Gilmer Buckeyes (Home) vs. Rusk Eagles (Visitor)
Friday Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.
CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium – Tyler
By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes officially concluded their 2022 regular season in Pittsburg Thursday night, claiming the third outright district championship in a row with a 44-14 blistering of the Pirates. The game was pushed back from Friday to Thursday due to severe thunderstorms and 60-70 mph winds that were forecast to be in the area from late Friday afternoon into early Saturday morning.
With the win Gilmer finished off a perfect 9-0 regular season and a 5-0 District 7-4A DII slate and they will head into the playoffs next Friday against Rusk who was upset 35-34 Thursday night, dropping them unexpectedly into 4th place in District 8-4A DII. The game will be played at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
With the loss the Pirates fell to 2-8 on the season and 2-3 in district play, putting them in fourth place in our district which will pit them against Carthage in bi-district action this coming Friday.
To begin the game, Gilmer won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. Amauri Hamilton took the kick from Alan Ramirez at the Gilmer 18 and 13 seconds and 82 yards later he was in the end zone for a Gilmer TD. Jose Govea added the PAT and Gilmer had a quick 7-0 lead.
Govea kicked the ball out of the end zone and the Pirates set up at that point for their first possession. It was a quick three-and-out and Gilmer set up shop on the Pitt 42.
The Buckeyes managed one first down and turned the ball over on the next series at the Pitt 39.
On the third play of the possession the Pirate runner fumbled the ball and Chris Guillen recovered for the Bucks on the Pitt 36.
It was another short possession for the offense, as Cadon Tennison was intercepted on a 4th down pass by Tyliq Isome at the Pirate 25.
The Black Flag gave up one first down and then forced a punt on the next series. The ball went out of bounds on the Gilmer 47 and the Buckeyes began their fourth possession from that point.
This time the Bucks were not to be denied, as they moved the 53 yards into the end zone for the TD in 6 plays over 1:43. The score came on a 25-yard run by Ashton Haynes with 1:21 left in the opening frame. Govea notched the extra point and Gilmer led 14-0.
After a touchback to the 25, the Black Flag Defense forced another three-and-out and following another Ramirez punt Gilmer was back in business again at the Pirate 49.
Tennison led the offense on a 7-play, 49-yard drive that took 2:43 off the second quarter clock. Aron Bell successfully ran into the end zone for a 2-point conversion out of the swinging gate and the Buckeyes upped the lead to 22-0 with 8:45 left in the first half.
After a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff, the Pirates set up on their 26 and promptly went three-and-out thanks to another stellar job by the Black Flag. After a 38-yard punt the Buckeye offense hit the field again with fire in their eyes, beginning at their 33.
This time they took 8 plays and 2:49 to move the 67 yards for another score. The TD came on a 2-yard run by Tennison with 3:43 left in the half. The PAT was initially called good by one official and then after a conversation the kick was then ruled no good, but the Buckeyes still led 28-0.
Gilmer got a break on the next Pirate possession when after picking up 11 yards on their first play, Will Henderson intercepted Johhnson at the Gilmer 35 and the Bucks went back on the offensive. Unfortunately, on the first play of the possession, Tennison was intercepted by Corlon Worth who returned the ball to midfield.
The Pirates made some offensive changes and went on a 9-play, 50-yard drive that took 2:20 and ended when Michael Rockwell ran into the end zone from 3 yards out with 44 seconds left in the half. Ramirez added the point after the score moved to 28-7 in favor of Gilmer.
After kicking the ball out of bounds on consecutive kickoffs the Buckeyes finally set up on their 39 and went three-and-out, punting from their 42 with 17 seconds left in the half. The kick was muffed and Gilmer recovered at the Pirate 29 with 7 seconds left in the half.
Tennison couldn’t find an open receiver on the first play and advanced the ball to the 29 to end the half with the Buckeyes in control, 28-7.
Govea kicked off to begin the second half. The kick went into the end zone and Pitt began their first possession of the second half at their 25.
Pitt managed two first downs and then punted away on the second series. Following the kick Gilmer set up at their 37.
It took just three plays and 40 seconds for the Bux to find the end zone again after moving 63 yards. The score came on a 28-yard pass from Tennison to Haynes with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
On their ensuing possession, the Black Flag forced yet another three-and-out and after a punt the Buckeyes took over at their 31 and it was a quick three-and-out forced by the Pirate defense. Omero Orona’s punt went into the end zone and Johhnson brought his team out at the 20 to get their next drive started.
The drive was seven plays, 42 yards and 2:16 and it ended with a 32-yard Govea field goal with 11:06 left in the game and advanced the Gilmer lead to 38-7.
