By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes got back on the winning track Friday night when they traveled to Texarkana for their game against the Liberty-Eylau Leopards. The Buckeyes had their best overall performance of the year, grabbing a 56-12 blowout win over the Leopards. The win moves Gilmer to 4-3 on the season and 1-1 in District 7-4A DII play. With the loss, L-E drops to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in district competition.
Gilmer dominated from start to finish and didn’t have any adversity at all during the game against the weaker and less-talented Leopards.
Gilmer won the coin toss prior to kickoff and chose to receive to begin the game. Cameron Hadawa kicked the ball away for L-E and Brendan Webb returned the kick 51 yards to the Leopard 25 and Jaden Edmond came in at quarterback in place of Cadon Tennison who was still in concussion protocol.
It took just 4 plays and 2:04 for the offense to get into the end zone for the first time. The score came on a 17-yard TD pass from Edmond to Ta’Erik Tate with 9:56 left in the first quarter. Brayden Pate nailed the PAT and Gilmer led early 7-0.
Pate pooched the ensuing kickoff and Gilmer recovered the ball at the L-E 31 and the offense was on the field once again. It took 4 plays once again and just 58 seconds to get into the end zone again. The score came on a 2-yard run by Dhrvay Smith with 8:58 left in the opening frame. Pate’s extra point kick was good again and Gilmer doubled their lead to 14-0.
Pate kicked deep on the next kickoff and the Leopards returned the kick 53 yards to the Gilmer 43. L-E moved down to the Gilmer 27. Brendan Webb intercepted a Britain Pipes pass at the 15 and returned it 85 yards into the end zone but the Bucks were called for a blindside block and the ball went back to the Gilmer 15 and the offense hit the field again with 5:38 left in the quarter.
Edmond led the offense down the field and into the end zone for the third time in the quarter. The score came on a 1-yard run by Aron Bell with 2:46 left in the quarter, capping off an 8-play, 81 yard drive in 2:48. Pate was true on the point after and the Gilmer lead moved to 21-0.
Pate’s kickoff after the score was advanced to the L-E 43 and Pipes and company came on to the field to go back on offense.
On the third play of the possession Kamryn Brown intercepted Pipes at the L-E 36 and returned the ball into the end zone for another Gilmer TD with 29 seconds left in the opening quarter. Pate was true on the kick and Gilmer had a runaway 28-0 lead.
The next Pate kickoff was returned to the Leopard 32. Pipes led the team on one play as time ran out in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged punts and L-E started at the Gilmer 48 on their next possession. The hosts finally found the end zone on the possession as Pipes ran around right end 30 yards for a TD with 5:01 left in the first half of play. The PAT was no good, leaving the score at 28-6. The drive was 6 plays, 48 yards and took 2:48 off the clock.
It took just 5 plays and 2:28 for the Gilmer offense to go 79 yards into the end zone again. The score came on a 65-yard TD pass from Edmond to Geramiah Noble with 2:24 left in the half. Pate was good on the extra point kick, increasing the lead to 35-6.
The Leopards began their next drive at their 37 following a 5-yard penalty for the kick going out of bounds. The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out and after a 51-yard punt Edmond and company started on offense once again.
This possession lasted 53 seconds and 7 plays and ended with yet another TD on a 93-yard drive. The score came on a 25-yard pass from Edmond to Jamar Byrd with 5 seconds left in the first half. Pate’s extra point was good and Gilmer pushed their advantage to 42-6 and the half ended with the Buckeyes in total control.
Gilmer kicked off to begin the second half. Pate’s kick traveled down to the L-E 20 ad was returned to the L-E 34. A 15-yard personal foul was marked off against the Leopards and they began at their 20.
Pipes led his team into the end zone in 2:12 over 4 plays and 67 yards. The score came on a 52-yard pass from Pipes to Tarvious Neal with 9:48 left in the third quarter. A try for 2 resulted in an incomplete pass, making the score 42-12.
