By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes made their final regular season road trip Friday night down Highway 300 to take on the Spring Hill Panthers. As expected, the Buckeyes controlled the game from almost the start of the game to the finish, capturing a 59-13 lopsided win. In their last three games the Bucks have scored 164 points and have only given up 37. The Kaizen is definitely coming through when it counts the most.
Gilmer came into the game at 2-1 in District 7-4A DII play and Spring Hill entered the contest at 3-0 and tied with the Pleasant Grove Hawks, who they play next week in the final district dustup. The Panthers were blessed to have played the other three weaker teams before having to close out with Gilmer and PG. The Panthers wrapped up third place in the district despite the loss, and Gilmer guaranteed themselves second place, as their final game will be against last place Pittsburg next Friday night in Gilmer.
Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive to begin the game. Alejandro Jacquez kicked the ball away for Spring Hill. Jacquez kicked onside and Brendan Webb got the ball in the air near the Gilmer 48 and returned down to the Panther 39.
Cadon Tennison returned to start the game for the first Gilmer possession. The Buckeyes moved down to the Panther 4 and on 4th down Brayden Pate nailed a 24-yard field goal with 10:06 left in the first quarter. The drive was 8 plays, 33 yards and took 4:51.
Pate’s ensuing kickoff was fair caught at the SH 5 and the Panthers went on the offensive the first tie with Travis Allen at the helm. The Black Flag gave up 20 yards and the Panthers faced a 4th down. The set up in punt formation and went with a fake and Julius Hawkins gained 17 yards and garnered a first down. The drive concluded with a 15-yard TD pass from Travis Allen to Trevor Allen with 4:24 left in the quarter. Jacquez added the PAT and the Panthers led 7-3. The drive was 11 plays, 75 yards and took 3:45 off the clock.
The two teams exchanged punts and then Gilmer set up on their 18 with 49 seconds left in the first quarter. Jaden Edmond came in at quarterback and it took just 3 plays for him to get the Bucks into the end zone for the first time. The score came on a 63-yard pass from Edmond to Ta’Erik Tate just as the first quarter came to a close. Pate added the extra point and Gilmer led 10-7.
Fired up by the offensive onslaught on the prevision possession, the Black Flag forced a three-and-out and a Panther punt traveled only 13 yards after being shanked by Cayden Rhodes.
Edmond led the Buckeyes on a 3-play, 46-yard drive that took a mere 18 seconds off the second quarter clock. The score came on a 41-yard run by Will Henderson around left end with 10:19 left in the first half. Pate added the extra point and Gilmer advanced the lead to 17-7.
After a return to the 24 Spring Hill went back on offense at that point. It was a short possession, as Webb intercepted Allen at the Gilmer 49 on the third play. It took just 3 plays once again for Gilmer to get into the end zone for their third TD of the night. The score came once again on a 41-yard run by Henderson with 8:13 left in the half. Pate’s extra point try was good and Gilmer advanced to a 24-7 lead.
SH began their next possession at their 38 after the return of Pate’s kick. Trevor Allen got his mates down to the Gilmer 4 on the third play of the possession and he fumbled on the next play and Trillyon Bulter recovered for the Buckeyes at the 8.
It took just 1 play and 12 seconds for the next Gilmer TD. Will Henderson went untouched 92 yards up the middle with 6:34 left in the half. Pate was true on the PAT and the Bucks led 31-7.
Spring Hill began their next drive at their 24 and held onto the ball for 10 plays and moving to the Gilmer 37, but a 4th down pass fell incomplete and Gilmer took over on downs.
Just 5 plays and 28 seconds later the Bux found the end zone yet again, this time on a 34-yard pass to Webb from Edmond with 54 seconds left in the half. Pate’s kick was good once again and the game was officially a laugher at 38-7.
Spring Hill ran 2 plays and the half came to a close.
Pate kicked off to begin the second half and after the kick sailed out of the end zone the home team began their first drive of the second half from their 25. The Black Flag forced a quick three-and-out and the Panthers punted the ball away from their 25. The ball traveled to the Gilmer 38 and the Buckeyes went on the offensive from that point.
Cadon Tennison came back in at quarterback for Gilmer and led his unit on a 5-play, 62-yard drive that took 1:53. The score came on a 7-yard TD run by Webb with exactly 8 minutes left in the third quarter. Pate’s extra point kick was good and the Buckeyes led 45-7.
The next Panther drive began at their 29 and Allen led his offense on a 10-play, 71-yard drive that consumed a whopping 5:28. The score came on a 4-yard run around left end with 2:32 left in the third quarter. The Jacquez PAT was blocked, making the score 45-13.
Spring Hill kicked onside after the score and Gilmer recovered at their 41. Tennison got the Bucks into the end zone again, moving the 59 yards in 7 plays that took 2:21. The score came on a 14-yard TD run by Dhrvay Smith with 11 seconds left in the quarter. Pate was good on the extra point kick, moving the score to 52-13.
