It was apparent from the outset that the open week during the 75th East Texas Yamboree was exactly what the young Bucks needed to both mature in their positions and heal from nagging injuries.
Spring Hill won the toss and elected to receive to begin the game. Jake Ferrill took the kick at his 10 and returned the ball to the 25. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Jacob Rooney, making his first start of the season in place of Ben Hollas who suffered an ankle injury the week before, fumbled the ball away to C.J. Williams at the Panther 24.
Unfortunately, on the first Gilmer offensive play, Tanner Barr’s pass was tipped and then intercepted by Lane Nesbitt. The Panthers gained three yards in their first two plays and then fumbled the ball away again on third down at their 28.
This time the Bucks cashed in, moving into the end zone in just three plays and taking only 58 seconds off the clock before scoring again. Kris Boyd ran for 15 on the first play and followed that up with a 12-yard run on the second play. Josh Walker got the score on a 1-yard run with 8:50 left in the first quarter. Pablin Olivares came in to attempt the PAT, but Spring Hill was called for an offsides penalty, so the offense went back in to attempt a 2-point conversion. Walker ran into the end zone and Gilmer led 8-0.
Spring Hill’s next possession began at their 16. The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out, but on the punt Chase Tate, spinning out of two almost certain tackles had the ball stripped away and the Panthers recovered on the Gilmer 26. The Black Flag came through once again and the visitors were forced to attempt a 21-yard field goal. Chris Flournoy split the uprights, capping a 6-play, 23-yard drive that took 3:59, and the Gilmer lead was cut to 8-3 with 2:27 left in the opening stanza.
Flournoy kicked away and Walker took the ball at his 20 and returned the kick out to his 49. It took only 5 plays and 1:45 for the Bucks to find the end zone again. Ty Barr completed a 14-yard pass to Jaidon Parrish on first down. Barr ran for no gain on the next play before completing passes of 11 and 13 yards to Tate. Kris Boyd scored from the 13 with 45.7 seconds left in the first quarter. Olivares came out for the point after, but Barr took the snap and hit Walker for the 2-point conversion, and Gilmer was up 16-3.
Ben Robinett took the ensuing kick at his 19 and returned it to the 28. The Black Flag forced another three-and-out and hit a 36-yard punt down to the Gilmer 44. Tate snagged the kick and returned it out to the Panther 40. The next drive was a short one, as on the first play of the drive Barr hit Parrish on a 40-yard catch and run for a touchdown. After a successful 2-point conversion on a run by Walker out of the swinging gate formation, the Bucks led 24-3 with 10:20 left in the first half.
Knowing they had to make something happen to prevent a blowout, Spring Hill ran a fake punt from their 19 after losing eight yards in 3 plays. Flournoy took the snap and ran around his left side for a 20-yard gain and a first down. On 3rd-and-7, Spencer Hendricks ran for a 27-yard gain and gave his team a fresh set of downs. Quarterback Rooney fumbled on the next play, but recovered, then fumbled again on second down. This time Adam Witcher recovered at the Gilmer 31.
Three plays, one minute and twenty-one seconds and 69 yards later Gilmer was in the end zone again. Barr ran for 17 on the first play from scrimmage, threw a 9-yard pass to Parrish on the next play and hit DeVondrick Dixon on a 43-yard TD pass on the next play. The score came with 3:52 left in the half. After Olivares split the uprights, Gilmer’s lead stretched to 31-3.
The Buckeyes were called for a dead ball personal foul after the TD, and were forced to kick from their 25 on the ensuing exchange of possession. The kick was returned from the SH 43 to the 48 where the visitors went back on offense.
The Black Flag forced yet another three-and-out, and on fourth down Slade Morris blocked Flournoy’s kick and the Bucks were back in business at the Panther 32. Unfortunately, after catching a pass from Barr, Patrick Finch was stripped of the ball at the 24 in what looked to be a sure score. The visitors recovered and set up at their 24.
Once again the Black Flag came to the rescue, forcing another three-and-out. The Panthers decided to fake the punt again. They completed a pass but the receiver was tackled at the SH 19. It took only three plays and 26.4 seconds for Gilmer to get into the end zone again before the half ended. The score came on a 10-yard run by Boyd with 30 seconds left in the half. Olivares split the uprights, and the rout was on with the Buckeyes up 38-3.
The Panthers got the ball back and ran one play for a loss of three yards before the half ended.