Gilmer began their next drive at their 24. Edmond moved the team down the field the 76 yards for another TD with 4:55 left in the quarter, ending an 11-play drive that took exactly 5 minutes off the clock. Dhrvay Smith ran the last 2 yards into the end zone. Pate hit the extra point and Gilmer’s lead moved out to 49-12.
L-E had the ball for only 3 plays when Pipes was intercepted at the Leopard 37 by Harrison Lofton who returned the ball into the end zone for a pick-6 with 2:52 left in the third quarter. Pate’s kick was good once again and the game officially turned into a laugher with the Buckeyes up 56-12.
There was no further scoring in the game and the Buckeyes walked away with an impressive 56-12 win.
When we visited with Buckeye Coach Alan Metzel after the impressive outing we began by mentioning that the team played their best game of the season and brought up the fact that Edmond did a great job at quarterback with Tennison still out due to concussion protocol.
“You covered a lot of coaching points right there. Nicely done! Great job. Let me think through all the things you said. First of all, thrilled to come out and have a game where the guys, number one, got to enjoy the fruit of their labor where lots of guys were able to get on the field and catch the ball and make tackles. There’s been a lot of role players, but these games have been such grinding games that in a normal year they’d get out there a little bit more. So far they’ve had to be unselfish. It was just so much fun to get to see them enjoy the spoils of their hard work; super job!”
“Moving to Jaden, that’s what hard work does. I shared before the game, I said ‘guys leading up to when Cadon got hurt, he (Edmond) hadn’t played much, but he put in the work every day, every single day, and when his moment came, he started to shine.’ Man, I couldn’t be more happy. The team’s so excited for him. What a great guy he is, and a great leader.”
We then turned our attention to the Black Flag Defense who had three pick-6 interceptions, one of which was called back for a blind-side block. We brought up the point that the defense had their best outing of the season, and even though the Leopards weren’t a top tier team that they did make improvements over the last week and that had to be huge for their confidence level going forward.
“It really was and people are going to say ‘well it wasn’t whatever’, but you still have to do it. You still have to execute and our guys did. They’re improving. It’s games like this where you gain confidence to where, okay, in three more weeks or whatever when we’re playing some of these teams that can score a lot, you gain confidence that you can make that play. It’s huge for our guys to get out there, feel the success, understand ‘oh yeah, that’s the reason we’re doing this call and why we’re where we are and why it’s important to not be out-leveraged, etc.”
We asked the coach based on the confidence the defense got in the game how much more would it allow them to improve before the North Lamar game on October 20th during the Yamboree.
“Well, when you get excited like you felt tonight and guys enjoy the game like that, it takes that practice up several notches. Now you’re flying around, you’re moving better in between drills, you’re getting into your teammates more, all those kinds of things. You have the opportunity over the course of the next several weeks to move up into another level, and that’s what we’ve got to do to play some of the teams that are on down the road.”
We then pointed out that we managed to get through the night without any injuries during the game.
“We got to play a lot of people, we came out healthy, people played hard and they encouraged their teammates whether they were on or off the field. It was just a good night for the Buckeyes.”
We concluded by asking Coach Metzel for any other thoughts he had on the game, and he replied, “You know, I thought it was fun just feeling the crowd getting into it and enjoying the night as well. The band was awesome; they were so loud and got our guys all fired up, so it’s fun to just be a part of this town and what the Buckeye football team means. I’m excited about it. We’ve got Yamboree next week buzzing all over town and then we’ve got a home game and that gives people the opportunity to come back and it’s almost like a Homecoming almost. Next week should be a fun week as well.”
The Buckeyes faced a murderer’s row in the five non-district games and then of course had to face a powerful Pleasant Grove team to open district play, but they are going to be much better because of those experiences as they face three more teams in district play who are nowhere close to the teams we played the first six games of the season. Those games will be similar score-wise to this Liberty-Eylau game and will give the team more confidence as they prepare for another long playoff run when Phase 3 begins. Make sure you make the rest of the games and enjoy the less stressful finish to the 2023 regular season!