By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes returned home to Jeff Traylor Stadium in Gilmer Friday night during the East Texas Yamboree and overcame the carnival rides and the North Lamar Panthers, blasting the visitors 49-12 to move to 2-1 in District 7-4A Division II play. The win moved the Buckeyes to 5-3 on the season. With the loss, North Lamar drops to 5-3 on the year and sports an identical 2-1 record in district play after defeating Pittsburg and Liberty-Eylau. By virtue of their win Friday night the Bucks are officially in 3rd place in the district after defeating the Panthers. Spring Hill, next week’s opponent defeated Pittsburg 40-35 to move to 3-0 in district play and wrap up a playoff spot, but they will most definitely lose to Gilmer and then they have to travel to Texarkana the following week and they will lose that game as well and finish in 3rd place in the district. North Lamar will most likely end up in 4th place and make the playoffs as well.
North Lamar won the coin toss prior to the game and opted to receive to begin the contest. Brayden Pate kicked off for Gilmer. The ball traveled down to the Panther 5and was fair caught and North Lamar began their first drive at their 25. Blake Hildreth led his offense on the field and they went on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:33 off the first quarter clock. The score came on a 7-yard run by Hildreth with 5:27 left in the opening frame.
Hildreth kicked off after the score and Ta’Erik Tate took the ball at the Gilmer 23 and returned it down to the Panther 43. Will Henderson gained 23 yards down to the 20 on the first play of the possession and Jaden Edmond led the team into the end zone, concluding a 6-play, 43-yard drive that consumed 1:53. The score came on a 5-yard run by Henderson on 4th and goal with 3:34 left in the quarter. Braden Pate kicked the PAT and Gilmer led 7-6.
Pate’s ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and North Lamar began their next possession at their 30. The Panthers gained one first down and then the Black Flag Defense closed the door and forced a punt. The snap was bad, resulting in a 27-yard kick, and Gilmer set up on their 35 for their second possession of the night.
Edmond led the offense down the field and into the end zone for a second Buckeye touchdown with 10:30 left in the first half. The score came on a 1-yard run by Henderson, capping off a 10-play, 65 yard drive that took 2:30. Pate’s extra point was wide right, but Gilmer’s lead advanced to 13-6.
On the Pate kickoff a North Lamar player thought the ball was going to go out of bounds and didn’t try to get it. Daydrion Jimmerson was right on the spot and grabbed the ball. He lost control but Gilmer recovered at the Panther 11 and the Buckeyes went back on the offensive again.
It took just 6 seconds and 1 play for the Bucks to get their third TD of the game. Dhrvay Smith ran into the end zone from the 11 with 10:24 left in the first half. Aron Bell ran in for a 2-point conversion out of the swinging gate and Gilmer’s lead pushed to 21-6.
After a fair catch the Panthers set up on their 25. On the second play of the possession Hildreth was hit hard and fumbled the ball. Trey Lee recovered at the Panther 31 and the Buckeyes were set up to roll again.
It took just 4 plays and 48 seconds for the home team to score their fourth TD of the game. The score came on a 9-yard run by Henderson with 8:42 left in the half. Pate’s point after was good and Gilmer led 28-6.
The Panthers next drive began at their 30. Hildreth led his unit on a 14-play possession that lasted 7:31. The drive ended at the Gilmer 40 when Hildreth was sacked for a 10-yard loss on 4th down, and the Buckeyes got the ball 60 yards away from another score with 1:11 left in the first half.
Edmond led the offense to another TD, moving the team the 60 yards in 6 plays and taking just 45 seconds to get into the end zone. The score came on an 11-yard Edmond to Brendan Webb pass with 21 seconds left in the half. Pate’s kick was good and Gilmer led 35-6.
On Pate’s kickoff after the score the ball bounced off a Panther and Gilmer recovered at the NL 43. Edmond was dropped for a 7-yard loss and the half came to an end with the Buckeyes totally in control, leading 35-6 and set to receive the second half kickoff.
Hildreth kicked the ball onside down to the Gilmer 48 and the Bucks recovered and began their first drive of the second half from that point. Thanks to two receivers at the same spot on the field a Cadon Tennison pass fell incomplete and it was a quick three-and-out. Following a Pate 40-yard punt NL began their first drive of the half at their 11.
