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By ELWYN HENDERSON
The Gilmer Buckeyes, just as expected, had no trouble handling the 2-8 Mexia Blackcats in Class 4A DII Bi-District action Thursday night at Lindale Eagle Stadium. Gilmer totally controlled the game from the outset and cruised to a 71-14 win. The victory moves the Buckeyes to 10-1 on the while the loss drops Mexia to 2-9 and sends the Blackcats to the gym for basketball season.
David Davila kicked away for Mexia to open the game and Gilmer got the ball at the 26 and it was returned to the 34 where the Buckeyes went on offense for their first possession.
Brandon Tennison completed a 21-yard pass to Ashton Haynes on the first offensive play of the game. Haynes followed that up with a 25-yard down to the Mexia 20. The Buckeyes got their first TD of the night with 10:51 left in the first quarter when Haynes ran into the end zone from the 16. The Bucks ran for a successful swinging gate 2-point conversion as Haynes ran into the end zone again and Gilmer took a quick 8-0 lead. The drive was 5 plays, 66 yards and took just 1:09.
On the second play of the first Mexia possession following the score a Nate Burns pass was intercepted by Landon Watson at the Gilmer 32 and the Black Flag Defense was shining early.
The Buckeyes took over at that point and took only 2 plays to find the end zone for the second time on the night. The score came on a 36-yard run by Cadon Tennison with 9:50 left in the first quarter. Jose Hernandez added the PAT and Gilmer led 15-0.
Mexia began their second possession on their 25 after a fair catch and moved to the Gilmer 2 and the Black Flag forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to go back over on offense. The drive went for 11 plays and 73 yards and ate 4:29 off the clock.
The Buckeye offense responded with an 11-play, 98-yard TD drive that consumed 2:21 off the clock. The score came on a 4-yard run by Aston Haynes with exactly 3 minutes left in the quarter. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 22-0
Mexia responded with an 8-play, 70-yard drive that took 2:42 off the clock. The score came on a 27-yard TD pass from Nate Burns to Kayleb Mathews with 18 seconds left in the quarter. David Davila added the extra point and the Blackcats narrowed the Gilmer lead to 22-7, but only for 15 seconds.
Rohan Fluellen took the ensuing kick at his 14 and returned it 84 yards into the end zone for another Gilmer score. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 29-7.
After a return of the next kickoff the Blackcats set up shop on their 40. The Black Flag shut down Mexia in four downs and the Gilmer offense took over once again on the Gilmer 9 with 6:32 left in the first half.
Tennison led the Bucks to another TD, as they moved the 91 yards in just 5 plays and took only 1:30 off the clock. Hernandez added the extra point and Gilmer led 43-7 with 5:02 left in the half.
Mexia started on their 30 on their next possession and the Black Flag shut things down forcing a three-and-out. After a partially blocked punt that went for -7 yards, Gilmer went back on the offensive at the Blackcat 26.
It took just 1 play for the Bux to get into the end zone again. Tennison hit Parker Gilow for a 26-yard TD pass with 3:09 left in the half. Hernandez added the extra point and the Gilmer lead advanced to 50-7. The drive took just 7 seconds off the clock.
The Blackcats got the ball back once more before the half. They began at their 34 and moved the ball 56 yards in 10 plays that took 2:32 off the clock. The drive ended when a 4th down run fell the length of the ball short at the Gilmer 10 with 37 seconds left in the half. Tennison took a knee from the victory formation and the half ended with Gilmer leading in blowout fashion as expected, 50-7.
Mexia got the ball at their 28 to begin the second half of play. They picked up 2 first downs before turning the ball over on downs at the Gilmer 36.
Cadon Tennison came in at quarterback and took the Buckeyes on a 2-play, 64-yard drive that took 43 seconds off the clock. The score came on a 54-yard pass from Cadon to Will Blakely with 9:38 left in the third quarter. Weston Mahan came in and booted the PAT and the lead advanced to 57-7.
