By ELWYN HENDERSON
The Gilmer Buckeyes and Celina Bobcats met in the playoffs for the sixth time Friday night at Children’s Health Stadium in Prosper in the Class 4A DII State Semi-Finals with the winner moving on to AT&T Stadium in Arlington Friday, December 17th to face the winner of the China Spring-Cuero game in the State Championship Game.
All the prognosticators anticipated the game would be a very close one with the team who managed to protect the ball and avoid penalties at crucial times coming out on top. Celina came in as a 4-10 point favorite in the game depending on who you followed. The Buckeyes loved being the underdog since they very seldom are in that position and it gave them a little more impetus to find a way to win the game. When the smoke cleared they did just that, claiming a 27-7 victory and making it to back-to-back State Championship games for the first time in the historyof Gilmer football. The Buckeyes will face China Spring at AT&T Stadium on Friday, December 17th at 3 PM. China Spring defeated Cuero 34-9 in the other Semi-Final.
Celina won the coin toss and elected to defer to begin the game. Kaden Lorick kicked off and the kick went out of the end zone for a touchback and Brandon Tennison led his offense on the field for their first possession of the game at the Gilmer 25.
performed to perfection and the Buckeyes moved the 75 yards to pay dirt over 8 plays and 3:09. The TD came on a 2-yard run by Ashton Haynes with 8:51 left in the first quarter. Jose Hernandez added the PAT and Gilmer took an early 7-0 lead.
The kickoff went out of bounds and Noah Bentley led his charges onto the field at their 30 for the first Celina possession. He moved his team down the field but on a 4th and 2 the Black Flag Defense came up big and Gilmer took over on their 21½.
Tennison led his unit down the field but the drive stalled after 9 plays and 3:44 and Cody Guidry punted the ball away and Celina took over on their 28.
On the third play of the possession Tyson Wilson intercepted a Bentley pass at the Celina 45 and returned the pick to the 26.
The Bucks had two false starts and a delay of game that stalled the possession. Guidry came in and nailed a beautiful punt that was downed inside the Celina 1.
The Black Flag forced a three-and-out and after a 20-yard punt the Buckeye offense went back to work on the Bobcat 26.
The Buckeyes lost 35 yards in the possession and Guidry punted the ball away and the Bobcats took back over at their 26.
The Black Flag forced another three-and-out and after a 20-yard punt Celina took over on their 26 only to have the Black Flag force another three-and-out. Following a 42-yard punt the Buckeyes took over on their 28 for what would be their second score of the game.
Tennison led the offense on a 7-play, 72-yard drive that took 2:50 off the second quarter .clock. The score came on a 12-yard TD run by Ladaylon Jackson with 1:54 left in the first half of play.
Hernandez kicked away and the Celina receiver brought the ball out of the end zone to the 5 and the Bobcats took over at that point.
Bentley managed to lead his offense to a couple of first downs and the half ran out with the Buckeyes in control by the score of 14-0.
Hernandez kicked off to begin the second half and for the second time in the game a Bobcat player took the ball at the 2 and the officials spotted the ball there.
Bentley brought his offense out knowing his team needed to get a drive and a score on the possession. The Bobcats picked up two first downs and then were forced to punt the ball away. After a 21-yard punt the Bucks took over on their 39.
The offense got a 28-yard pass from Tennison to Fluellen on the first play but then the Celina defense stiffened and forced a Guidry punt on the next series. The kick traveled 31 yards down to the Bobcat 6 and Bentley hit the field again.
His unit managed two first downs on the possession and then the Black Flag forced another punt. The kick traveled 30 yards to the Gilmer 35 and Tennison and company hit the field again hoping for another score.
The offense did just that, moving the 65 yards into the end zone in 6 plays and taking 1:48. The score came on a 19-yard pass from Fluellen to Tennison with 2:06 left in the third quarter. Gilmer went for a 2-point conversion out of the swinging gate but Cadon Tennison was dropped at the 5, but Gilmer led 20-0.
The Black Flag forced another three-and-out and after a 50-yard punt the Buckeyes took over on their 21. They ran 2 plays and the third quarter came to end.
The drive continued with one first down and Gilmer had to punt the ball on the next series. Following a 31-yard Guidry punt the Bobcats took over on their 24.
Bentley led his offense on a 5-play, 66-yard drive that took just 1:34 off the clock. The drive ended when Bentley hit Brower Nickel on a 40-yard TD pass with 8:49 left in the game. Kadon Lorick added the extra point and the Gilmer lead was cut to 20-7.
Zach Veverka kicked onside and Gilmer recovered at the Gilmer 43.
Tennison brought the offense back out hoping to get another score on the board. It didn’t happen as Celina forced a three-and-out. After a 33-yard punt the Bobcats took over on their 17. They managed one first down and then a 9-yard loss on 4th down gave Gilmer the ball back at the Celina 19.
It took only a 15-yard pass interference penalty and a 4-yard run into the end zone by Haynes for the Buckeyes to score again just 10 seconds after taking possession. The score came with 6:28 left in the game. Hernandez added the extra point and the Gilmer lead advanced to 27-7 and put the game on ice.
After a fair catch the Bobcats took over on their 31. They managed one first down and then a 4th down pass by Bentley fell incomplete turning the ball back over to Gilmer on downs at the Celina 38 with 4:27 left in the contest.
Gilmer went three-and-out and after a Guidry punt the Bobcats took the ball over on their 21.
Celina managed one first down on the possession and then the ball turned over on downs following an incomplete pass on 4th and 11 and the Buckeyes got the ball back on the Bobcat 34 with 1:42 left in the game.
