By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes moved their season record to 3-2 Friday night at Jeff Traylor Stadium in Gilmer with an 82-62 thrashing of the Prosper Walnut Grove Wildcats in front of a nice Homecoming crowd in the second of three consecutive home games. The Buckeyes have now completed Phase 1, the non-district schedule and will enjoy their open week and spend time preparing for the District 7-4A DII opener at home on October 6th as Phase 2 gets underway.
Walnut Grove won the coin toss to begin the game and deferred to the second half. Dominic Sciano kicked away for Walnut Grove. The ball was kicked onside and Gilmer set out on their first offensive journey at their 32-yard line.
Cadon Tennison led the offense down the field, as they moved 40 yards in the first 3 plays and went the 68 yards into the end zone for a TD with 9:06 left in the first quarter. Brendan Webb completed the drive from 15 yards out. Brayden Pate added the PAT and Gilmer led 7-0. The drive was 9 plays, 68 yards and took 2:54.
The Wildcats came right back with score of their own on their first possession, moving 68 yards in just 3 plays and 51 seconds. The score came on a 31-yard pass from quarterback Braden Butler to John Hutson with 8:15 left in the quarter. Sciano added the extra point and the game was tied 7-7.
After a 36-yard return to the Wildcat 48 by Ta’Erik Tate, Tennison and the offense went to work and quickly found the end zone once again. After a 5-yard mark off against Walnut Grove, Tennison hit Tate on a 43-yard TD pass with just 18 seconds elapsed on the drive. Pate added the extra point and Gilmer went back on top, 14-7.
Thanks to a holding call and a swarming Black Flag Defense, it was a quick three-and-out. After a booming 60-yard Sciano punt, the Bucks began their third drive of the game at their 22.
The offense moved the ball down to the Wildcats 48 but a dropped pass on fourth down turned the ball over to Walnut Grove at that point. The Black Flag swarmed again and an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Buckeyes the ball again at midfield.
It took just 15 seconds and 2 plays for Tennison to lead the offense to another TD. After a 13-yard run by Will Henderson, Tennison hit Tate on a 37-yard score with 1:41 left in the opening frame. Pate added the point-after and Gilmer led 21-7.
The visitors began at their 25 following the net Pate kickoff and return. Butler ran the ball himself the first two plays and gained 25 and 17 yards. The drive ended when Butler hit Cameron Newton on a 9-yard TD pass on the last play of the quarter. The drive was 6 plays, 75 yards and took 1:41. Sciano added the extra point and the Gilmer lead was cut to 21-14.
Sciano’s ensuing kickoff to begin the second quarter was an onside attempt but the Bucks covered the ball at their 46 to begin their next possession.
Tennison led the offense on yet another touchdown drive. The score came on an 11-yard run by Cadon with 10:29 left in the second quarter. The drive was 4 plays, 54 yards and took 1:41 off the clock. Pate was true one again on the extra point and the Gilmer lead advanced to 28-14.
Pate’s next kick went to the 17 and was returned to the 30-yard line and Butler brought his charges back on their next possession at that point. The Black Flag forced a quick three-and-out and following a 49-yard Sciano punt Gilmer was back in business at their 18.
It took a little longer on the possession, but the Buckeyes got into the end zone once again, driving 82 yards in 8 plays and it took 2:32 to get the TD. The score came on a 34-yard pass to Tate with 6:26 left in the first half. Pate was true again on the extra point and Gilmer increased the lead to 35-14.
After a 5-yard mark off against Gilmer for a kick out of bounds, the Wildcats set up at their 34. It took just 1:08 for the visitors to find the end zone again. The score came on a 7-yard pass from Butler to Luke Watkins with 5:08 left in the half. Sciano’s PAT kick was good and the score was 35-21.
The next Sciano kick was taken by Atavian Ector at the Gilmer 4 and returned up to the 33 and the Gilmer offense was back at it. Thanks to a holding call, it was a three-and-out and after a short punt after a high snap the Wildcats took over on their 42.
It took just 3 plays and 55 seconds for Walnut Grove to find the end zone again. The score came on a 36-yard TD pass from Butler to Hutson with 2:28 left in the half. Sciano’s kick was good and the gap closed to 35-28.
