THE GILMER BUCKEYES have now won 13 straight games and achieved what most observers thought impossible when the season began back in August — a berth in the Class 3A Division II State Championship Game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington Friday afternoon and a chance to win it all for the third time since 2004.
On the other hand, why would anyone NOT expect this from the kind of football dynasty the Jeff Traylor-led coaching staff and players have established in this century. The Buckeyes are, after all, the winningest program in Class 3A since 2000, with a record of 148-23. This will mark their fourth appearance in a championship game since 2004. They won it that year and again in 2009.
The players on this team ranged in age from two to five years old when P.R.I.D.E. (Positive. Respect. Intensity. Discipline. Every Play.) came to reside at Buckeye Stadium in May, 2000. It’s all they’ve ever known.
The 14-1 Buckeyes’ opponent is a not altogether unfamiliar one — Navasota, the top-ranked Class 3A team in the state by most pollsters at the end of the regular season, still undefeated after 15 games.
The Buckeyes outlasted the Rattlers on the way to their last state title in 2009 in a quarterfinal game in Lufkin, 42-35.
Navasota is seeking its first state title and last appeared in the Class 3A championship game in 1988, falling to Southlake Carroll, 42-8.
The Rattlers have been a perennial power in the Brazos Valley in recent seasons under the leadership of eighth-year head coach Lee Fedora, but his teams have not been able to advance beyond the quarterfinals until now.
Chapel Hill ended Navasota’s run last year in Division I 56-46 at Waco’s Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bulldogs went on to win state.
Navasota won District 18-3A and Region III before advancing to “Jerry World” last Friday night with a 24-7 win over Region IV champion Bellville in Waller.
There is not much pressure on the Buckeyes, to be honest. It has been a pleasant surprise to most who follow them that they have made it this far. This doesn’t mean they don’t expect to win Friday. The Buckeyes ALWAYS expect to do that. They reflect the Vince Lombardi-like attitude of their coaches in that regard.
And the phrase you hear and read most often in connection with this year’s Buckeyes is “they always find a way to win.”
The only game during which they weren’t able to do so on Sept. 7 now seems like ancient history.
As all great teams do, they have gotten better as the season has gone on, especially on offense. During their 5-game playoff run, the Buckeyes have scored 50 or more points three times and more than 40 in the other two.
And don’t forget the Black Flag Defense. The Graham Steers sure won’t after being dominated by it last Friday night in Mansfield.
In looking back at that 50-7 rout, Coach Traylor commented, “Our kids played extremely well.
“Defensive players who had big games:
“CJ Williams, eight tackles, three assists, one pressure, one fumble recovery, two sacks, three tackles for loss.
“DeVondrick Dixon, four tackles, three knocked-down passes.
“Adam Witcher had two tackles, five assists, two pressures, one knocked-down pass.
“Brandon Barnes had four tackles, three assists, two pressures and one sack.
“Xavier Fluellen, four tackles, three assists, one pressure, one sack, three tackles for a loss.
“Tanner Barr was 17-out-of-21 for 176 yards, three touchdowns; nine carries, 54 yards.
“Kris Boyd, 17 carries, 84 yards, two touchdowns; one reception, nine yards.
“Josh Walker, five carries, 79 yards, two touchdowns.
“Jamel Jackson had eight carries for 35 yards and blocked extremely well.
“Jaidon Parrish, four receptions, 54 yards and a touchdown.
“Slade Morris, four receptions, 46 yards and a touchdown.”
He continued, “I think the wind was really bigger than people might have imagined. We won both ‘wind quarters’ 42-0 and the two quarters we did not have the wind, we won 8-7. So I think we did a great job of taking advantage of the wind with our kicking game and our defense.”
One of the things that was most evident was the amount of time the Black Flag Defense spent in the Graham backfield.
“They just hadn’t seen that kind of pressure all year long, so our kids did a great job of getting after ‘em.”
Turning to Navasota, Coach Traylor said, “They’re extremely talented. They’ve got great players everywhere. The quarterback (Kadarius) Baker (15) is bigtime.”
Baker is 230-of-360 passing for 4031 yards and 53 touchdowns.
“The running back (Xavier) Creeks (8) is bigtime.”
He has 881 yards on 98 carries and six touchdowns.
UPDATE: Xavier Creeks was in an auto accident Thursday morning and broke his leg. Obviously he will not play Friday and everyone is praying that the young man will make a speedy recovery.
KBTX - Star Navasota Player Breaks Leg in Wreck on Eve of State Title Game
“Austin Collins (2) reminds me of the kid from Daingerfield that went to Texas.”
Collins has 80 catches for 1606 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Collins also takes the snap out of the Wildcat formation sometimes.
“(Solomon) McGinty (12) reminds me of that big receiver that Carthage had in 2008.”
McGinty has 77 receptions for 1571 yards and 20 touchdowns.
“Their offensive line is just huge. They’re just big all the way across.
