Kendall scored the final Gilmer TD on a 7-yard run and somehow that did NOT appear in the game story. My thanks to a very forgiving Coach Jackson for calling me on Friday to make me aware of the error. My friendship with the Jackson family goes back decades and I am very sorry for the omission.
The Buckeyes set a goal for 2021 to start every game fast after struggling to get out of the gate quickly in 2020. They did that in the first 3 games of the season and continued accomplishing that goal Friday night in Lindale as they got out to a 14-0 lead before the Eagles got on the scoreboard. Gilmer continued the offensive barrage they showcased in the first three games, resulting in a 49-35 win in their first road game of the year. The victory propels Gilmer to a 4-0 start ahead of their big showdown next week on the road in Carthage in a game featuring the #1 and #2 ranked teams in Class 4A Division II, while the loss drops Lindale, who made it to the State Championship game last year in Class 4A Division I, to 1-3 on the season.
The quick start in the contest was particularly huge since Gilmer was down 21-0 to Lindale last year in Gilmer before charging back with a 56-49 victory. Just as has been the case in every game this season it didn’t take the Buckeyes long to light up the scoreboard.
Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Jose Hernandez kicked off to begin the game and the gall was fair caught and Lindale set up on their 25 to begin the game.
The Eagles had a good first drive, picking up 3 first downs before Parker Gilow intercepted Sam Peterson at the Gilmer 16. He returned the pick near the Lindale 20, but Gilmer was called for holding, setting the Buckeyes up for their first offensive possession at midfield.
Brandon Tennison led the offense on a 5-play, 50-yard drive that took 1:37 off the clock. The drive ended with a 30-yard TD pass from Tennison to Rohan Fluellen with 5:35 left in the first quarter. Jose Hernandez added the PAT and Gilmer led 7-0.
Lindale picked up one first down on their ensuing possession before being forced to punt the ball away on the next series. Rohan Fluellen took the punt at the Gilmer 18 and returned the ball up to the 39, setting the offense up again.
This time it took 1:32 to move the 61 yards in just 5 plays for the Buckeyes to find the end zone again. The score came on a 10-yard run by Ashton Haynes with 1:21 left in the first quarter. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 14-0.
On their next possession Parker Gilow intercepted Peterson and Gilmer was back on business on the Eagle 48.
The Buckeyes managed to get one first down before lining up for a punt. The snap blasted over the head of Hernandez for a 41-yard loss. He managed to cover the ball and then tried to kick but didn’t have room to do so. He then tried to run and was hit and fumbled the ball. Christian King recovered the ball and returned it 9 yards into the end zone in one of the wildest plays you will see in football. Cash Womack added the extra point and the Gilmer lead shrunk to 14-7 with 8:53 left in the first half of play.
Gilmer set up after the score on their 23 and took just 1 play and 16 seconds to find the end zone again. Tennison hit Jay Rockwell on a 77-yard TD pass with 8:37 left in the half. Hernandez added the point after and the Gilmer lead was 21-7.
The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out and then the Lindale defense limited Gilmer to a 1-series possession. Lindale managed one first down on their next possession and following a Peterson punt the Gilmer offense set up on their 7.
Tennison led his unit on an 8-play, 93-yard drive that consumed 1:47 for what would be their final score of the half. The TD came on a 46-yard run on 4th and 2 with 2:43 left in the half. Hernandez was true on the extra point and the Buckeye advantage increased to 28-14.
The teams exchanged punts and Lindale got another break when a Cody Guidry punt under heavy pressure traveled from the Gilmer 1 only to the 23.
There was exactly 1 minute left in the half and the Eagles used 47 seconds to get into the end zone for the second time. The 23-yard drive was just 3 plays. The score came on a 1-yard run by Nashad Lee with 13 seconds left in the half. Womack added the extra point and Gilmer’s lead was cut to 28-14.
Tennison took a knee following the kickoff and the teams headed to their respective locker rooms to go over their adjustments for the second half.
Gilmer received the second half kickoff as the third quarter began. The kick went from the Lindale 40 down to the Gilmer 25. Keith Rockwell returned the ball up to the 32.
Tennison led the offense on a 7-play, 68-yard drive that took 2:01. The score came on a 25-yard TD pass to Rohan Fluellen with 9:59 left in the third quarter. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 35-14.
