Skip to content

BUCKEYES ARE STATE CHAMPIONS!
Gilmer 28, Bellville 26

Offensive MVP: Will Henderson

Defensive MVP: Brendan Webb

Read more:

Gilmer edges Bellville, 28-26: Live score, updates of Texas high school football championship (12/15/2023)

Read more:

Gilmer Buckeyes Win 4th State Title – First Since 2014

Read more:

Gilmer Buckeyes win state championship over Bellville

By Elwyn Henderson

The Gilmer Buckeyes made their third trip to AT&T Stadium in Arlington in four years Friday afternoon, as they took on the Bellville Brahmas in the Class 4A DII State Championship. After losing to Carthage in 2020 and China Spring in 2021 and losing to Carthage in the third round in 2022, the Bucks turned the third time into a charm, as they defeated the Brahmas 28-26 to claim the State Championship and get the fourth title in Gilmer Buckeye football history.

Bellville had come into the game a perfect 15-0 record while Gilmer entered at 12-3, but the Brahmas played 11 teams that ended the season with a losing record while the Buckeyes played a formidable non-district schedule and faced only five teams that finished with a losing record. We also discovered that even though they had seven shutouts and all of them were blowouts that they kept their starters in for the ENTIRE game in those contests, so their results were somewhat jaded coming into the big game.

Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive begin the game. Fernando Grajales kicked off to the Gilmer 17 and Ta’Erik Tate returned the ball up to the 31 where Cadon Tennison and the offense went to work for the first time.

The team moved the ball down to the Bellville 36 and faced a 4th and 2. Tennison’s pass fell incomplete and the Brahmas began their first drive at that point. Zach Leuschner brought his offense out at that point to begin their first possession.

Bellville wasted little time getting his team into the end zone, taking just 2 plays to move the 66 yards in 1:04. After a 3 yard run and a 5-yard false start penalty Sam Hranicky ran through the middle of the line and cut around the right end for a 66-yard TD run with 8:06 left in the first quarter. Grajales connected on the PAT and the Brahmas took an early 7-0 lead.

After the ensuing kickoff and a 9-yard return the Bucks began their second drive at their 35. Tennison drove his unit down the field for the tying TD. They moved the 65 yards in 8 plays over 2:57. The score came on an 8-yard pass from Tennison to Brendan Webb with 5:15 left in the opening quarter. Brayden Pate kicked the extra point and the game was tied 7-7.

Pate’s kickoff was taken up to the 26 but there was a personal foul for a blind side block on the Brahmas, moving the ball back to their 13. They garnered one first down and then DD Murray had the ball ripped out by Webb and he fell on the ball at the Bellville 28.

Tennison led the offense on a 7-play, 28-yard TD drive that consumed 3:05 off the first quarter clock. The score came on a 2-yard run by Tennison with 1:08 left in the first quarter. Pate added the extra point and Gilmer led 14-7.

The kick after the score was returned to the 30 and Leuschner and his unit came back on the field. They ran 2 plays and the first quarter came to a close.

On the first play of the second quarter Leuschner hit Murray on a 72-yard TD pass and run, bringing the score to 14-13 in favor of Gilmer. Grajales’ extra point attempt was blocked by Aron Bell leaving the score 14-13 with 11:47 left in the first half.

The kickoff following the TD was returned 12 yards up to the Gilmer 25 and Tennison brought his teammates back on the field. The offense moved down to the Bellville 34, but a deep pass for Geramiah Noble was barely incomplete when he lost the ball as he hit the ground out of bounds and Bellville went back on offense at that spot.

Leuschner moved his unit down the field to the Gilmer 12 and a pass into the end zone was intercepted by Webb with 3:31 left in the half and Gilmer went back on offense at their 20.

Tennison led the offense into the end zone for the third Gilmer TD of the day. The score ended a 5-play, 80-yard drive that took 1:31 off the clock. The score came with exactly two minutes left in the first half when Henderson broke through the middle and around the left end 65 yards into the end zone. Pate’s extra point try split the uprights and the Gilmer lead moved to 21-13.

Bellville started at their 35 on their next possession and took just 3 plays and 56 seconds to move the 65 yards into the end zone. The play came on a 58-yard TD run by Hranicky with 1:04 left in the half. Grajales hit the extra point and the Brahmas were back to within 1, trailing 21-20.

After a 3-yard return on the next kick the Buckeyes set up on their 29. After a 2-yard run by Henderson, Tennison hit Tate on a 69-yard TD pass with 41 seconds left in the half. Pate hit the extra point and the Gilmer lead was back to eight at 28-20.

After an onside kick and a 5-yard offsides call on Gilmer, Bellville began their final possession of the half at their 39. They gained four yards on first down and were dropped for a 1-yard loss as time expired in the first half and Gilmer led 28-20 with the Brahmas set to receive the second half kickoff.

Pate’s kickoff traveled down to the Bellville 27 and was returned up to the 41 where the Brahmas set up shop.

