Henderson won the coin toss and elected to receive. The Buckeyes chose to take the wind at their back in the first quarter, and took advantage of it, as they led 14-0 going into the second quarter.
The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out after Pablin Olivares kicked the ball out of the end zone to begin the game. Going against the stiff wind, Will Mann’s punt on fourth-and-11 traveled only 15 yards up to the Henderson 39, and the Gilmer offense came out hot in their first possession. The Bucks took six plays and 2:03 to move the 39 yards for their first score of the evening. The TD came with 8:12 left in the first when Tanner Barr hit Chase Tate from 16 yards out. Olivares hit the PAT, and Gilmer led 7-0.
The ensuing squib kick travelled to the Henderson 32 where the Lions began their next drive. On the first play from scrimmage, Diamante Wright lost the ball after a 5-yard loss, and Xavier Fluellen recovered for the Black Flag at the Lion 31. Barr gained five yards on first down, but DeVondrick Dixon was dropped for a loss of four on the next play. Barr picked up two on third down, but a pass intended for Patrick Finch fell incomplete on fourth down and Henderson took back over on their 23.
The Black Flag refused to surrender a first down again and Janson Moore hit a 30-yard punt down up to his 47. Determined to make up for the golden opportunity they had failed to cash in on after recovering the fumble on the previous Lion possession, it took only one play and 10 seconds for Gilmer to find the end zone for the second time, as Jamel Jackson raced the 47 yards into the end zone. Olivares added the point after and Gilmer led 14-0 with 3:47 left in the opening quarter.
Patrick “Monster” Brown returned the ensuing kickoff from his 10 all the way down to the Gilmer 39, setting his team up for the first score of the night. Henderson moved the ball 22 yards in 10 plays, and took 4:23 off the clock before Mann split the uprights on a 34-yard field goal with 11:17 left in the first half.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Gilmer began their next drive at their 25. They took 3:11 move the 75 yards into the end zone. Key play in the drive was a 35-yard jaunt by Barr on the second play of the drive. Kris Boyd also contributed runs of 12 and eight, and Josh Walker picked up 12 before Boyd ran into the end zone from 10 yards out with 8:06 left till halftime. After Olivares’ extra point kick, the Buckeyes were ahead 21-3, and appeared to be headed to an easy victory.
Kicking against the stiff wind, Olivares’ kickoff was fielded at the Henderson 34. Gilmer was charged with a false start and Henderson set up at their 39. They picked up two first downs on the possession, but on a fourth-and-eight, an incomplete pass gave the Bux the ball back at their 31.
Gilmer managed one first down on their next possession before Barr hit a 32-yard punt against the wind, setting the Lions up on their 32 with 2:20 left in the first half.
Knowing they desperately needed to get something going be the intermission, the Henderson offense rose to the occasion. They took only three plays and 50 seconds to move the 68 yards for the first touchdown of the game. In incomplete pass on first down was followed by a 3-yard run by Wright, and the TD came on a 65-yard run by Brown with 1:30 left in the first half. Mann added the point after, and the Lions were back in the game, trailing 21-10.
The ensuing kick was returned from the Gilmer 8 to the 24 by Boyd. Although the offense picked up a first down, the clock ran out after five plays and the teams headed to their respective locker rooms.
Henderson made some changes defensively at halftime, and that added with the momentum they got from the late second quarter score got their defensive unit ready to play in the second half. The second half kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback and Gilmer began at their 25.
The Lion defense gave up eight yards in three plays, forcing a punt by Barr. The wind resulted in a 5-yard net kick, and Henderson set up in great position for the first possession of the third quarter at the Gilmer 38.
They took 3:10 and eight plays to find the end zone, scoring on a 9-yard run by Wright with 7:04 left in the third quarter. Mann’s PAT was good, and suddenly the Lions trailed by only four points, 21-17.
After another touchback, the Gilmer offense began at their 25. They picked up one first down thanks to a 21-yard run by Walker, but the Lion defense stiffened and Barr hit a 26-yard punt down to the Henderson 29. Brown ran for 21 on first down, but on the next series, thanks in part to a false start, Wright was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-three, and Gilmer took back over on their 42.
Things didn’t go well for the Buckeyes from there. Jackson was dropped for a loss of four, Boyd was dropped for not gain and Barr was dropped for a 5-yard loss, forcing a punt. Barr’s punt was blocked by Kenny McCown at the Gilmer 33, and McCown returned the ball down to the 20.