Not to be outdone the Eagles came back with a 5-play, 67-yard drive that consumed 1:16 off the clock. The score came on a 56-yard TD pass from Peterson to Jacob Seekford with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
The Buckeyes had a good drive going on their next possession, picking up 3 first downs before having a 4th down pass fall incomplete. Additionally, Gilmer was called for unsportsmanlike conduct and Lindale took over on their 41.
Aided by a second unsportsmanlike penalty, the Eagles took advantage, going on a 9-play, 59-yard drive that consumed the final 3:44 of the third quarter. The drive ended with a 28-yard TD pass from Peterson to Judson Long. Womack added the PAT and Lindale was within 7, trailing 35-28.
Realizing that they had better get things in gear, the Bucks began their next drive on their 38 and took just 3:16 to find the end zone and expand the lead. They moved 62 yards in 7 plays. The TD came on a 3-yard run by Ashton Haynes with 8:44 left in the game. Hernandez was successful on the PAT kick and the Gilmer lead increased to 42-28.
The never-say-die Eagles came right back on their next possession, going on an 11-play, 64-yard TD drive that took 4:26 off the clock. The score came on a 21-yard TD pass from Peterson to Evan Alford with 4:18 left in the game. Womack added the extra point and Lindale was back within a touchdown, 42-35.
The Eagles kicked onside but the ball went out of bounds and following a 5-yard mark off Gilmer set up shop at their 46. The Buckeyes managed one first down but were forced to punt away on 4th down. After a 12-yard punt the Eagles set up on their 31.
On the first play of the possession Cadon Tennison intercepted a Peterson pass at the Lindale 45 with 2:09 left in the game and the Buckeyes were set up in position to drive the final nail in the coffin of the Eagles and they did just that.
On the first play of the possession Ashton Haynes ran the 45 yards into the end zone for what would be the final score of the night. The possession was just 9 seconds when Haynes got into the end zone. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 49-35.
After picking up one first down Peterson was intercepted again, this time by Rohan Fluellen. He took the pick from the Gilmer 45 to the Eagle 24. Gilmer ran 3 plays and the game ended with the Buckeyes claiming the 49-35 victory.
We visited with Buckeye Coach Alan Metzel after the game and asked his thoughts on how hard the Eagles fought till the very end.
“We talked before the game that this team was a good team, that they were not going to go away. They were going to keep going even if we got out there, which you saw that happen. We jumped out early, we made a few mistakes. We probably should have run the ball going out of the 1-yard line; you know, I’ll take that one. They get a score going in before half. Things happened that weren’t just right. They, credit to Lindale, they made some plays; got the game close again, but the thing that I’m pleased with is we got tested by a good opponent and we were able to come back and make the next play and we did that all throughout the night. Big win for the Buckeyes.”
We pointed out that the team despite their mistakes still put 49 points on the board and that said a lot and the coach responded, “Oh, no doubt, and against an excellent opponent, so we know that the potential’s there to be explosive. We’ve just got to trim out some of the excess right now.”
We had discussed at the Lunch with the Coach on Wednesday at Gilmer Country Club that Lindale was the best 1-2 team in the state and pointed out they proved that in the game.
“Absolutely. They have a great program and they were good at every level all the way down through their 7th grade. They’re doing it the right way. We know it was going to be a big game. They’re coming off playing in the State Championship last year.”
We wondered if Coach Metzel felt some of the mistakes might be due to thinking about Carthage coming up next week and he replied, “Well, I’m not clairvoyant, but I’ll say this, I didn’t sense that this week. I felt like our guys understood. They watch film, they realize, hey, they’re pretty good. They knew Lindale was going to be a good opponent, so the reasoning I couldn’t tell you; we’ve just got to get it fixed.”
We pointed out that the Cadon Tennison interception when Lindale was down by just 7 with 2:19 to go was the play of the game.
“Cadon Tennison, how about that for a 9th grader! He made an incredible break on the ball, great catch and then drug his toe to stay in bounds. I was one foot away from him and there was no doubt that he was in, and just an amazing play for a young man like him to be able in that kind of a situation to go make that play. To me, it bodes well for his future.”
We ended our visit by pointing out that the mistakes the team made really could not have come at better time since the players will all be paying close attention when they watch the game film.
“No doubt; everybody will be locked in this week. It’ll be a fun week for Gilmer, you know. It’s going to be a fun week for our team. We’re going to play loose, we’re going to go and play and enjoy the game and see where we are. We’re excited to go get up against them.”