The Bucks picked up two first downs but had to punt away from their 46 on fourth down on the next series. Pate’s boot traveled down to the Brahma 21 where it was fair caught and Leuschner brought his troops back on the field.

They faced a 4th-and-1 from their 30. They tried to draw Gilmer offsides and then called a time out when the strategy didn’t work. They went for the first down but Gilmer was called offsides and the drive continued.

Bellville continued the drive getting into the end zone with 2:26 left in the third quarter when Corrian Hood scored on 4-yard TD run, capping off an 8-play, 79-yard drive that ran 3:23 off the clock. A try for two failed and Gilmer still led, 28-26.

Grajales’ next kickoff went to the Gilmer 12 and was returned up to the 32 by Tate where the Gilmer offense went back to work. On the seventh play of the possession Colin Goeke intercepted a Tennison pass intended for Webb at the Bellville 3.

The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out and after a 37-yard Connor Gaines punt died at the Gilmer 23, Tennison brought his offensive unit back out with 6:47 left in the game, knowing the Buckeyes really needed a touchdown.

They didn’t get the TD, but Will Henderson converted a key fourth down with an 11-yard run down to the 6 and Tennison knelt down and the game ended with a 28-26 win for the Buckeyes.

An ecstatic Coach Alan Metzel faced the media after the big win and had Will Henderson, Brendan Webb and Ta’Erik Tate along with him to answer questions. Henderson and Webb had just been named offensive and defensive MVPs of the game respectively.

A UIL representative introduced the coach and he introduced the players with him and the press conference began with him being asked his thoughts on winning the State Championship.

“You know, it’s just amazing to have this opportunity to coach young men like this. A challenging year just adds so much to the sweetness of it, you know, and starting out with adversity; people going ‘aw, they’re not going to be what they’ve been before,’ those kinds of things. It’s just coming to work, just coming to work and trusting. Having family tragedies on our team this year on our team, having coaches who are hoping to get on a kidney transplant list; just so many things, just life. And to get to go out as a team and as a community and have the sweetness of victory, it’s beyond words.

“When we went into the playoffs, the weekend before the playoffs we had the tragedy with Geramiah’s family and that galvanized us. We were improving, we were getting better and so forth, but that was like ‘this was personal’ and I think as a team if you go back and re-watch those games you’re going to see us begin to play different. You always preach and teach, you know, that it’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s about the team. We’re selfless instead of selfish and that’s the hardest enemy for me to fight every single day. With that happening it just took us to a different level of getting it and you saw guys that maybe their role wasn’t as big and they didn’t care anymore. They’re getting after it on the sideline and encouraging and cheering for each other a whole different level and the practices got more intense, etc. You saw a steady climb, I believe, through the playoffs. Obviously, that’s every coach’s dream, is for that to happen. All I can say at this point is I could not be more proud of these young men. It’s not like adversity makes you be great; adversity gives you the opportunity and then people have to make that choice. These guys did that.”

The Mirror asked Coach Metzel about the first half and how every time Bellville scored the Buckeyes responded with a score of their own.

“Well, you know, emotions go up and down. That’s part of the game. That’s one of the things you have to deal with and again, we’re talking over and over again about we have to make a choice instead of allowing our emotions to overcome and cause us to draw back and cause us to start having negative thoughts. You have to take captive those thoughts and say no, I’m not going there. These guys do it, even at a rate sometimes that surprises me. It’s happened and they’ll go ‘okay we’ll just do this’ and I’m like ‘I’m glad they did that.’ It’s amazing what happens when a team begins to see themselves that way.”

We asked Will Henderson what it meant to him to have the most yards in a season and the most touchdowns in a season in the history of the Gilmer Buckeyes football program.

“To be honest, it felt regular because I already said I was going to do it, so I just had to do it!”

We asked Brendan Webb about his forced fumble and recovery and the end zone interception that prevented what look like would be a sure Bellville score.

“I want to say that I wouldn’t be able to get that forced fumble if my D-line didn’t wrap them up. He was wrapped up and I put my hands in there and felt the football so I tugged at it and I saw it come out and I thought ‘he’s not down yet’ and I jumped on it. They (the D-line) caused pressure on the QB for me on that scramble to get the pick. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

This story would not be complete without talking with Geramiah Noble, and we caught him on the field after the trophy presentation and asked him what it meant to him for the team to win the State Championship after what he had been through.

“It means a lot. I mean that’s why I kept playing football, so we’re here! I’m very excited to be a Buckeye!”

And lo, a season that so many of the Army of Buckeyes thought would be a long year with a quick exit from the playoffs has turned into a season that brought our school, our town and our fans closer together than perhaps we have ever been. There is no doubt that God has been there with us all along helping heal our broken hearts after a senseless tragedy that should never have happened. God shined down on us and has given us all a peace that passes understanding.

Now we move to the end of another storied year in our Buck Dynasty and look forward down the road to another great season in 2024.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.


Buckeyes Blog

CONGRATS to the Bellville Brahmas for a great season.

     

  

     

      

         

     

     

     

   

     

    

     

   

 

 

Leave a Comment