By Elwyn Henderson
The #5 in Class 4A DII ranked Gilmer Buckeyes opened up their 2023 season at home at Jeff Traylor Stadium in Gilmer against the #3 in Class 4A DI Chapel Hill Bulldogs in an early Clash of the Titans in the KLTV Red Zone Game of the Week.
Chapel Hill walked off the field with the 71-53 victory in a hard-fought contest that saw both teams face adversity and taste success during the game.
While it was a tough loss and the first opening game loss since 2001, a 20-14 overtime game setback in Gladewater. There were a lot of bright spots in the game, especially considering all the new starters for the Buckeyes.
When we visited with a disappointed Coach Alan Metzel we began by pointing out that Chapel Hill didn’t wear out late in the game like Gilmer fans had hope for and anticipated. He responded, “They hung in there and you have to give them credit. They played all the way to the finish. Last year we were able to get a handful of turnovers that helped us. We got a few tonight, not enough to really turn that tide, which hurt. They’re just an excellent team. We didn’t make enough plays to stop them. We didn’t make enough plays when we needed to (in order) to score. It’s a great barometer for us for where we are. We’ve got a long way to go in the season. I told our guys we got them last year and they went all the way to Round 5. It’s going to make us get better in the long run and that’s the goal.”
We then asked coach if he agreed with our assessment that based on what they showed in the game they were good enough to win the Class 4A DI State Championship this year.
“No doubt, no doubt. Yeah, they have enough talent, they have what it takes, and they’ll be pushing to try and win that thing at the end, I think.”
We pointed out that even though the loss stung that the team never gave up and they put 53 points up on the scoreboard.
He replied, “We did! To me, those are things, I don’t like it when we lose, none of us do. Our guys are not used to that, but we’re going to look at the things (and see) what did we do well? We hung in there. We continued to play hard, we continued to execute, we continued to put points on the board. Those are all positives. Now we’ve got a handful of things we’ve got to get fixed and put back together and hopefully, we’ll come out with a better ending next Friday night.”
We also mentioned that although it is not what cost the team the victory, the officiating crew seemed to be totally lost at times in the game. We asked his thoughts on the officials, knowing he had to be careful what he said.
“Well, the way I always try and look at it from a coaching standpoint is it’s an uncontrollable. So, if I focus on that then I’m going to be wasting energy instead of putting it where I need to. Were there things that didn’t go our way, no doubt.”
We mentioned that Kilgore narrowly lost to Carthage to open the season and said it wouldn’t get much easier next week for the Buckeyes.
“No, and we knew that coming into the year, you know. Then you’ve got Paris and Lindale. You know, those are four war-daddies, and we know that. So for us, like I said, we’ve got to go back, look at us and ask what are the things we’ve got to fix. Then we’ll apply it to Kilgore and we’ll watch video on them and see what they are doing. Obviously, they played well, but it’s not like we didn’t have respect for them already.”
We conclude by asking Coach Metzel for any other thoughts he had on the game, and he said, “You know, it’s disappointing to lose, but I love my team. These guys are going to fight and they’re going to come back and I expect us to play well. I expect us to play better next Friday night, and that’s all I can ask. We’re going to continue to chip away and get better next week.”
On the game’s first play from scrimmage at their own 39, Gilmer QB Cadon Tennison hit Ta’Erik Tate on a screen pass Tate took all the way into the red zone. Gilmer had a 1st and goal from the 6 after a horse collar penalty. On the next play Will Henderson ran into the end zone with 11:36 left in the first quarter. Brayden Pate nailed the extra point and Gilmer led 7-0 just 24 seconds into the fray.
CH responded as QB Demetrius Brisbon led his offense down the field, moving 10 plays in exactly four minutes and he ran into the end zone from the 3 with 7:36 left in the quarter. Aron Bell blocked the PAT attempt and Gilmer still led, 7-6.
After a three-and-out, Pate came in to punt the ball away.
Brisbon took little time to lead his team into the end zone again, moving the 68 yards in just three plays. The score came once again when Brisbon ran into the end zone, this time from 60 yards out with 5:05 left in the quarter. The PAT was good and the Bulldogs took a 13-7 lead.
Geramiah Noble returned the kickoff 38 yards to the Gilmer 44 and the visitors were called for a personal foul face mask and the ball was moved down to the CH 41.
Tennison and company took just 45 seconds and five plays to move the 41 yards into the end zone. The TD came on an 8-yard run by Alec Sims with 4:20 left in the opening quarter. Pate’s extra point attempt was no good and the score was tied at 13-all.
The ‘Dogs were called for a personal foul and Gilmer kicked off from the CH 45. Pate attempted an onside kick but the Bulldogs recovered at their 34 and set up shop. It took seven plays and 2:24 for the visitors to get into the end zone again. The score came on a 4-yard run by Jayvin Mayfield. The PAT kick by Mendez was good and the Bulldogs took a 20-13 lead with 1:48 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff Quenton Greenlee of CH was called for throwing a punch and he was ejected from the game. The resulting penalty moved the ball up to the Gilmer 30, but the Bulldog defense forced another three-and-out. After a Pate punt and 15-yard penalty on the Bulldogs for a personal foul, Brisbon led his offense back on the field at his 23.
