Quarterback Tanner Barr summed up the game well when we talked with him after the big win. “We finally realized it’s now or never; we have to go get it right now. We had to play our hearts out and we did that. It’s huge; it gives us confidence for the rest of the season. I mean, next man up, and we did that tonight. It’s a lot better going 2-1 than going 1-2. I’m glad we got this win.”
Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive to open the game. Kris Boyd took the kickoff at his 1 and returned it 32 yards out to his 33, and the Buckeyes went on offense for the first time. They held onto the ball for 3:57 and moved the ball 34 yards in 10 plays, picking up three first downs along the way, but on a fourth-and –three from the Jacksonville 22, Barr was thrown for an 11-yard loss and the visitors took over on their 33.
The Indians ran only three plays before Justus Cheatham intercepted quarterback D.D. Franklin at the Gilmer 45, and the Bucks took back over on offense. They had a quick three-and-out, and after a Barr punt to the J’Ville 34, the Indians were back on the offensive again. The Black Flag Defense, aided by a couple of penalties, forced their own three-and out, and following a punt, Gilmer hit the field on offense again. Barr and company picked up one first down, but were forced to punt again on the next series.
That Indian possession is when things began going downhill. The visitors began on their own 9, but on the first play from scrimmage Franklin stormed through the defense for 84 yards before finally being tackled at the Gilmer 7. After a run for no gain by Trevor Ewalt, Franklin hit Cory Holman for a 7-yard TD with 54.6 seconds left in the opening quarter, capping a 3-play drive that took 1:04. The PAT was blocked, but the Indians led 6-0.
Kris Boyd took the ensuing kick at the Gilmer 12 and returned it 40 yards down to the Jacksonville 48. The Bucks picked up one first down, but a fourth-and-four pass by Barr fell incomplete, and the ball turned over on downs at the Jacksonville 32.
After starting off with a holding penalty and a 1-yard loss, Franklin hit Darrell Minifee for a 70-yard pass down to the Gilmer 9. The Black Flag proved ready for the challenge, giving up two and four yards on consecutive carries by Franklin, and followed that up by stopping Ewalt and Franklin, giving the ball back to the Bux on their 3. Unfortunately, on the first play of the drive, Minifee intercepted a Barr pass and took it into the end zone for an apparent TD, but the Indians were called for holding at the 1, moving the ball back to the 11. On the next play Franklin went into the end zone with 7:33 left in the first half. A 2-point conversion attempt on a run by Bryson Haywood was no good, but the Gilmer Homecoming crowd was in shock, as their beloved Buckeyes were down 12-0.
Kris Boyd quickly brought the crowd back to life, returning the ensuing kick from his 10 out to his 44. From there, the offense moved 56 yards in nine plays and consumed 2:07 off the clock, scoring on a 17-yard pass from Barr to Josh Walker with 5:18 left in the half. Pablin Olivares nailed the point after, the local fans felt relieved, as the deficit was cut to 12-7.
The visitors showed no mercy though, as Tony Lane returned the kick after the score 32 yards, out to his 40. The Tribe moved the 60 yards into the end zone in seven plays and took 1:59 off the clock before scoring once again on a 19-yard toss from Franklin to Haywood with 3:10 left till halftime. The PAT was good, and the score moved to 19-7 in favor of Jacksonville.
Both teams had the ball once more before the half ended, but neither was able to light up the scoreboard before heading to the locker rooms.
The Indians came out to start the third quarter with the same focus they played the first half. Londedrick Taylor returned the opening kick of the second half 27 yards, out to his 37, and from there his offensive teammates marched 63 yards in just 5 plays that took 2:42, before they hit the end zone again. The score came on a 44-yard run by Haywood with 9:18 left in the third. The PAT was good, and the Indians held their largest lead of the night, 26-7.
The never-say-die Bux responded quickly. Tate returned the kick for 21 yards, out to his 36 and the offense took over from there. It took only four plays and 46 seconds for Gilmer to move the 64 yards into the end zone. After a 1-yard loss by Walker and a 3-yard scamper by Barr, Tate snagged a 24-yard pass from Barr, and Trey Washington got the score on the next play, grabbing a 38-yard Barr pass for a score with 8:25 left in the third quarter. Olivares was true on the extra point, and the Buckeyes were back to within 12, and trailed 26-14.
Coach Jeff Traylor decided to go for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Nick Ornick recovered for the Indians at midfield. The good field position faded fast for the visitors, as on the third play of the possession Trey Washington intercepted Franklin at the Gilmer 10 to end the short drive.
Just when it looked like things might be turning back in favor of the Buckeyes, Franklin intercepted Barr at the 25 and ran into the end zone for a pick 6 with 6:09 left in the third period. The PAT was no good, and with what turned out to be the last score of the night for the Indians, they held a commanding 33-14 lead.