Spring Hill’s next possession was yet another three-and-out by the Black Flag, but the Panthers tried a trick play and shifted two players to the left and attempted a pass that fell incomplete and the Buckeyes got the ball at the Panther 33.
It took 6 plays and 3:22 for Gilmer to find the end zone again with Jordan Escalante leading the offense. The score came on a 1-yard TD run by Will Grosz with 7:18 left in the game. The referee announced before the extra point try that there would be a running clock for the remainder of the contest. Pate’s PAT was good and the score moved to 59-13.
Spring Hill got their last possession at their 26 with the clock running. They moved the ball down deep into Gilmer territory and the clock ran out and the Buckeyes began their victory celebration.
The Buckeyes will wrap up second place in the district next Friday night as they conclude the regular season at Jeff Traylor Stadium against the Pittsburg Pirates in a 7:30 PM tilt. Spring Hill will end the regular season on the road in Texarkana against the Pleasant Grove Hawks.
After the game we wanted to visit with Buckeye Defensive Coordinator Tommy Edwards since his unit took a lot of unfair criticism early in the year to talk about how the young Black Flag members have grown as the season advanced.
We first asked what the guys have done as the season has progressed, and Coach Edwards said, “It was rough starting off and we had some major spots to fill and we were hoping some kids could do it and we had a few that quit or something happened to them and they got hurt or injured and some youngsters had to step up. It’s been a gradual grind. I never gave up on them. We knew once they got in the groove and got their feet wet that we were going to be okay. We just got to keep plugging and them believing us and we believe in the kids. These last three weeks, and look at the Kilgore game. They played tremendous for three and a half quarters. Giving up the points, you know, nobody likes that; it grinds on you, but at the same time, we’re making progress each and every day and each and every week and hopefully, it just keeps building and we’ll make a run here in the playoffs.”
We pointed out that the defense was hitting their stride at the perfect time with the final regular season game coming up next week and the playoffs a week later.
“That’s right, no doubt, similar to the (Texas) Rangers, you know. Have a little losing streak and then going into the playoffs. All those (the losing streak) are glorified practices. You want to be on your stride whenever push comes to shove, and we’re peaking at the right time.”
When we visited with Coach Alan Metzel after the blowout win, we began by asking him about the fake punt the Panthers pulled on their first possession that led to their first score of the game.
“Well, they’ve run a bunch of them this year. I bet they’ve run six or seven fake punts, so we repped all sorts of ones but that’s one they hadn’t run this year. They got us on that one; hats off to them. We knew that was a high likelihood. They just ran one we were a little behind on. Obviously, the last one we did a little better job and took care of it. When you’re playing a team that’s trying to control the clock and get every fourth down, they’re going to do that, they’re going to onside kick, which I don’t blame them.”
We then asked Coach Metzel if he didn’t enjoy hearing the referee announce after the final Buckeye touchdown to run the clock before the extra point try.
“I always like that when we have more points when they do that, no doubt. Yes, it does feel good and we want to stay healthy and get ready for the next game.”
Then we brought up the fact that neither team had a single false start called against them in the game and how unusual that was.
“It is, it is; that shows discipline and it shows teams that are locked in and focused. They ran a lot of hard counts and our guys on defense hung in there and didn’t jump. I thought our guys stayed focused. They obviously had a drive where they got us early, but aside from that I thought we were really locked in and played well.”
We asked the coach how big it was to get to play all three quarterbacks in the game and have all three lead the offense on touchdown drives.
“It’s just so good. It’s good for team morale. When Will Grosz got in that end zone, our team went nuts because he’s such an amazing young man and great teammate. That kind of stuff, that’s so good for the chemistry of the team and when we get into the playoffs, some guys their role will change again a little bit. What a boost, you know! It helps them in their role again as we move forward.”
Just as we had asked Coach Edwards, we asked if he also agreed the Black Flag was peaking at the right time on defense.
“Absolutely; it’s what we were hoping for week 1, 2, 3 when we were talking about we were young and we gotta keep growing and those kinds of things. We’re shooting for 8, 9, 10 to jell and then move into the playoffs and you hope that you have a team that can go take on whoever we play. Right now I’m just really pleased.”
We also asked if he felt pretty certain that the Buckeyes will face Center in the Bi-District game, and he responded, “I think it’s highly likely. I’ll have to look after tonight, but it is around I would say probably 90% that it will be Center.”
When we asked Coach Metzel about anything additionally he wanted to say about the game, he said, “I’m pleased with our crew up in the stands. They were loud and got after it; it was a good atmosphere. I’m thankful that we got out of here healthy and we’re excited that it’s going to be the seniors last home game at Jeff Traylor Stadium.”