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By ELWYN HENDERSON
The 10-1 Gilmer Buckeyes, fresh off their 71-14 blistering of the Mexia Blackcats last Friday night in Lindale take on the Caddo Mills Foxes at Hanby Stadium in Mesquite Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in a Class 4A DII Area Playoff game. Caddo Mills comes into the game after a 24-14 victory over Hillsboro last Thursday night and they are 8-3 on the season. They finished third in District 6-4A DII.
They opened the season with a 55-22 win over Gainesville and followed that up with a 44-20 win over Bullard and a 63-41 win over Canton and a 58-17 win over Living Word High School in Waxahachie before falling to Aubrey by the score of 27-14 and Sunnyvale by the score of 47-7 to open district play. They followed up by defeating Farmersville 50-24 and Nevada Community 30-10 before losing their third game of the year 39-36 to Quinlan Ford. Then they defeated Wills Point in the regular season finale 56-14 before the 24-14 victory over Hillsboro last week.
The Foxes returned only 3 offensive and 4 defensive starters off a 12-1 Regional Finalist team in 2020 along with 17 offensive and 21 defensive lettermen.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football says of the Foxes, “QB/DB (Jason) Thomason (259 yards, 3 TDs passing, 58 tackles, 2 INTs) will take over the Foxes’ spread. WR (Jett) Saldivar (439 yards, 5 TDs receiving) will be the top target. Four-year starter OL/DL (Jacob) Hall (67 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks) leads Caddo Mills in the trenches and is a menace on special teams.”
We talked with Coach Kodi Crane Monday and mentioned that while his 2020 team was hit hard by graduation this spring that he obviously had returning lettermen that have filled the gap in 2020.
“Graduation did take a hit on us but we have what we feel like is a pretty talented senior class as well, so a lot of those kids stepped into those roles and did some good things this year.”
We asked Coach Crane what he felt his team’s biggest strength was as they enter the second round of the playoffs.
“Just the tenacity, you know. We’re battle-tested. I felt like our district was extremely tough. We’re battled tested and hopefully, ready to go.”
We followed up by asking what he felt his team needed to improve on going into the game.
“Just execution; execution is a big one. Whenever we have executed on a high level we have played really good this year and then whenever we haven’t, we haven’t had as good a success, so just play-by-play execution will be super-important.”
We also wanted to know what concerned him most about the Buckeyes.
“They’re extremely good. They’re bringing back a lot of people. They’re very well coached. They are extremely good. Their offensive and defensive lines are extremely good. Brandon Tennison, outstanding; 17 (Rohan Fluellen), and a LOT of things scare me about the Buckeyes.”
We finished by asking the coach what he felt the Foxes would need to do to have a chance to pull off the upset and defeat the Bucks Friday night.
“We’ll have to win the turnover battle, win the special teams battle and have some fortune as well. Gilmer is a tradition-rich football program and they are extremely talented this year as well. For us to pull off an upset we’re going to have to win the turnover battle, we’re going to have to have some fortune and make our mark in special teams as well.”
Just as we were finishing up our visit Coach Crane had some very nice things to say about Coach Metzel.
“He’s been great to work with over the last two years and he’s a really, really quality guy.”
When we talked with Gilmer Coach Alan Metzel Monday we began by asking him how much more improvement he wants to see Friday night in the Area game and what areas does he want to see improvement in.
“I would say that I would like to continue the level of efficiency that we’re playing at right now regardless of who our opponent is. We played at a pretty high level (last week). We had zero penalties on offense; we scored every time we had the ball other than taking a knee. Those are pretty lofty goals to emulate, so we’ll try and stay at that level.
“The past several weeks we’re throwing and catching at a high level. We’re up to around 80% for the past 2 to 3 weeks on our completion percentages. Every game you play deeper those type statistics become more and more critical.”
We also asked how much better he feels his team can get in the next 5 weeks.
“You know, it will be fun to see, quite frankly. I do think that we have areas that we can continue to improve in. I think anytime any team can always get better from the area of chemistry, which factors over into everything. I think we’ve still got room for growth. That’s our goal. We want to improve each week between now and week 16. We’re going to work on taking another step forward this week.”
We asked what he felt the Foxes did the best job of that the Buckeyes would need to control in order to handily win the game.
“Offensively, they throw the ball really well. I would say their quarterback they have this year is really accurate, maybe like the Godley guy that we played last year. I don’t know if he’s quite at that level but he’s pretty talented. His receivers catch the ball well. They’re really good when they get into a scramble type situation at getting into open spaces and moving the ball down the field, so we’ll have to do a good job of containing their quarterback and their passing game.”
Since Coach Crane had good things to say about Coach Metzel, we asked his thoughts on Coach Crane.
“He’s been great to work with both seasons and that’s what you like within the profession. You want people that are going to be doing it for the right reasons and get their guys to play hard. Obviously, he’s got it going over there. This is two years in a row that they’ve had a really competitive team. I’m pleased to see that they’re doing well.”
In his final thoughts on the game, Coach Metzel said, “I’m excited to play another game. It’s fun as we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving and the December month of playing football. Looking forward to a great game in Mesquite.”
The Scout Players of the Week for the Mexia game were Zeke Aguinaga on offense and Orie Gentry on defense. Congrats, men!
The deeper the Buckeyes move into the playoffs the more important it is that you make plans to travel with the team and take noise makers and make your presence known to the opposing team and fans and fire our team up even more to reach the goal of winning a state championship. Please make the trip to Mesquite Friday night and cheer the Bucks on to the third round.