By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes concluded Phase 1 as Coach Alan Metzel likes to call it, the non-district portion of the 2022 schedule Friday night as his 3-0 Buckeyes took on the 2-1 Lindale Eagles in Lindale.
Lindale pretty much gave away their opening game in a 7-point loss to Kaufman but the Eagles have bounced back since with a big win against Pine Tree and a mild upset on the road last Friday over previously undefeated Van.
Everyone felt the game would be similar to the Gilmer-Kilgore game with regard to the Eagles never letting up, and that was the case, but in the end as has been the case all season,
Seth Baggett kicked away to the Gilmer 25. The ball was returned to the Gilmer 36 by Brendan Webb.
Cadon Tennison led the offense on a 53-yard drive over nine plays that took 3:39 and culminated with a 29-yard Jose Govea field goal with 8:21 left in the opening frame, giving the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead.
After a 10-yard return of Govea’s kick after the score the Eagles set up on offense for the first time at their 32. The Black Flag defense forced a three-and-out, but after a 56-yard punt Gilmer went back on the offensive at their 6. It was a quick three-and-out for the Bucks and after a 27-yard kick Lindale set up for their second possession on the Gilmer 42.
Clint Thurman moved his unit down the field to the Gilmer 22 after picking up two first downs before the Black Flag shut the door forcing a 39-yard field goal attempt by Seth Baggett. The kick was good, tying the game at 3-3 with 1:22 left in the first quarter. The drive was 12 plays, 20 yards and took 3:30.
Gilmer took over on their 30 following the kick after the score for their third possession. The third time was the charm as Tennison led the offense 70 yards in 12 plays over exactly 4 minutes. Govea added the PAT and Gilmer led 10-3.
Lindale came right back on their next possession to get into the end zone for the first time thanks to a return from the Lindale 32 down to the Gilmer 27. From there it took 3:04 and seven plays before Devin Daniels ran into the end zone from the 1. Baggett hit the left upright on the extra point attempt and Gilmer still led 10-9.
After an out of bounds kick the Buckeyes went back on offense at their 34. It took only 3 plays and 1:02 to cover the 66 yards and get into the end zone again. The score came on a 44-yard TD run by Will Henderson with 5:16 left in the first half. Govea’s kick after the score was wide right and Gilmer led 16-9.
The lead was short-lived as Lindale came right back, moving 60 yards in six plays that took 2:28 to get into the end zone again. The score came on a 27-yard TD pass from Clint Thurman to Christian Wideman with 2:48 left in the first half of play. Baggett hit the extra point and the game was tied 16-16. Neither team was able to score for the rest of the half and the teams headed to their respective locker rooms still knotted at 16.
Gilmer kicked off to Lindale to begin the second half. Govea’s kick traveled to the Lindale and the kick was returned out to the Eagle 22. Thurman and his charges managed one first down before the Black Flag forced a punt. After the kick Gilmer took over on the 30 with a fire in their eyes.
Tennison and company found the end zone for the third time in the game in just two plays and 25 seconds. On the first play Tennison hit Ta’Erik Tate for a 66-yard gain and Ashton Haynes ran into the end zone from four yards out with 9:04 left in the third quarter. Haynes ran into the end zone for the 2-point conversion and Gilmer led 24-16.
Not to be outdone Lindale came right back with another TD of their own. Thurman moved his team 66 yards in nine plays over 3:37 before Thurman hit a wide open Marcus Field for a 37-yard TD with 1:04 left in the third quarter. Baggett hit the extra point and the Gilmer lead was cut to 24-23.
The two teams exchanged punts and on their ensuing possession Gilmer turned the ball over on downs at the Eagle 34. After picking up one first down the Black Flag forced a punt on the next series and Gilmer set up on their 28 knowing they desperately needed a touchdown and they managed to get it done.
On the first play the Bucks were called for holding and the ball went back to the Gilmer 18. On the next play Will Henderson blasted down the left sideline for 82 yards for a touchdown 5:24 left in the game. The 1-play drive took just 31 seconds and Gilmer was up 30-23. Govea’s point after was good and Gilmer grabbed the 8-point lead, 31-23.