At that point, after a lot of adversity for two and a half quarters, things started going the Buckeyes way. Boyd returned the ensuing kick 28 yards out to his 39. It took only three plays and 1:22 for Gilmer to find the end zone again. Tate lost two on a reverse, Barr ran up the middle for 16, and then hit Walker for a 45-yard score with 4:38 left in the third. Olivares split the uprights on the extra point, and the gap narrowed to 33-21.
Once again, continuing with his riverboat gambler gutsy calls Gilmer fans have come to love and enjoy, Coach Traylor called yet another onside kick. This time it was beautifully executed by the special teams, as Justus Cheatham recovered the ball at the Indian 40. The offense held the ball for eight plays, but ran out of gas, forcing a 41-yard field goal attempt by Olivares. The kick was long enough, but sailed wide right, leaving the score at 33-21. J’Ville took over on their 24, but the Black Flag stiffened, forcing another punt. The kick ended up only going six yards from the line of scrimmage, and the Bucks took over at the Indian 45. The offense took 1:29 to move the distance in six plays, scoring on a 6-yard pass to Desmond Pollard from Barr with 10:31 left in the game. Olivares PAT was just wide left, but Gilmer had narrowed the score to 33-27, opening the door for the fantastic finish. On the next play, Barr was intercepted by Fred Sanders at his 17, killing what looked for certain would be a scoring drive.
The guests picked up one first down on their ensuing possession before having to punt the ball away yet again. Gilmer looked poised to move into the end zone and take the lead. Walker ran for 21 on the first play, Barr threw to Tate for eight on the next play before Walker lost one on the next play. Barr then hit Walker for a gain of 12. He then ran the ball himself for a pick-up of 15, then he handed off to Tate for two. On the next play, Barr was intercepted by Fred Sanders, ending the drive at the Indian 17 with 5:07 left in the game.
The visitors went three-and-out on their possession, and after a 32-yard punt, Gilmer took back over at their 44 with a mere 3:10 left in the game. With time running out, after picking up one first down, the Bucks went for a 4th-and 1 at the Indian 48, but Barr was stopped for no gain.
The Black Flag Defense knew they HAD to force a punt to give the offense one more chance to snatch the thrill of victory from the clutches of the agony of defeat. They did just that, and after the guests were flagged five yards for a false start, a bad snap by the deep snapper flew past the Indian punter who fell on the ball at the 18.
The offense KNEW they had been given a gift from heaven and wasted little time scoring what turned out to be the winning score. Barr hit Washington for 13 down to the 5, and followed that up by hitting Tate for the last five into the end zone. They drive took two plays and only 15 seconds. Olivares drilled the PAT home, and the Bucks had their first and only lead of the night, at 34-33 with 1:18 left in the game.
Olivares pooch-kicked the ball on the ensuing kickoff, and it died the Indian 40. Jacksonville picked up two first downs and got one last chance for the win, attempting a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game. The kick was no good and Gilmer had held on for the exciting come from behind win to move to 2-1 on the season.
Coach Jeff Traylor was excited about the heart his team showed with insurmountable adversity coming at them from all directions. “We kept trying hard, but everything kept going wrong. Franklin’s a great player, Minifee’s a great player and 28 is a really good football player. We didn’t block very well, which made our quarterback look bad, we had some turnovers, we dropped the ball, you know, it was one of those things that just kept going. To our kids’ credit, they just kept playing. The same kids that couldn’t block in the first half blocked in the end, same quarterback that couldn’t hit them started hitting them, same receivers that couldn’t catch them started catching them. You know, it was just a great team effort, and it was one of those kind, you know, I told my team, we don’t trust much in this world anymore and it’s just good for our kids that I saw them continue to trust in our coaches and us believe in them and they were rewarded for it. Sometimes you don’t get rewarded for it, just like life, so I was happy for my kids. Some of the things we weren’t doing in the first half started working for us in the second half. Tanner started making some plays with his feet; Josh really stepped it up and started to make some plays in the second half. Our kids just made plays. It’s just about kids believing and getting it done, and that’s what happened tonight.”
We asked the coach how big a win this one was. “As far as exciting, with this particular team it’s good because we’re so inexperienced. We’re trying to gain momentum. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up. I know we didn’t have the lead until the last minute of the game. That might be the longest we’ve gone in a game without the lead that we still won. We got better. I think this will help us to get some momentum and gain a little bit of confidence. We need to get healthy. We’ve got five senior captains out right now with injuries, and we need to get those guys healthy. We’ve got six starters out right now. We’ve got to get healthy. I know it might not look like it, but we’re working really hard right now to get this team going.”
There’s no doubt this huge win for this young team will help them grow up quickly. The Buckeyes need your presence and support like you showed at Buckeye Stadium against Jacksonville Friday night when they travel to Daingerfield to take on the pesky Tigers. Make sure you do your part: be there, be loud and be proud to be a Gilmer Buckeye! This team proved they deserve that last Friday night.