By Elwyn Henderson
The Gilmer Buckeyes advanced their season record to 12-3 on the season and punched their ticket to the Class 4A DII State Championship Game next Friday, December 15th at AT&T Stadium with a 79-42 shellacking of the Glen Rose Tigers at Children’s Health Stadium in Prosper Friday night. The Tigers end their season at 10-5 with the loss.
The Buckeyes controlled the game from start to finish and trailed only once very briefly during the game. The Tigers won the coin toss to begin the fray and chose to receive the opening kickoff. Gilmer chose to have the brisk wind at their back for the first quarter and Brayden Pate kicked the ball out of the end zone and Glen Rose began their first possession at their 25 after the touchback.
The Black Flag Defense picked up right where they left off against Carthage a week earlier, forcing a three-and-out on the possession. Jorge Mendoza hit a high punt on fourth down that traveled only 18 yards from the Glen Rose 26 to the 44 and Cadon Tennison and the Buckeyes offense came out for their first possession with excellent starting field position.
It took just 4 plays and 1:49 Gilmer to move the 44 yards into the end zone for the first tally of the game. The score came on a 2-yard TD run by Aron Bell with 9:34 left in the opening quarter. In an extremely rare miss, Brayden Pate’s extra point kick after a high snap hit the right upright and was no good, making the score 6-0.
After another touchback on the kickoff after the score, quarterback Canyon Evans brought his unit out for their second possession. They worked with precision and moved the 75 yards into the end zone in 10 plays and 3:40. The score came on a 12-yard run by Camden Raymond with 5:54 left in the quarter. Mendoza booted the extra point and Glen Rose led 7-6.
The excitement of the Tigers fans was short-lived, as Geramiah Noble took the ensuing kickoff at his 23 and didn’t stop running until he scooted into the end zone 77 yards later. The return took just 16 seconds off the clock and put the Bucks up 12-7 with 5:38 left in the quarter. Bell ran into the end zone out of the swinging gate formation for a 2-point conversion and the lead moved to 14-7.
Pate’s next kick was moved out to the 25 again after another touchback. The Tigers picked up two first downs and moved 45 yards before a 4th down pass was incomplete and the ball turned over on downs at the Gilmer 30.
The Bucks wasted little time getting into the end zone for the third time, moving the 70 yards in 9 plays that took just 1:12 off the clock. The score came on a 10-yard TD run by Brendan Webb with 52 seconds left in the opening frame. Pate nailed the extra point and the Gilmer lead moved to 21-7.
The next Pate kick was brought out to the 25 for the fourth time and Evans brought his offense back on the field. They managed one first down and the Black Flag forced another punt on the next series. This kick by Mendoza went just 30 yards and Tennison and company went back to work on their 25.
It was a very short possession, as Will Henderson ran 75 yards for the fourth Gilmer TD of the game in just 14 seconds. Pate’s extra point try was good and the game was turning quickly into a laugher with the Buckeyes up 28-7 with 11:30 left in the first half of play.
With Pate kicking into a strong wind in the second quarter the next kick went down to the 24 and was returned up to the 32 where Evan brought his charges back on the field.
After an 18-yard run by Josiah Groeneweg on the first play of the possession, Mykah Easley intercepted Evans at the Gilmer 29 and returned the pick down to the Glen Rose 42 where Tennison set up shop once again with 10:57 left in the half.
This time it took just 2:30 for the Bux to find the end zone yet again. They moved the 42 yards in 7 plays. The score came on a 4-yard TD run by Henderson with 8:27 left in the half. Pate’s extra point kick was good, moving the lead to 35-7.
Pate’s next kickoff went down to the Glen Rose 22 and was fumbled by the returner and recovered by Gilmer at the Tigers 22.
In just 1-play and 6 seconds later the Buckeyes found themselves in the end zone again. The score came on a 22-yard TD pass from Tennison to Webb with 8:21 left in the half. Pate’s extra point try was good and the lead blew up to 42-7.