“Terrance Creeks (17) is a great player (at) receiver.
“They’re just loaded. I think they’ve scored about 700 points this year and they’re the reason.
“Defensively, only one team scored three touchdowns. Only three have scored two. Anybody else has scored one or less. That’s a phenomenal stat.
“Their middle linebacker Jaylyin Minor (33) is as good as we’ve played against. He’s an all-state football player. Jake Bauer (32), defensive end, is an all-state football player. Jordan Wells (68) is an all-state football player.
“Both safeties are fantastic, Austin Collins and Xavier Creeks.
“The corner Deiontte Taylor (6) is a fantastic football player.
“So they’ve got a lot of great football players. They’re very well-coached and have got a lot of tradition.”
The Rattlers returned six starters on offense and seven on defense.
While they may be more known for their high-flying offense, their coach said recently, ““Everybody talks about offense, but what’s going to win championships is defense.”
Coach Fedora was a member of the baseball team at Texas A&M that made the College World Series in 1993 and was head coach at Rogers and Robinson before coming to Navasota.
He played high school football at nearby A&M Consolidated in College Station. His Tigers played for the Class 4A title in 1989, losing 14-0 to a Dickey Meeks-coached Chapel Hill team at the Astrodome in Houston. In fact, his alma mater tried to hire him away from Navasota in early 2011.
Fedora told Bryan-College Station’s KBTX-TV 3 Monday the loss to Chapel Hill was something he’d never forget and today it still eats at him. He has, of course, told the Rattlers all about it.
“I know I’ve used my experience, too, saying that I was there and I played for it and we didn’t finish what we started and that’s something that kinda sticks in your side for the rest of your life.”
Speaking of tradition, Coach Traylor agreed that Gilmer has no shortage of that either.
“There’s no doubt that ‘G’ on the side of our helmet is worth some points. And it’s just because our belief system is so strong. We just believe in what we do.”
If you can’t be there in person, be sure and watch the live telecast on Fox Sports Southwest. Check your particular listings for channel. It’s Channel 25 on Etex.
Gilmer Buckeyes Season to Date:
Atlanta, won 31-17
Plano Prestonwood, lost 42-12
Jacksonville, won 34-33
Daingerfield, won 43-14
Gladewater, won 21-13
Chapel Hill, won 50-28
Henderson, won 28-26
Spring Hill, won 59-10
Bullard, won 57-39
Kilgore, won 20-14
Canton, won 51-36
Atlanta, won 57-13
Argyle, won 42-21
Henderson, won 41-34
Graham, won 50-7
Navasota Rattlers Season to Date:
Willis, won 42-0
Coldspring-Oakhurst, won 36-8
Houston Sterling, won 49-6
Lexington, won 45-13
Fairfield, won 41-7
Austin McCallum, won 57-9
Madisonville, won 38-0
Rockdale, won 43-0
Caldwell, won 58-0
Taylor, won 52-0
China Spring, won 62-16
Jasper, won 59-14
La Marque, won 31-20
West Orange-Stark, 38-7
MAP AND DIRECTIONS:
A Google map with directions to Cowboys Stadium in Arlington is online at www.GilmerMirror.com.
NO PROGRAM OR BUG:
Due to UIL and/or Dallas Cowboys regulations, Gilmer will not be allowed to produce its own game programs for the championship game, nor will the Gilmer broadcast team be allowed to broadcast inside the stadium via the Buckeye Bug system.
DID YOU KNOW?
Coach Lee Fedora’s brother, Larry, is the head coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
LUNCH WITH THE COACH:
Noon Today, Buckeyes Booster Club meets at Gilmer Country Club.
TANNER BARR has completed 237 out of 382 passes for 2873 yards and 25 touchdowns.
KRIS BOYD has rushed for 1259 yards on 153 carries and 19 touchdowns.
JAMEL JACKSON has rushed for 620 yards on 75 carries and eight touchdowns.
JOSH WALKER has rushed for 611 yards on 87 carries and 15 touchdowns.
CHASE TATE has caught 56 passes for 491 yards and three touchdowns.
PATRICK FINCH has caught 38 passes for 458 yards and four touchdowns.
JAIDON PARRISH has caught 33 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns.
TREY WASHINGTON has caught 31 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns.
SLADE MORRIS has caught 20 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns.
THE BUCKEYES average 39.7 ooints per game with 258.3 yards rushing and 196.8 passing.
WHERE IS NAVASOTA?
Navasota is located 22 miles SE of College Station and 61 miles NW of Houston. It is in Grimes County and had a population as of the 2010 Census of 7,049. Navasota High School had an enrollment of 749 students as of the last realignment.
GILMER BUCKEYES HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL APP:
MAXPREPS HOME PAGE:
of the Week:
Player of the Week:
Players of the Week:
Will Harrison, Offense
Brandon Crouch and
Jacob Cullins, Defense
Jacob Butler, Special Teams