The Black Flag defense struggled once again on the drive and the Bulldogs found the end zone yet again. The score capped an 8-play, 77-yard drive that took just 2:18. The score came on a 1-yard run by Rickey Stewart with 9:43 left in the first half. The Campos kick put the Bulldogs up 27-13.
The kickoff after the score was taken by Tate at the Gilmer 5 and he didn’t stop until he had blown by the kickoff coverage team for 95 yards and a Gilmer TD in 17 seconds with 9:26 left in the half. Pate nailed the extra point and Gilmer closed the gap to 27-20.
The Bucks covered well on the next kickoff and Chapel Hill began at their 25. After running three plays, the ‘Dogs fumbled. Brendan Webb grabbed the ball at the Gilmer 35 and returned it to the Bulldog 35.
On the first play of the possession Will Henderson took the ball and ran 35 yards into the end zone in 18 seconds for another Gilmer TD. Pate was true on the extra point kick and the game was tied 27-27.
On the next Gilmer kickoff the ball was returned to the Bulldog 28. On the first play of the possession, Brisbon ran for 57 yards down to the Gilmer 15. Stewart ran into the end zone for another CH score with 6:34 left in the half on the next pay. The extra point try was good and the visitors regained the lead, 34-27. The drive was 72 yards in 2 plays and took 35 seconds off the clock.
The next kickoff went out of bounds and Gilmer set up on the 30 following the 5-yard mark off. Tennison led the offense on a 9-play, 70-yard drive that consumed 2:43 and concluded with 3:51 left in the first half. The drive ended with a 19-yard TD run by Henderson. Pate’s PAT was wide right and Chapel Hill maintained the lead at 34-33.
The Bulldogs were called for a 10-yard holding penalty on the next kickoff, negating a good return and they began on their 25. CH fumbled the ball away and Gilmer too over with 11 seconds and there was no more scoring in the half.
The Bucks kicked off onside to begin the third quarter and almost had a loose ball, but the Bulldogs recovered at their 33. They took just 2 plays to move into the end zone again. The 67- yard drive took just 38 seconds. Javorian Cook ran 53 yards into the end zone with 11:22 left in the third quarter. The extra point kick was good and the Bulldogs took a 41-33 lead.
Chapel Hill kicked out of bounds once again and Gilmer set up on their 30 for their first possession of the second half.
The Bucks moved the 70 yards in 16 plays over 6:13 and scored on a 4th and 1 on a Tennison run with 5:09 left in the third period, closing the gap to 41-39. Tevon Brooks picked off the snap from the swinging gate and returned the ball into the end zone for two points and the visitors went up 43-39.
Chapel Hill began their next drive at their 36 and took just one play and 14 seconds to find the end zone again with 4:55 left in the quarter. The score came on a 64-yard run by Brisbon. The PAT was good and the Bulldogs advanced to a 50-39 lead.
The next kickoff was out of bounds again and Gilmer set up on their 35. The good guys picked up one first down but thanks to a 10-yard loss on a fumble they were forced to punt the ball away on 4th down. Pate nailed a punt that went out of bounds on their 27, but after a penalty on the Buckeyes the ball was moved to the Gilmer 40.
It took just tw0 plays and 15 seconds for the visitors to put the final nail in the coffin. The score came on a 15-yard pass to Cameron Kelly with 15 seconds left in the quarter. The PAT made it 57-39.
On its next possession, Gilmer picked up two first downs but then a costly mistake stalled the drive and the Bulldogs took over with 10:04 left in the game at their 10.
It took just two plays and 47 seconds for Chapel Hill to blow past the Buckeye defense once again. The score came on a 72-yard run by Brisbon with 9:17 left in the game. The extra point was good and the Bulldogs turned the game into a blowout, leading 64-39.
The never-say-die Buckeyes began their next drive on their 30 and moved 70 yards into the end zone for a TD with 8:23 left in the game. The score came on a 13-yard run by Henderson, capping off a 5-play drive. Pate nailed the extra point and the score was 64-46.
Gilmer kicked onside but the Bulldogs recovered at midfield. They drove the distance in three plays over 48 seconds. The score came on a 5-yard run by Mayfield with 7:45 left in the game. The extra point was good and the Bulldogs led 71-45.
The Buckeyes then moved the 70 yards for their final touchdown of the night in 10 plays and 1:48 seconds. Alec Sims scored from a yard out with 4:57 left in the game. The Pate extra point was good and the score was 71-53 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Chapel Hill compiled 801 yards of total offense, 726 of it on the ground.
Gilmer had a respectable total offense itself of 467 yards, 353 of it on the ground. Henderson had 214 yards on 27 carries and four TDs. Sims added 85 yards on 10 carries and two TDs.
The 0-1 Buckeyes travel to R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore next Friday night to take on the Bulldogs. Kilgore will come into the contest at 0-1 also after losing a narrow 30-27 game on the road in Carthage Friday night
We want to encourage the Army of Buckeyes to make the trip next week. The team urgently needs your support!