The kickoff after the score was taken at the 3 by Tate and returned to the 30. Tennison and the offense were in high gear once again, finding the end zone in just 5 plays and 47 seconds. The score came on a 44-yard run by Henderson on a 4th-and-3 with 1:51 left till halftime. Pate made the point after touchdown and Gilmer extended the lead to 42-28.
Following a nice return the visitors set up shop on their 40. Butler gained 29 yards on a run on the first play and was injured, but he came back in after missing just one play. He led his offense to a TD again in just 41 seconds and 6 plays. The score came on a 10-yard run by Newton. Sciano added the extra point and the score closed to 42-35.
The next kick was bobbled but fortunately Gilmer was able to recover the ball. They ran out the clock to end the first half.
Walnut Grove received Pate’s kickoff to begin the second half of play. The kick went through the end zone and the ball was placed on the 25 where Butler and company went back to work on offense.
On the third play of the possession, Eliez Castillo stripped the ball from the Wildcat carrier and also recovered the fumble at the Walnut Grove 45.
It took just 4 plays and 55 seconds for the Buckeyes to get into the end zone again. The score came on a 38-yard pass from Tennison to Henderson with 10:19 left in the third stanza. Pate’s kick was wide, but Gilmer moved out to a 48-35 lead. On the fifth play of the next possession there was a fumble and Gilmer recovered the ball, but the Wildcat runner had his helmet knocked off before the fumble and Gilmer was called for illegal participation after the helmet fell off and they were penalized 15 yards. Fortunately, the Black Flag held on fourth down and the Buckeyes got the ball back.
The possession was short-lived, as Gilmer went three-and-out, but Pate nailed a 53-yard punt and pinned Walnut Grove down at their 13.
Butler moved his unit down to the Gilmer 31 in just 2 plays. The second play involved a long WG run, but Mykah Easley ran down the Wildcat and stripped the ball from him. Taj Manson recovered the fumble for Gilmer.
Tennison moved the offense down the field and into the end zone for another touchdown. The score came on a 5-yard run by Henderson with 2:13 left in the third period. Pate was true on the extra point kick and Gilmer jumped out to a 55-35 lead.
The Wildcats set up on their 24 after Pate’s kick and on the first play of the possession Butler’s pass was intercepted by Brendan Webb at the Walnut Grove 47 and returned down to the 18.
It took just 3 plays and 52 seconds for the offense to move the 18 yards for another touchdown. The score came on an 11-yard run by Henderson with 57 seconds left in the third quarter. A high snap on the extra point attempt resulted in Pate falling on the ball so the extra point was no good, leaving the score 61-35 in favor of the Buckeyes.
Pate’s ensuing kick went out of the end zone and Walnut Grove took over at their 25. Thanks to a pass interference call on Gilmer the Wildcats were bailed out on 4th-and-13 and scored just one play later when Butler ran in from the 6. There was a high snap on the PAT attempt and Sciano fell on the ball. The score cut Gilmer’s lead to 61-41.
The Wildcats tried an onside kick but Gilmer recovered at their 33. The Buckeyes went three-and-out, but more importantly, Henderson injured an ankle on the play and did not return to the game. After Pate’s punt the Wildcats set up on their 34 with 10:24 left in the game.
Butler led his charges in for another touchdown with 6:30 left in the game. The score came on a 15-yard pass from Butler to Newton. Sciano made the extra point, bringing the score to 61-48. The drive was 12 plays, 66 yards and took 3:56.
Walnut Grove kicked onside again and Tate recovered for the Bucks at the Gilmer 48. It took just 2 plays for the Buckeyes to find the end zone again. Tennison hit Tate on a 39-yard strike with 5:55 left in the game. Daydrion Jimmerson ran for a 2-point conversion out of the swinging gate and the Gilmer lead advanced to 69-48.
Pate’s next kick went out of the end zone and the Wildcats took over at their 25. It took 7 plays and 2:15 seconds for the visitors to get into the end zone once again. The score came on a 35-yard strike from Butler to Watkins with 3:49 left in the game. Sciano’s extra point was good and the Wildcats were within 14 points at 69-35.
The visitors kicked onside again and Tate was ready, catching the ball in the air at the 50 and he returned it into the end zone in 7 seconds for another Gilmer TD. The extra point was no good and wide right, but the lead moved to 75-55.