The two teams exchanged punts once again and Lindale set up for their possession of the game. They were down to a 4th and 9 and Thurman pulled off a miracle and completed a 19-yard pass giving the Eagles new life for another series.
On third down on the series Thurman tossed a 45-yard completion to Field, moving the ball to the Gilmer 9, setting up a first and goal from that spot. On first down the Eagles gained six yards and then gave it back on second down when Thurman fumbled. On third down the Black Flag forced a 5-yard loss and then a desperation pass on fourth down fell incomplete in the end zone with seven seconds left in the game and Gilmer took over on downs. Tennison took a knee out of the victory formation and the Buckeyes walked away with the hard fought 31-23 victory to move to 4-0 on the season while the loss drops Lindale to 2-2 on the year.
We caught up with Buckeye Head Coach Alan Metzel after the big win and asked him his thoughts on the battle.
“It was a fantastic game. Hats off to Coach (Chris) Cochran. Their guys made plays just like we said it; they would never go away, and they didn’t. They have a lot of character. They have a program, and hats off to them. It’s enjoyable to see other schools doing it too. Like Coach Traylor always said, ‘a champion plays one play longer than their opponent’, and that’s what we had to do tonight. We just had to keep playing.”
We pointed out that the Buckeyes did play one play longer than their opponent and the Black Flag came through when they absolutely had to on the final offensive play for Lindale.
“That’s right. Obviously, we made some mistakes. We had a busted coverage earlier that they scored on, those two big plays (on the last possession)—we don’t want to do that. We’ll go back and look at that, but when push comes to shove, you’ve got to make the next play. You’ve got to be able to put behind you that you just screwed that up, now I’ve got to make this play, and we did, so that’s the difference in a “W” and an “L.” Keep moving on; great job, great mental toughness right there at the end.”
We discussed how well the offensive line performed when Gilmer got the ball back with 5:55 play clinging to a 1-point lead at their 28 knowing they urgently needed to get into the end zone again and then having Will Henderson take it to the house after the holding penalty.
“It’s always good to have people (Will Henderson) who run 10.4 hundreds! He’s very gifted; incredible block on the edge by Aron Bell, a great job by Brendan Webb, a great job by our X-receiver—Ta’Erik Tate. They had a great platform for him to make his run, and then of course, he turned on the jets.”
We asked Coach Metzel his thoughts on the powerful Lindale O’Line and their talent.
“Yeah, they’re very good, and we knew they were. That 52 (Will Hutchins), the Sam Houston offer guy, he came back. He’s been injured some. He was really good and the Poe kid (Casey) at the other guard is humongous, and they did a great job. One, they have good steam and two, they have good players doing it up there up front.”
We mentioned the fact that even though the Eagle defense double and triple-teamed Rohan Fluellen all night to hold him in check that the Bucks still found a way to get the job done.
“That’s the key. You have to be able to have other feet. You can’t just be a one-trick pony. We had other guys. Tate made big plays, Ashton Haynes, Cadon made some great throws, and that’s what it takes.”
We closed out our visit by asking the coach about any other thoughts he had on the game and wrapping up Phase 1, the non-district schedule for 2022.
“(I’m) very excited to be 4-0 right now. You know, coming into this season, eight new starters on offense, I knew this was going to be a challenge. These guys have tackled Phase 1 the way you would want it done. We’ll spend the next couple of weeks working on things and tightening things up, and then to Phase 2 with our district.”
“These guys, they worked all spring, all summer and did a super job in getting their bodies ready, and we’re very blessed!”
The coach said the team will take this first open week just like a normal open week would be to rest a bit and get a few nicks taken care of and then next week they will begin preparations for Pleasant Grove and continue those preparations the following week before making the trek to Texarkana to take on the Hawks in a game that will almost certainly determine the District 7-4A DII Champion.
Army of Buckeyes, enjoy the break, but show up and show out in Texarkana when district play begins.