The Black Flag forced a three-and-out on the next Mexia possession and following a punt the Bucks took over on the Blackcat 49. Cadon Tennison led the offense on a 3-play, 49-yard drive that took 1:43. The score came on a 40-yard run by Will Henderson with 5:11 left in the quarter. Mahan hit the extra point and Gilmer led 64-7.
The Blackcats managed to find the end zone for the second time in the game on their ensuing possession. They held the ball for 5:03 and moved 66 yards in 9 plays. The score came on a 36-yard pass from Burns to Victor Olvera. Davilla added the extra point and the Gilmer lead was cut to 64-14.
Following the kick after the score the Bucks set up on their 39 yard line with 1 second left in the third quarter.
Cadon Tennison brought the offense back on the field and they moved the 61 yards into the end zone in 9 plays and took 6:04 off the fourth quarter clock. The score came on a 26-yard TD run by Michael Colbert with 5:57 left in the game. Mahan added his third extra point and the score was 71-14 in favor of Gilmer.
Cadon took a knee three times and then Cody Guidry came in and punted the ball away to the Gilmer 45. They ran 1 play for 7 yards and the final second ticked off the clock giving the Buckeyes the 71-14 victory.
We visited with Buckeye Head Coach Alan Metzel after the big win and began by mentioning that he was able to check off all the boxes of what he wanted the team to accomplish in the game.
“I think you’re probably right. That was a great team win. I loved how our guys came out focused, just one step at a time, like you say, checking off boxes. People were making plays, being physical, staying into it; encouraging their teammates. Tonight we got a week better. That was good.”
We asked the coach how big it was for the Black Flag Defense to do the same thing they did a week earlier in Pleasant Grove by holding the Blackcats out of the end zone inside the 5 yard line twice in the game.
“You know, I think it builds confidence and when they do that regularly like they have the past two weeks, when other teams get in there they feel like it’s time to just make the stand. I think that is something that is going to serve us well moving forward.”
We also asked Coach Metzel what it meant to get so many backup players playoff game experience in the game.
“It’s invaluable. You know, it is great to be able to get some of those guys their first varsity experience and here they are playing in the playoffs. It just pushes them ahead in their growth cycle. Here they are getting to play at an extremely high level with pressure and tons of fans and so forth. Great win for them and great opportunity for them as well.”
We asked what it meant to him to have sophomore Will Henderson to come up off the JV for the playoffs and score a touchdown in the game.
“He’s a guy that the people will get to know very well. He’s extremely talented and so this was just the first of many things I think for Will Henderson. (It was) a great job of getting his feet wet tonight and looking forward to big things in the future.”
We also asked based on how well the team played in the game if he felt there was anything
they could have done better.
“Well, I think there were times we missed some tackles in the open field. I think there was a time or two that we could have been a bit more disciplined when we got a penalty, but I think overall I’m pretty pleased with tonight’s win.”
As Buckeye fans saw, Ladaylon Jackson came off the field with assistance and was in obvious pain getting to the sideline and was on a crutch. We asked if he had any idea what the injury was and he had good news to report.
“Preliminary right now it seems like it’s a hip flexor issue which is much better than have broken something, so I think right now we’re taking precautions and we’ll evaluate him over the weekend. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon.”
The coach also had great praise for the Army of Buckeyes who were at the game.
“It was fantastic! (It was a) great atmosphere, great night for football, beautiful venue, crowd was all there; a great night for the Gilmer Buckeyes!”
Gilmer will now move on to the Area playoff round against Caddo Mills next Friday night at Hanby Stadium Mesquite in a 7 PM kickoff. The Buckeyes will be the visiting team. The Foxes defeated Hillsboro Thursday night 24-14 to advance to the second round. They come into the contest with an 8-3 record on the season. The two teams met in round 4 last year on December 5th at Texas A&M Commerce with the Buckeyes claiming a 38-14 victory.
Stats By MARK SKINNER