The Black Flag forced a three-and-out and after a punt Tennison brought the offense back out at the Panther 34.
It took just 6 plays and 1:20 for the Buckeyes to move the 34 yards into the end zone for another score. The points came on a 6-yard TD run by Smith with 7:34 left in the third quarter. Pate’s extra point kick was good and Gilmer led 42-6.
The Panthers began their next drive at their 34 following Pate’s kickoff. Hildreth led the team deep into Gilmer territory, but on a 4th down pass, Tate intercepted the ball at the Gilmer 3 and returned the pick up to the 23.
Tennison led the offense on a 6-play, 67 yard drive that took just 1:30 off the clock. The drive ended with a 39-yard TD pass from Tennison to Tate with 2:05 left in the quarter. Pate’s extra point try was good and the lead mushroomed to 49-6.
Pate’s next kickoff went out of bounds and Hildreth led his charges onto the field at his 30 to begin their next drive.
The Panthers moved the ball down to the Gilmer 24 and the ball turned over on downs. Jordan Escalante came in at quarterback for the Buckeyes and after picking up one first down Pate had to punt the ball away on the next series and Hildreth and company set up shop at their 21.
They moved the 79 yards to pay dirt in 7 plays over 4:42. The score came with 26 seconds left in the game on a 38-yard TD pass from Hildreth to Anthony Gordon. A try for 2 failed, leaving the score at 49-12.
The Panthers kicked onside and the Buckeyes recovered at the NL 49. Escalante took a knee from the victory formation and the game came to an end with Gilmer claiming the 49-12 victory.
When we talked with Buckeye Coach Alan Metzel we mentioned that the way the Panthers drove down the field and scored to begin the game that they and their fans probably smelled a potential upset but that didn’t last long. His response was epic!
“Well, they probably smelled Yamboree. It was turkey legs or something in our guy’s stomachs and it took us a little while to get focused and once we did I felt like they made the adjustments and really did a good job of closing up that A-gap. That was the key part. It was what we prepared for all week, we just weren’t closing whenever they were making the fullback dive or the quarterback was keeping. We weren’t closing and filling the gap and we did a better job of that the rest of the game.”
We asked about the unusual play where Pate’s kickoff looked like it was going to go out of bounds and didn’t and Jimmerson grabbed ball and even though he lost control Gilmer recovered at the visitors 11.
“You know, Pate is really good at getting that reverse spin and the ball kicks back, and he almost got another one, you know. It popped back in and we teach our guys to run through because you never know then that thing is going to pop back and there it was. That was I felt like another momentum boost in that first half when we went down and scored real quick. Great job by DayDay Jimmerson who was down there with his hands on the ball first, so great effort.”
We also brought up the fact that it had been a long time since Gilmer played three quarterbacks in a game, and Coach Metzel replied, “I would agree. I’d have to go back; gosh, I don’t even know. I’d have to really go back and think and all three of them can move the ball and be efficient, and so that’s a blessing. Any time you get real live reps in a game, especially for some of these guys that haven’t go to as much, you’re putting them in a position that if something would happen they can go in there and give you important minutes.”
We mentioned that the second and third team players did a very good job when they were in the game and the coach agreed.
“They did; they’ve been practicing hard all year and now that hard work is paying off and they’re getting their chance to shine and they’re doing that. That’s what a team does and I’m excited for them.”
We then asked what he was most pleased with in the game, and he responded, “I would say being able to rally from maybe a slow start, understanding guys going ‘okay, it’s time to step up. We’ve got to get moving’ and they did that. I thought we were pretty efficient offensively early and so when you’re putting points on the board you’re putting pressure on them. I thought that was a pretty good start.”
We concluded by bringing up that he had mentioned at Lunch with the Coach on Wednesday at Dud’s on the Range that North Lamar and Spring hill were almost carbon copies offensively and asked if that didn’t make preparing for next week’s game even easier having faced what North Lamar ran against the team.
“It is almost a carbon copy. This is a little more slot whereas Spring Hill will be usually a little bit more ‘I’. The midline, the Veer, the quarterback keep, that kind of thing is all pretty much the same, so you get two weeks to prepare essentially and it should be a good carryover for us next week. We just want to keep getting better and put ourselves in a position where when you get to that Phase 3, where you want to be as a team.”