Jackson gained 3 and 4 yards on the first two plays and then Tennison took a knee out of the victory formation as the clock ran out and the Buckeyes began to celebrate their return to the State Championship Game for the second year in a row.
Coach Alan Metzel was ecstatic about the win when we visited with him after the game and was excited about getting back to the Big Dance.
“We are excited to come back from a tough, tough game a year ago. A lot of teams could have just thrown up their hands and said ‘aw, it’s not worth all that’. Instead, these guys, they bowed up and they made it a mission this year that ‘we’re going back and we’re going to get our redemption’. One step at a time, 15 games in a row, they came back and got it done and we’re going back and get after China Spring.”
When the coach was asked how the Buckeyes were able to shut down the powerful Celina offense, he replied, “(It was) and amazing defensive effort, a great game plan by Coach Edwards
and his staff; amazing energy by the guys just being able to come every single play. We weren’t always helping them offensively and they didn’t allow that to get them down. They just kept battling.”
When asked his thoughts about being the first Gilmer team to ever go back-to-back to the Championship Game, Coach Metzel replied, “Well, I’ll tell you. It’s awesome to be the head coach in Gilmer, Texas no matter what, but I am grateful and what an amazing honor it is for the team and for the town. The town and our teams in the past set such a high standard and we love getting a push to try and equal it.”
We jokingly asked what tips he would have for former Buckeye and current UTSA Coach Jeff Traylor since the Buckeyes were going back-to-back to the Championship game for the first time in history.
“Hey, not tips to Jeff Traylor. My statement to Jeff Traylor is thanks for bringing me to Gilmer. In 2001 we started a journey together, a friendship. I talked to him multiple times today and he was as nervous and excited for me as I was, and I will be for him on the 21st (when UTSA plays in the Frisco Bowl against San Diego State). What a blessing to work with greatness like him, Coach Turner and the different people that have been in Gilmer, Texas!”
We pointed out that the Buckeyes scored 4 more points on Celina than Argyle did in the only previous loss the Bobcats had in 2021 and asked if that didn’t make him feel good.
“It did! We all saw some of the ugliness we had to fight through. I told you they put on so much pressure that it’s tough and you just have to keep making the next play. For us in Gilmer, we’re not used to some of that. It was a real mental discipline thing. We were able to overcome that. Our guys did and we just kept pushing and we got the defense today.”
When asked about how big the defense was in the game, he answered, “Oh my goodness, amazing! They came up over and over and over with stops, making them punt, we kept the ball, we kept the field position where we wanted it. Tommy and his staff did an amazing job.”
We asked Coach Metzel based on what the Bobcats had been scoring in the playoffs if he had any dream the Bucks would be able to hold the Bobcats to 7 points.
“Honestly, I was pretty confident in my defense. I thought we could go 14 to 17, somewhere in there. To hold them to 7, that’s incredible!”
We also asked what the Army of Buckeyes meant to the team in the game.
“It’s amazing! You know when you look up there and go three hours and people were still pouring in when the game was starting because they had just gotten off work and drove 2 ½ or 3 hours up here, that’s just who they are and we knew they’d be here.”
We ended by noting that he really knew nothing about China Spring at that point but knew he was just happy for the team to be heading back to Jerry World.
“That’s exactly right. We’ll get back in the morning and turn the tape on. We’ll be glad to be the visitors and wearing white and orange and black!”
With the Black Flag Defense playing what arguably could be the BEST game a Gilmer defense has EVER played, we had to visit with Defensive Coordinator Tommy Edwards again.
We began by asking him his thoughts on his unit’s performance.
“The kids played well, I’m telling you. They stuck to the game plan. We heard all the scores that were predicted (showing Gilmer as an underdog) and it wasn’t anything but to put it on the bulletin board and fuel our fire. I was proud of the kids.”
Additionally, we wanted to know if he ever imagined his unit could hold the high-powered Bobcat offense to just 7 points in the game.
“As a defensive coach you always hope, but we’ve got to be reasonable and you think if we can hold them to 21, that’s half their average. Going in we said if we could dominate the line of scrimmage and control the line of scrimmage the sky’s the limit and we could hold them to less than that. We challenged those guys up front and they came through for us.”
We finished our visit with Coach Edwards by asking if he didn’t feel very confident about the Buckeyes going into the Championship Game on the 17th against the China Spring Cougars.
“Yes. That’s why you play the game. Both teams deserve to be there, and hey, we’re going to be ready and give it our best shot.”
Congratulations, Buckeyes. Keep that OVO in the forefront and bring that Championship back to Gilmer!
The Buckeyes will be returning to AT&T Stadium to face the China Spring Cougars for the 4A Division II state championship.
Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 17.
#TXHSFB: Gilmer is state-bound!@mycoskie caught up with @RealGilmerBux head coach Alan Metzel after his team won 27-7 over Celina in the @uiltexas 4A-II semifinal round. @GilmerISDProud #txhsfb pic.twitter.com/8or85OrPi1
— CW33 TV (@CW33) December 11, 2021
Gilmer (TX) RB Ashton Haynes (@Ashtonhaynes8) talks about how good it feels to be going back to the state championship two years in a row. #Brandid👌🏾@RealGilmerBux | @NickDebose pic.twitter.com/2Mu0nuMkca
— BRANDID SPORTS (@BrandidSports) December 11, 2021
Gilmer (TX) Head Football Coach Alan Metzel feels like a million pounds have been lifted off his shoulders after tonight’s 27-7 victory over Celina (TX). #Brandid👌🏻@RealGilmerBux @THSCAcoaches @GilmerISDProud @NickDebose pic.twitter.com/saxYJ6SQeS
— BRANDID SPORTS (@BrandidSports) December 11, 2021
— Kurtis Quillin (@KurtisQuillin) December 11, 2021