This Friday night will likely be no different as another longtime rival, the Gladewater Bears, comes to town to face the Gilmer Buckeyes in the District 16-3A opener.
The Bears have come close to upsetting the 4-0 Buckeyes in two of their last three meetings. Even though those were not playoff teams, they began playing like a team bound for a deep run when they heard Gilmer was their next opponent on the schedule.
Gladewater is 2-2, having won its opener 16-14 at home against Daingerfield and its other home game against Atlanta last Saturday, 46-34. In between, the Bears lost on the road to Pittsburg (35-14) and Athens (41-7).
Coach Jerrod Baugh is in his fourth season at the helm in Gladewater.
Any discussion of his players must begin with 311-lb. junior nose guard Daylon Mack, who holds offers from more than a dozen Division I FBS programs.
You don’t normally think of a nose guard as a position that can win the game for you, but Mack did that in the final minute against Daingerfield by scoring a safety. He had five tackles for loss last Saturday against Atlanta, just another “day at the office” for him.
ESPN’s recruiting services have rated Mack as the top high school junior football player in the state. Mack is ranked number 10 in the entire nation.
“It’s exciting but I feel like I have more to prove,” Mack told KLTV Channel 7 last month. “So I can stay up there and move up the rankings.”
“I gave my phone to my parents,” said Mack. “I don’t even have it. I’m not focused on talking to scouts or being on Twitter. I’m focused on the Gladewater Bears right now.”
However, Mack did take to Twitter on Sunday to tell Buckeyes Ardarius Johnson and Kris Boyd , “I’ll bet y’all don’t score over 21.”
His Twitter handle is THEE MACK TRUCK (@DaylonMack).
“I believe it was probably hard early on to keep his focus with a lot of things that was going on, but now I don’t think it’s an issue,” said Baugh. “I don’t believe there’s anybody left that can offer him a scholarship, so I think a lot of that stuff is out of the way.”
“It’s a very humbling thing to be one of the top guys in the state,” said Mack. “I really want to take care of this team though. Getting to the playoffs would be good for the city.”
The Bears have not been to the playoffs since 2009.
They return only one starter on offense and three on defense. However, their ninth grade and JV teams had a combined record last year of 17-1-1.
One problem that seems to have been solved is the lack of depth, Baugh told ETSN.fm after the opener.
The Gladewater coaching staff frequently substituted on the defensive front, which resulted in Mack and the Bears’ defense being fresh for the game-winning stop in the final minute.
“Finally we have enough guys here to where we’re playing a set of guys on offense and a set of guys on defense, and to me it showed tonight on what kind of bonus that gives us,” Baugh said. “To be able to pull Daylon out and give him a break for a couple of plays, then he’s got some gas at the end of the game to be able to make the plays.”
Coach Jeff Traylor of the Buckeyes said Daingerfield had a lot to do with how his team played Saturday.
“My team didn’t play so well, but you’ve got to give Daingerfield a lot of credit. Their kids played extremely hard.
“Our defense played extremely hard. Just offensively we were way, way out of sync; not very physical; didn’t execute very well and just really a poor performance by our entire offensive line.
“Our kicking game was solid,” he added, giving high marks to the kickoffs and to punts and their coverage.
“We just turned the ball over too much. Luckily, our defense gave it back to us and we won the ball game.”
It helped that the Buckeyes played with a short field so much of the game, he said, because of the kicking game and the defense.
He repeated, “You’ve got to give Daingerfield credit. They always play us tough every year — them and Gladewater get after our tail.”
Traylor said Daingerfield was a team to watch as the season goes on because they have so many good players.
(Last week I said Daingerfield’s next state championship would be its sixth. That was wrong. It will be their seventh. They have won titles in 1968, 1983, 1985, 2008, 2009 and 2010.)
On defense, a lot of Buckeyes had good games, he said.
“Demarco Boyd had six tackles, two pressures, two forced fumbles, one sack, two tackles for loss.
“Blevin Burns had three tackles, two assists, one fumble recovery and one interception.
“Kollin Hurt had six tackles, two assists.
“DeVondrick Dixon had two tackles, two assists, one knocked-down pass, one interception for a touchdown, which was an amazing football play - he caught that ball with one hand. Just a great effort.
“Darrian Lewis, six tackles, eight assists, two fumble recoveries, one touchdown and had a great block by Charles Williams on that play.
“And Bryan Restine had seven tackles, two assists, two pressures and one fumble recovery.”
Focusing on Gladewater, Coach Traylor said, “You know they’re going to play their best. They always do.
On offense, “They play an old-fashioned type of football. They are going to run a base ’I’ or the counter (and) play-action off of it.
“They play a defense that kind of bends but doesn’t break. Keep everything in front of them. Try to make the game go as short as possible. And they’ve done a good job of doing that the last few years.
In addition to Mack, “a great player,” he said the Bear defense is really good. Hagen Cooper (23) is really good. Daylon (Duke) Gordon (7) is a good free safety. Jaz Tyiska (3) is also a good player.
“They’re just aggressive kids. Typical Gladewater football team. Play hard. Scrappy kids.”
On offense, “They’ve got a good tailback in Marcello Jackson (28) and James Reese (2). Fullback’s a good runner, Justice Centers.”
The Bears’ quarterback, junior Nick Canaguier, is “a winner” and “a scrappy kid,” Coach Traylor assessed. “He plays hard.”
Turning back to the “Twitterverse,” even if THEE MACK TRUCK turns out to be right and the Buckeyes don’t score more than 21 points, recall that they didn’t last year either and still won the game.
Kickoff at Buckeye Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night as the last six games of District of Doom competition begins. Gilmer hopes to increase its district winning streak to 15.
This is the next-to-last opportunity to see the Buckeyes at home this season. The next and final game here will not be until Nov. 1 against Bullard.
LUNCH WITH THE COACH:
Noon Wednesdays, Buckeyes Booster Club meets at Gilmer Country Club.
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Etex, Channel 2, will replay Gilmer games at 10 a.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Wednesdays.
(This channel also carries the audio of the games live.)
New Diana games will be replayed 2 p.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Thursdays
Harmony games will be replayed 6 p.m. Saturdays and 6 p.m. Tuesdays.
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