Brady knows what his team is capable of. “I think we’ve got a very talented club when we play like we can play,” said Brady, who is 40-23 in his sixth season with the Leopards.
Traylor agreed. “They’re very dangerous. The speed of the game is going to be totally different. That will be the biggest test for us because the speed of the game will be so much faster,” Traylor said.
The Buckeyes’ last opponent Rains is nothing like the Leopards, according to Traylor. Even Gilmer’s first opponent, Jasper, doesn’t have the team speed and athleticism the Leopards possess.
“Their quarterbacks are both great athletes,” praised Traylor. “Alex Watson and Trey Norman; they can score any time. They’re very elusive. They throw the ball pretty good.”
“Both of their tailbacks are very good,” continued Traylor. “Tra Carson is a big 220-pound back that just bruises you. Then Hollis Webster is a big 190-pound back that can go to the house any time he touches it. They’ve got a big 230-pound fullback in Josh Webster who is a great runner and blocker.”
“They have one of the best receivers in the state of Texas in Marquez Clark. He’s got to be a Division I player. He can flat out go,” stated Traylor.
Brady agreed with Traylor’s assessment. “We’ve got a stable of backs that there is not one standout that we go to all the time, and that’s a good thing because it helps us keep defenses honest. You can’t just try to key on one person,” Brady said. “We have some good receivers. We don’t throw the ball a whole bunch, but when we do, we feel like they can do good things with the ball in their hands.”
That should help the Leopards with their game plan against the Buckeyes. “They’ll try to keep us off the field,” said Traylor. “They’ll pound the ball and keep us on the sideline; that will be their plan. It always has been.”
Brady said that his game plan is simpler than that. “We’ve just got to score more points than they do. That’s how we’re going to win the game. It could be low scoring, it could be high scoring.”
Defensively, the Leopards struggled to stop Mount Pleasant’s smash mouth rushing attack in Liberty-Eylau’s 34-28 loss to the 4A team last week. “Mount Pleasant was very big up front. They did a good job of just pounding the football and wearing us down,” said Brady.
The Buckeyes present a different challenge for the Leopards, said Brady. “Against teams like Gilmer you can’t sit back and play a zone and make them try to throw into coverage. You can’t blitz them every time because that’s going to hurt you too with big plays.”
Traylor also listed big plays as a key to the game. “It always starts with turnovers and big plays,” Traylor stated. “We’ve got to stop their big plays and create turnovers. And we’ve got to hold onto the ball and have some big plays.”
Despite being heavy favorites in the game, Traylor is concerned about Gilmer visiting Liberty-Eylau’s home field for the first time in over 30 years. “They play well at home,” said Traylor. “Nobody likes to get beat on their own field.”
The Leopards’ Brady doesn’t think the location of the game has anything to do with the outcome of the game. “I probably don’t put as much stock in the home field advantage as most people do,” Brady admitted. “When they blow the whistle and kick the ball off it’s all the same as when you play in Longview or Gilmer or Harris Field in Liberty-Eylau. It’s a football field and whichever team plays the best is going to be the one who comes out on top.”
Traylor said that whoever comes out on top, one thing is certain. “We’ll learn a whole lot about our team in the next three weeks. We’ll really know where we are,” Traylor said.
Buckeyes’ fans hope that Traylor will also know what it’s like to celebrate his 100th career victory.
September 11- @ Liberty-Eylau
2008 Record: 4-6
2009 Record: 1-1
Last meeting: 2008, Gilmer won 28-14
Series Record: Liberty-Eylau leads 11-4
Head Coach: Pat Brady (6th season, 40-23, 40-23 overall)
Returning Starters: 6 Offense/5 Defense
Did you know? The Buckeyes and Leopards faced each other every year from 1968-1979 before a 26-year hiatus was broken when the teams met in the 2006 playoffs.
Bounty Hunter of the Week: Eric Miller
Special Teams Player of the Week: Tristan Holt
BUCKEYE TICKET LINE:
LUNCH WITH THE COACH:
Noon Wednesdays, Buckeyes Booster Club meets at Gilmer Country Club
DIRECTIONS TO HARRIS FIELD:
There is some construction reportedly underway on I-30, so the best and shortest way to get to the Liberty-Eylau campus from Gilmer is to take State Hwy. 155 40 miles to Linden, then turn left and go north on U.S. Hwy. 59 for about 35 miles. As you enter Texarkana, you will pass under Loop 151 (Jarvis Parkway). After you pass that the next traffic signal is Leopard Drive (sign for school and prison there) You take a right and go to school; there will be security directing you to parking.
View Larger Map Football Paris N. Lamar vs. Liberty-Eylau Highlights More Highlights, Click on Page 6 Leopards blank North Lamar NL puts up fight in tough loss Mount Pleasant tops Liberty-Eylau, 34-28 Tigers chip away yardage in first season victory Gilmer Buckeyes