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Gilmer 41, Sunnyvale 38

By Elwyn Henderson

 The Gilmer Buckeyes pushed their 2023 season record to 9-3 with a heart pounding last second 41-38 victory over the Sunnyvale Raiders Friday night at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler.  With the loss, Sunnyvale ends their season at 9-3 and heads to the gym to begin basketball season, while the victory moves the Buckeyes on to Round 3 for the 17th year in a row where they will face the 8-4 Aubrey Chaparrals Friday afternoon.  The game is set for a 4 p.m. kickoff at Texas A&M Commerce.  Gilmer will be the visitors and tickets are $8.  District passes, Buckeye orange cards, THSCA and Military passes will be honored at the game.

     According to Buckeye football historian Joe Dodd’s stats, the Raiders came into the contest averaging 39.1 points per game this season while giving up only 16.5 points per game.  Those stats are a bit skewed however, as Sunnyvale’s schedule is the 50th toughest in Class 4A DII, while Gilmer’s schedule is the 7th toughest, so Gilmer played a MUCH TOUGHER schedule.  

     Sunnyvale won the coin toss to begin the fray and elected to defer to begin the game.  Gabe Pendyala kicked away and Gilmer began at their 11 for their first possession.  

     Cadon Tennison began the game at quarterback.  He led the offense down the field but the Raiders stiffened and on 4th and 6 from the 8, Brayden Pate came in to kick a 26-yard field goal, giving Gilmer a 3-0 lead with 8:15 left in the first quarter.  The drive was 11 plays, 81 yards and took 3:46. 

     The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out and after a 56-yard Pendyala punt the Buckeyes went on the offensive at their 21.  

     Tennison led the team methodically down the field on the 8-play, 79-yard drive consuming 3:18.  The score came on a 1-yard burst up the middle from Aron Bell with exactly 4 minutes left in the first quarter.  Pate added the PAT and Gilmer led 10-0.

     After Pate’s ensuing kickoff the Raiders began at their 31 and sophomore quarterback Nelson Peterson, brother of former Palestine and NFL running back Adrian Peterson came in to run the offense.

     Peterson moved his troops 61 yards in 14 plays that took 4:50 off the clock.  Pendyala booted a 26-yard field goal with 11:10 left in the half, cutting the Buckeye lead to 10-3.

     Gilmer began their next possession at their 27.  Tennison was called for an intentional grounding and it resulted in a loss of 14 yards and a down.  Two plays later Jackson Joseph intercepted Tennison at the Sunnyvale 48.

      The Black Flag forced a three-and-out and after a Pendyala 45-yard punt Gilmer began their next drive at their 13 and Jaden Edmond came in at quarterback.  The Raiders forced a three-and-out and after a 30-yard Pate kick Sunnyvale began their next possession at midfield.

     They managed one first down and then the Black Flag forced an incompletion on the fourth down pass.  The two teams exchanged punts and Gilmer set up with Tennison at the helm with 2:33 left in the half.

     It took just 4 plays for the Bucks to move the 79 yards into the end zone for their second TD of the game.  The score came with 1:46 left in the half on a 19-yard pass from Tennison to Tate.  Pate nailed the extra point and the lead advanced to 17-6.  

     The Raiders began their next possession at their 28.  Thanks to a terrible call against the Buckeyes for defensive pass interference Sunnyvale moved the 72 yards into the end zone in 8 plays that took 1:30 off the clock.  Pendyala split the uprights on the point after and the Gilmer lead dropped to 17-10 with 16 seconds left in the half.  The Buckeyes got the ball at their 25 and Tennison took a knee out of victory formation and the half ended.

     Pate kicked the ball away to begin the second half and the ball was returned to the Sunnyvale 30 where Peterson brought his offense out.

     It took just 1:35 and 4 plays for the Raiders to knot the game.  The score came on a 38-yard TD run by Peterson with 10:25 left in the third quarter.  Pendyala’s extra point was good and the game was tied 17-17.

     Pendyala kicked away and there was a fumble on the return and Sunnyvale recovered at the Gilmer 33.

     Peterson led his unit back on the field with excellent field position.  It took just 1 play and 16 seconds for the Raiders to find the end zone for the third straight possession.  The score came on a 33-yard pass from Peterson to Noah Briggs with 10:09 left in the quarter.  The extra point kick was good and Sunnyvale took their first lead of the game, 24-17.     Gilmer’s next possession was a three-and-out, and after a Pate punt the Raiders set up on their 34.  The Black Flag gave up two first downs and then forced a punt on the third series.  The punt was downed at the Gilmer 3 and Tennison and the offense set up 97 yards away from a TD.

    It took just 6 plays and 2:21 for the Bucks to move the 97 yards into the end zone.  Pate added the extra point and we were tied 24-24.  The score came on a 61-yard blast around left in by Will Henderson with exactly 3 minutes left in the quarter.

    After a fair catch of the next kickoff Sunnyvale began at their 25 and the Black Flag forced a quick three-and-out.  Following a Pendyala 42-yard punt Gilmer set up shop again at their 36.