Just when it looked like the Bucks were going to fall behind for the first time in the game, the Black Flag and Lady Luck stepped in and Gilmer dodged the bullet. Brown gained two on first down, but was stopped for no gain on the second play, and then Brown heaved a pass into the right corner of the end zone to wide open Travon Roquemore who dropped the ball. A fourth down pass for Jamie Anthony fell incomplete and Gilmer took over at their 18 with 11:48 left in the game.
The offense lost six yards in three plays, but with the wind at his back for the first time since the first quarter, Barr’s punt on fourth down traveled 57 yards down to the Henderson 11. The Black Flag help the Lions to a 1-yard gain on three downs and forced punt. The kick travelled only 24 yards out to the Lion 34.
The Buckeyes took only three plays to move the 34 yards into the end zone for what would be their final score of the night. Jackson picked up a first down on gains of three and seven and then Walker ran into the end zone from the 24 with 7:04 left in the game. Olivares capped off a perfect evening with the point after, and Gilmer pushed the lead to 28-17.
Olivares’ ensuing kick went into the end zone and Henderson set up at their 25. They were called for a false start on first down, but on the next play Brown hit Jamie Anthony for a gain of 47. Additionally, Gilmer was flagged for a 15-yard face mask penalty. Brown gained nine on the next play, but two consecutive 5-yard penalties for a false start ultimately resulted in Mann kicking a 28-yard field goal with 4:20 left in the game, cutting the lead to 28-20.
Brandon Barnes returned the following kick from his 21 to his 38, but Henderson’s defense stifled the Gilmer offense, forcing a three-and-out. Barr’s punt travelled to the Henderson 38, and the Lions took over on offense with 2:40 left in the game.
They took only 1:18 and six plays to move the 62 yards into the end zone for their final score of the night. The score was set up by a 21-yard run by Brown on a fourth-and-15. He followed that up with a 47-yard pass to Anthony, and on the next play Wright found the end zone from the 1 with 1:12 left in the game. Henderson was a mere 2-point conversion away from tying the contest. A pass for the conversion from Janson Moore to Roquemore was good, but fortunately for the Buckeyes, the Lions were guilty yet again of a false start. The ball was moved out to the 8, and this time the pass was incomplete and Gilmer still led, 28-26.
An onside kick attempt went out of bounds, and Gilmer took over at the Henderson 43. Barr took a knee in victory formation for a loss of four on first and second downs, bringing the game to an end and leaving the Buckeyes technically in first place since Kilgore, the only other team undefeated in district play, had their open week.
Though he was a bit concerned about the furious comeback put together by the Lions, Coach Jeff Traylor was happy to escape with the win. “This reminds me of Pittsburg in 2011 and 2004 kind of. We’re just glad to get out of here. We didn’t finish very well. We’ve been doing that all year (finishing strong) and we just didn’t. You’ve got to give Henderson a lot of credit. They got in a formation with “Monster” (Patrick Brown) back there, and he’s the best player in the district, probably. The play he made on fourth down—he’s a really great football player and we know it. We had trouble stopping him and then we couldn’t block them, but we won the game and you’ve got to be excited about that. I just wish we’d have finished better.”
“We had the wind early. It was a weird game. You get the wind early, so you got your points. Then you had the wind against you in the second quarter and you were trying to hold on, then in the third quarter you have the wind against you again. Fourth quarter you had the wind but had the funny lead and you know you couldn’t stop that quarterback right now. I don’t like to coach that way, but I was managing the clock. The kind of team I have, I have to do that right now. “
We asked Coach Traylor if they were expecting Brown to be as heavily involved in the game as the quarterback in the Wildcat.
“We had prepared for it some, but we were not prepared for it the whole game. Look at the Jacksonville win. Look how we won it. It’s not HOW (you win); it’s how many (you win). You’ve got to remember that. I’m disappointed because it wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the year it’s how many. We’ve got to get better, and we will. We got out of here (with the win), and I’m happy.”
The Buckeyes are open this week and will get a chance to rest a bit and heal from all the grind and injuries during the first seven weeks. The open week couldn’t come at better time, and the team will get a chance to fully enjoy the 75th Annual East Texas Yamboree this weekend.
Though it hasn’t been perfect, the results this season have been as good as it could possibly be in district play, and better than most of the Army of Buckeyes would have expected at this point in the season. For this mostly inexperienced team to be 6-1 on the year and 3-0 in district is more than Gilmer fans could have imagined possible. This group of young men is determined to get the job done.
Next up for the Buckeyes on Oct. 26 will be the Spring Hill Panthers at Buckeye Stadium. A Gilmer win almost certainly will guarantee a playoff spot for the 12th year in a row.
Enjoy the Yamboree, everyone, and be back in your place at Buckeye Stadium on the 26th and cheer your Buckeyes to victory number 7!