After a 21-yard return on the opening kick of the second half, Gilmer set up at their 23 to start their next drive. 1:02 and three plays later the Bux were in the end zone again. Tate gained 14 on a pass from Barr on the first play, Boyd followed with a 2-yard rush, and then Barr hit Slade Morris for a gain of 61 yards into the end zone. Olivares was true on the PAT once again and the score extended to 45-3.
Ferrill returned the next kick from his 10 to his 31, but a holding call moved the ball back to the 21. In their only sustained drive of the game, the visitors held the ball for 2:59 and moved 79 yards in six plays, scoring their only TD of the night. The score came on a 30-yard pass from Rooney to Chris Fisher with 7:59 left in the third quarter. After Flournoy added the PAT, the Gilmer lead was cut to 45-10.
Flournoy’s next kick was returned by Dixon from his 6 all the way down to the SH 31. It only took 1:13 and two plays for the Bucks to find the end zone again. Barr threw an 18-yard pass to Justus Cheatham on the first play and Jamel Jackson scored from the 8 on the next play. Olivares added the extra point and the lead moved out to 51-10 with 6:46 left in the third quarter.
In a “mercy move”, the clock ran non-stop for the last quarter and a half, preventing what would have no doubt been an even bigger drubbing by the dominating Buckeyes.
The next kick went out of bounds and the Panthers got the ball at their 30. Another three-and-out forced by the Black Flag resulted in another SH punt. Flournoy’s kick was taken at midfield by Dixon and he didn’t stop until he had raced into the end zone for what would be the final Gilmer score of the evening. Olivares added the PAT and Gilmer led 59-10 with 2:44 left in the third.
Spring Hill held onto the ball for 10 plays and 8:59 of the constantly rolling clock before Rooney was intercepted by Cheatham at the Gilmer 22 with 5:45 left in the game. The Bucks ran only seven plays and managed to run out the clock to end the game.
Coach Jeff Traylor was pleased with his team’s dominating performance in the game. “We thought when we could get to the open week we’d be good, and we’re getting better. We’re a little banged up but we’ve been that way all year. We had every kid on the team tonight for the first time all season; everybody suited up. This is the team that we thought we were going to have the first of the year; it just took some time to mature. We’ve got a good Bullard coming up; we’re still not in the playoffs, no matter what anybody says. It’s possible to not make it into the playoffs with two losses. We’ve got to go over there and beat a tough Bullard team in Bullard to get the playoff spot.”
We asked about the dominance of DeMarco Boyd in the game. He was in the backfield most of the night and tackled Rooney numerous times for losses during the contest. “His grandmother is really not doing well and he and Kris both played really hard. They were playing for their grandmother and they played really well. It affected our team pretty well. She was good to a lot of our kids. Our kids really played for her and we just hope she gets to doing better. He has great ball get-off, but we have to keep him humble; he’s a freshman. He has to be complimented—he played a great game.”
We also asked about the kick returning performance of DeVondrick Dixon. “Yeah, DeVondrick’s just getting better and better and better. He’s a good football player and he can run and our kids did a great job blocking for him. We’ve got some good kids, but we’re just young. We’re still getting better, believe it or not.”
The Buckeye boss was also pleased with the passing game. “We’ve not had very many penalties, we haven’t turned the ball over very much; we play really hard. We’ve not thrown the ball as well as we’d like to, or blocked or tackled. We’ve really worked hard the last two weeks in those four areas, but we turned it over and had a few penalties tonight, so I guess we need to work on that now. I was really proud of our kids.”
“You know, you just do what you can do; you control what you can control, and we’re going to try to get better as the Gilmer Buckeyes, and really that’s life. You’re always trying to do as good as you can do. We’ll work on us, and hopefully, that’s good enough. We’re 7-1 and we haven’t even gotten in (the playoffs) yet.”
While it is a fact that the Buckeyes have NOT secured a playoff berth yet, they WILL secure one with a victory Friday night in Bullard. Once that goal is accomplished, Kilgore will come to town a week from Friday with what would be two teams undefeated (provided Kilgore wins at home against Henderson Friday night) in the District of Doom battling for the District Championship at Buckeye Stadium on the final night of the regular season.
We are asking all Buckeye fans to make sure to do YOUR part and make the trip to Bullard Friday night. This group of young men has more than earned your support and attendance. They will be in a hostile environment in Bullard, so there are a lot of challenges that may well come their way. This team is determined to run the slate and win District. Be there to support them and be a part of the excitement as part of the Army of Buckeyes!