Glen Rose finally found the end zone again on their next possession. They began on their 30 after a 6-yard return of the kickoff. The moved the 70 yards in 6 plays and took just 1:24. The score came on a 12-yard TD pass from Evans to Groeneweg with 7:03 left in the half. Mendoza added the PAT, moving the score to 42-7.
Mendoza’s kickoff after the TD went out of the end zone and Gilmer set up on their 25 after the touchback.
On the second play of the series after 14-yard pass, Gilmer fumbled the ball away to Glen Rose at the Gilmer 39.
The Tigers took advantage of the miscue, moving the 39 yards in 11 plays that took 4:01 off the clock. The score came with 2:50 left in the half. Mendoza’s extra point try was good, cutting the Glen Rose deficit to 42-21.
Mendoza’s ensuing kick went to the Gilmer 19 and was returned to the24. Just 2:50 and 10 plays later the Buckeyes added 3 more points to the scoreboard when Pate hit a 21-yard field goal on 4th down after a drive down to the Tigers 9-yard line. The kick ended the first half of play and extended the Gilmer lead to 45-21 as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms to regroup for the second half.
Mendoza kicked off to begin the second half and the kick was returned from the 21 up to the 43.
It didn’t take but 1 play and 17 seconds for Gilmer to find the end zone again, as Henderson ran the 57 yards into the end zone with 11:43 left in the third quarter. Pate’s extra point kick was good and Gilmer had the blowout rolling, leading 52-21.
The Tigers began their possession on their 32 following a 15-yard return of Pate’s kick and the Black Flag forced a three-and-out. Mendoza’s punt traveled just 21 yards and Tennison and the offense were set up in great field position once again.
The moved the 54 yards for another score in 7 plays and 2:47. The score came on a 1-yard TD run by Dhrvay Smith with 8:07 left in the third quarter. Pate was good on the extra point try once again, advancing the Gilmer lead to 59-21.
The Tigers began their next possession on their 30 after a 5-yard mark off when the kickoff went out of bounds. They managed one first down, but on a 4th and 1 the Black Flag forced a turnover on downs with no gain on a run at the Gilmer 48.
Tennison led the offense on another scoring drive, moving 52 yards in 6 plays over 2:30. The score came with 4:37 left in the period on a 13-yard TD pass to Ta’Erik Tate. Pate’s kick was good once again and the score advanced to 65-21.
The next kick was returned 4 yards up to the 28 and Evans and his charges finally got some offensive traction, due in part to a number of substitutions by the Buckeyes. They moved the 72 yards in 2:33 and 7 plays. The score came with 2:04 left in the quarter when Evans hit Adrian Sanchez on a 7-yard TD pass. Mendoza hit the point after, making the score 66-28.
The next Mendoza kickoff was returned from the 33 to the 40 where Tennison and the offense took the field again. They picked up one first down and were forced to punt on the next series. Thanks to a high snap Pate’s punt was blocked, resulting in a 14-yard loss, giving Glen Rose the ball at the Gilmer 31.
Evans led his team down the field the 31 yards into the end zone for a TD with 10:23 left in the game. The score came on a 3-yard pass to Camden Raymond, capping off a 4-play, 54 second drive. Mendoza was true on the PAT, making the score 66-35 in favor of Gilmer.
Knowing time was running short, Mendoza kicked onside on the next kickoff and the Bucks fell on the ball at their 40. It was a quick three-and-out for Gilmer and after a 32-yard Pate punt Glen Rose set up shop on their 23 for what would end in another score.
Evans drove his unit the 77 yards in 11 plays that took 3:15 off the lock. The score came on a 6-yard pass to Raymond with 5:15 left in the game. Mendoza’s PAT was good, bringing the score to 66-42.
Mendoza kicked off onside once again and following a 5-yard penalty against the kicking team the Gilmer offense was back in business again at their 49.
On the first play Henderson flew 51 yards into the end zone in 11 seconds. After Pate added the extra point the Buckeyes led 73-42 with 5:04 left in the game.