The Black Flag forced another three-and-out on the next Pitt possession and after a punt that died at the Gilmer 10 Tennison brought his offense back on the field again.
It didn’t take long for the Buckeyes to score again, as on the first play of the possession Will Henderson went down the left sideline for an 89-yard TD run with 8:31 left in the game. Orona came in to try the PAT and the kick was wide left but the lead moved to 44-7.
Beginning their final possession of the game at their 28 after the kickoff following the score, the Pirates, going against backup defensive players got an impressive TD drive to cap off things. They moved the 72 yards into the end zone in 12 plays and took 7:38 off the clock. The score came on a 17-yard pass from Johhnson to Noah Torres with just 17 seconds remaining in the game. Ramirez added the extra point and the score was 44-14.
Gilmer got the ball back after the kickoff, ran one play and the game ended.
After the game with visited with Coach Metzel and began by asking his thoughts on returning the opening kickoff for a TD and leading just 13 seconds into the game.
“Well, first off, great job! Coach (Olan) Johnson had seen something that he felt like we could get to the edge. They kicked it deep and we were able to pin them inside. Great return and he had like seven guys out here on the wall. I thought that was an excellent job of executing, which kick-started us and at that point I’m thinking ‘ok, here we go,’ and then we began to sputter.
“I’ll go ahead and lead into that. We weren’t as sharp as I would have liked at times. At times we did some great things, then we’d sputter at other times. We’ve got to clean that up, obviously, and that’s what we’ll do next week in practice.”
We also discussed that, despite their record coming in, Pittsburg always played the Buckeyes hard each year.
“They always play us well. They play hard. They played with a lot of pride tonight. Coach Abron there’s no quit in their team, so compliments to them.”
We asked the coach his thoughts about the beautiful 89-yard TD run Will Henderson made and he responded, “It was a beauty! That guy, you just have to give him enough chances and he’s going to break one. He’s just so talented, and what I loved about that play is you had Ashton leading the way blocking for him. They’re such good friends and they’re both so unselfish and they’re excited for each other all the time. That’s what it’s about.”
We were curious about the two TD scores that were called back for holding as to whether or not the Bucks were guilty of the infraction.
“Well, on the first one, I would say yes; the second one absolutely not, but it is what it is.”
We mentioned that we knew he really didn’t care who his team played next week because he was proud of the undefeated regular season and being district champions three years in a row.
“You just hit it. The one thing I told our kids is that we were a little up and down tonight but make sure you appreciate what tonight accomplished, 9-0, district champs, amazing accomplishment with the season that they had with the challenges of our opponents. I couldn’t be more pleased with that. That needs to be celebrated by them this weekend and then Monday it’s over and here we go. We’re just excited to get to play a playoff game next weekend.”
We pointed out that all of our three state championships beginning in 2004 were all undefeated regular seasons and that we knew he had to feel really good about the chances of making it past Carthage and going all the way right now, and he agreed.
“I do; I believe in my team and I believe that we’ll continue to get better. There’s a lot of talent on this team and a lot of guys that are fighting for each other and pushing to be the best they can be. That’s all you can ask. We have that kind of potential, so one week at a time. We’ll get refocused again on Monday. Whoever our opponent is, we’ll look forward to playing them and then we’ll see if we can’t take another step.”
We finished our visit by asking his thoughts on another stellar performance by the Black Flag Defense.
“They’re really, really strong. It starts in that middle and then we’re athletic on the edges, and they’ve just done a great job all year long.”
Additionally, we talked with Defensive Coordinator Tommy Edwards. We began by asking if he agreed his charges still had room to get better.
“Yes, sir, no doubt; 1% better each and every day. You can see the progress that we’ve made throughout the year. Playing the teams we have the past three weeks, basically just a smash-mouth mentality. The kids just hunkered down and got better each week.”
We asked if he agreed with all Gilmer fans that the Bucks could take Carthage in Round 3 this year, and he replied, “They’re always going to be there, so you know it goes through them. They’re the ones to beat, and if we’re lucky enough and thankful enough and healthy enough to get to them, it is what it is. We look forward to the matchup. I think that we’ll give them everything that we’ve got and hopefully go toe to toe with them.”
So now we have accomplished the goals for Phase 1 and Phase 2 and Coach Metzel refers to non-district and district matchups and it’s time for Phase 3, the run to a state championship. Things look very bright and we want to see ALL of the Army of Buckeyes at each of the playoff games as the Buckeyes attempted to make it back to Jerry World for a third straight year to attempt to win a state championship.