    Tennison brought the offense back out 64 yards away from taking the lead again.  It took a mere 2 pays and 17 seconds to get into the end zone and retake the lead.  After an incomplete pass on the first play Henderson ran 64 yards down the right side into the end zone with 1:15 remaining in the third stanza.  Pate nailed the extra point and Gilmer led 31-24.

     Sunnyvale’s next possession began on their 26 after the return of Pate’s kickoff.  The Black Flag forced another three-and-out and after a 25-yard punt Tennison and the offense came back on the 65 yards away from extending the lead further.

     It wasn’t to be thanks to a false start on a 4th and 1 and after a Pate punt the Raiders went back on the offensive at their 22.  The Black Flag forced another three-and-out and after a punt Gilmer went back on offense at their 31.

     Tennison led the offense on a good drive, covering the 69 yards in 9 plays and taking 2:49 off the fourth quarter clock.  The TD came on a 12-yard TD run by Dhrvay Smith with 6:26 left in the game.  Pate’s extra point try was good and Gilmer led 38-24.

     Sunnyvale’s next possession started on their 38 and thank to a roughing the passer call and a 33-yard pass from Peterson to Owen Dlabaj, the Raiders got down to the Gilmer 2.  They scored 2 plays later when Peterson ran in from the 2 with 2:29 left in the game.  The extra point was good and the Raiders were within 7, trailing 38-31.

     Everyone in the house was expecting an onside kick since Sunnyvale had just had just one time out remaining.  The onside kick came but Ta’Eric Tate recovered for Gilmer at the Sunnyvale 48.  

     On the first play of the possession Gilmer lost the wet ball and Sunnyvale recovered at their 43 with 2:23 left in the game.

     Peterson brought his unit out and after a 1-yard loss by Peterson he hit Dlabaj for a 51-yard pass down to the Gilmer 7.  After an incomplete pass Peterson hit Charlie Christopher on a 7-yard TD pass with 1:36 remaining.  The drive was 4 plays and took 45 seconds.  Pendyala was successful on the extra point and the game was tied at 38 all.

     Pendyala’s next kick was fair caught at the Gilmer 28 by Geramiah Noble and Gilmer got one last chance to win the game in regulation.

     The Bucks moved 12 plays and 54 yards in 1:33 and Pate came in and nailed a 34-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the game.

     Pate’s kick was returned to the Sunnyvale 34 with 1 second left on the clock.  Peterson came out and completed a short pass and the game ended with the Buckeyes getting the 41-38 victory.

     When we talked with Buckeye Head Coach Alan Metzel after the game we first brought up the fact that there was no doubt in any coach or player or Army of Buckeyes fan that Pate would successfully kick the field goal to win the game.

     “He’s a winner.  He’s made plays all year long.  He did it against Lindale and then he did it in the clutch out there; great job by him and by snapper Grayson Bates and Will Grosz the holder.  Those are two very important parts of that.”

     We discussed the fact that the wet ball and field resulted in an uncustomary three turnovers by the offense, but the Black Flag Defense bailed the team out when that absolutely had to.

     “No excuse on the turnovers, we just did a poor job on our ball security tonight.  We’ve got to get that fixed.  Some nights, you know, it’s like you’re stumbling over yourself and we were doing that some tonight.  The thing that a great team has to do though is overcome that and that’s what they did tonight and you just go and live to play the next game.”

     We also brought up the horrible call for defensive pass interference on Gilmer just before the half that allowed the Sunnyvale score just before halftime and said it looked like the receivers were trying to play for pass interference on every long throw.

     “I was frustrated, I was frustrated.  I’ll just leave it at that.  There were several things that were tough and we just had to figure out a way to win it.”

     When we asked Coach Metzel if Sunnyvale did anything different than what they were expecting in the game since they pretty much kept Will Henderson in check the first half, he replied, “Well, they actually did some things that were different and it was one of those things.  They were putting a lot of guys in the box and we were like one guy, one hat from going (to the end zone).  Finally in the second half we hit some of those and were able to go (for theTDs).  We weren’t quite hitting on all cylinders in the first half.  There was one time where the fullback stepped in the hole, so we don’t get the guy blocked.  There was one time where our inside receiver just let the guy slide over the top of him.  Things like that can be the difference in a touchdown or not, so those are things we’ve got to tighten up.”

     We asked what the difference was in the second half where Will broke the two touches for scores.

      “It was like I just said.  It was where we got that hat on the hat and all you’ve got to do is just get that done and Will’s going to go.  Finally we were able to bust it out a little bit.”

       We concluded our visit for asking the coach for his final thoughts on the game, particularly where the Buckeye Army was concerned.

        “It was great.  It was a roar behind you.  The whole way, even when it was tough, they’re chanting defense and it was the home town game here in Tyler.  It was super.  Defense is stepping up every week, every week.  Obviously, the further we play the better the teams will get and we just have to keep getting better and better.  Thrilled to be playing next week—17 years in a row (the Bucks have made it at least 3 rounds deep) and ready to go do it!”

















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