Following Pate’s kickoff and a 7-yard return the Tigers began on their 31. After a 2-yard run on the first play Devin McDonald picked Evans off at the Glen Rose 34 and returned the ball down to the 26. On the first play after the turnover Smith ran 26 yards into the end zone for the final tally of the night. The play took just 9 seconds off the clock. Miguel Casteneda’s try for the extra point was no good, but Gilmer led 79-42 with 4:094 left in the game.
After a fair catch the Tigers began their final drive of the game at their 25. They picked up one first down and one the third play of the possession Easley grabbed his second interception of the night at the Glen Rose 30.
Tennison came in and took a knee in victory formation for three consecutive plays and after a time out Pate punted the ball from the Gilmer 21 down to the Glen Rose 34 as time expired, sending the Buckeyes to Jerry World to play in the State Championship Game Friday at 3 PM against Bellville, a 35-33 winner over Wimberley.
We visited with an ecstatic Coach Alan Metzel after the huge win and he began by summarizing the feeling of making it back to the Championship Game again.
“(It was) pretty amazing. You know, we’ve got some very talented young men; you’ve got guys who have worked so hard and invested so much time into their team and their community. It’s a beautiful thing to watch it come together. I think all this group right here (the fans), they just got to see a special night.”
We then ask about Will Henderson’s performance in the game, and he said, “What an amazing job of finding his holes, being patient, reading his blocks, and taking it to the house—super job!”
We mentioned that he couldn’t have written a script any better than for Geramiah Noble to get the kickoff return for a TD after a Glen Rose score.
“What an amazing young man! I keep saying that about so many guys on this team, but it is the truth. This guy, he’s willing to do anything. He doesn’t worry about how many catches he has. When it’s time he makes the plays. Here he is on kickoff and makes a big play. He had a big one against Aubrey, if you’ll remember, and here he does a great job; first of all fielding it, finding the hole and third, taking it to the house.”
We next asked the coach his thoughts on the job Cadon Tennison did in the game and he responded, “I’ll tell you, he has just blossomed. It’s just amazing to watch him the past two weeks. He’s playing with such a confidence and calmness. When things don’t go right he’s okay. He just makes the next play; throwing the ball running the ball, running the offense. Man, when you’ve got your qb playing like that you’ve got a shot to win ball games.”
We also brought up the fact that a lot of second string and third string players got into the game.
“You know, we played a lot of people. They made a lot of big plays and let’s not forget those guys (Glen Rose) score a lot of points. They do a good job and have all season long. Number 3 (Groeneweg, the receiver, man what a night he had. Number 1 (Sanchez), and the quarterback threw the ball really well; hats off to them on that.”
We then asked how it felt in four years as the head coach of the Gilmer Buckeyes to be heading to the State Championship for the third time.
“Really good; really good. It’s very special. I work with amazing people who help me all the way from the top down from our board, our superintendent, our principals and teachers. You know, it’s just special, and all the different groups: Donna Lane, Carly Riley, Sue Witt, Russell Thomas, Eric Gray—we love working together. It’s not just an ‘us thing’, as in football, it’s a ‘we thing’ and that’s what’s part of making this amazing.”
We concluded by asking Coach Metzel if he agreed that nobody could stop the Buckeyes offense but the Buckeyes themselves.
“Well, I do feel confident about our offense and I feel confident about our team. I haven’t looked at all at either Wimberley or Bellville. I’ll reserve judgment for that but I am excited about getting to go play next week and I’m confident that our team will do their best.”
“What an amazing night, you know, and what a season we’re having. To think of where we were week 3 and all the naysayers and all that kind of stuff and just see these guys go, you know, ‘we’re gonna get where we want to go’, and they’ve done it and I’m just, I’m almost speechless.”
Kudos to the Army of Buckeyes. We had a great turnout for the game and you guys rocked the house. We need all of you and all your friends at AT&T Stadium on Friday afternoon as the Buckeyes gear up and bring that trophy back home to Gilmer where it belongs!