After a kickoff out of bounds and a 5-yard penalty the Wildcats began their next drive at their 25. It took just 3 plays for the Wildcats to get into the end zone. The score came on a 45-yard Butler-to-Newton pass with 3:11 left in the contest. Sciano’s extra point was good and the Gilmer lead was 75-62.
Sciano kicked onside again, but he went to the opposite sideline. Gilmer recovered at their 45 and Tennison led the offense back onto the field. The Bucks scored another TD on the possession in a 5-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 1:48 off the clock. Dhrvay Smith scored on a 37-yard run. Pate’s PAT was good and the Gilmer advantage was 82-62 with 1:54 left in the game.
After a short return, the Wildcats began their next drive at their 21. On the fourth play of the drive Devin McDonald intercepted Butler and returned the ball to the WG 26. Tennison took a knee twice and the game ended with the Buckeyes claiming the 82-62 win to move to 3-2 on the year.
We started our post-game visit with Coach Alan Metzel by asking his thoughts on the big win.
“That’s pretty bizarre (82-62 win). I’m thrilled that we made plays and scored. Obviously, we’ve got to shore some things up, and we will, you know. We’ve got to tackle better, we’ve got to make better reads, there’s a whole handful of things, but I’m proud of the kids. Every time the blow got thrown, we would come back and throw our own. That’s what you’ve got to keep doing in the meantime while you’re working on things.”
We pointed out that the Buckeyes got 20 points off of three of the four turnovers the Black Flag got and that was the difference in the point spread in the game, and Coach Metzel replied, “for sure, yeah, and right there in that critical time in the third quarter when they had those back-to-back drives where we were able to get the ball out, you know, Eliez (Castillo) did a great job of ripping it out and Mykah Easley on the second one when he runs the guy down first of all and then whips the ball out. Those plays, those are the ones that are hidden. They got the ball back for us and that was just critical.”
We then asked that despite the fact the Black Flag gave up 62 points if he was not very pleased about their performance in the game.
“You know, first of all I believe in our staff, I believe in our kids. They’re gonna keep working, they’re gonna keep improving. It’s a work in progress, and yes, I’m proud about how they just kept playing the next play. We’re in this thing for the long haul.”
We then asked if he agreed based on how the offense is clicking on all cylinders if he would agree this team could outscore any team they might play this year.
“We have a lot of weapons, you know, and I’m really pleased with that. I’m seeing our quarterback take that next step. I believe in Cadon and his decision-making, making big plays when it’s critical. We kind of stubbed our toe a time or two on fourth down where we didn’t catch a pass and on a third-and-long where we dropped a pass. Aside from that, we had a lot of big plays tonight. We’re going to count on it. We know that’s going to be important for us this year.”
We know all of the Army of Buckeyes were concerned when Will Henderson went down and had to be helped off the field and we asked if he had any early idea just how serious the injury was.
“I’ll have to follow up with Coach Dewar (Athletic Trainer). I believe Coach Dewar said it was one of those where at first it kind of scared him, but it doesn’t look like it is a serious injury and I think he’s going to be fine. We went and checked with Dewar and he said he was going to be ok. They were just not going to put him back in tonight. We’ll follow up and check on things.”
Henderson rushed for 264 yards on 26 carries and scored four touchdowns.
We also wanted to know if he anticipated Henderson would be able to play on the district opener in two weeks.
“That’s what I would be hoping, yes. Of course we’ll be rehabbing him. We’ll re-evaluate this weekend. We’ve got an off week next week and a huge game coming up here in Jeff Traylor Stadium and that’s going to be a barn-burner. Our sights are zeroed in on Pleasant Grove and here we go.”
We concluded by asking Coach Metzel if he felt like he would be able to have all the starters back by the Pleasant Grove game on Oct. 6.
“We’re hoping, we’re hoping; I’m pretty sure Aron (Bell) will be back. If tonight was a must, must game he could have played tonight. I believe we should have most people back, yes.”
We had a much bigger crowd for the annual Homecoming celebration game and want to see everyone have a chance to relax a bit before the district opener. We will need our home side of the stadium filled for the biggest game of the season thus far on Oct. 6 when the Buckeyes entertain the Hawks.