THE GILMER BUCKEYES overcame a slow start and a strong dose of Diamante Wright and Patrick “Monster” Brown and erased a 31-14 second-quarter deficit last Friday night at Longview Lobo Stadium before defeating the Lions for the second time this season with a 41-34 win. The win moved Gilmer to 13-1 on the season, while Henderson fell to 9-5. The big difference in the game this time was that the winner moved on to the Class 3A Division II State Semifinal game, while the loser went home to hit the basketball courts.
Coach Jeff Traylor had said after the win against Argyle a week earlier that the rematch would be a war, and indeed it was. We have to give kudos to the Lions, as well as to quarterback Brown. Brown was leveled by the Black Flag Defense the entire second half, and after the game he came over and congratulated a number of the Buckeye players. Henderson should be proud of this young man and the grace and character he showed after what was a crushing defeat for his team. That type of sportsmanship is seldom seen. We wish him the best as he heads out into the future next fall.
Henderson won the coin toss and elected to receive to begin the game. Brown, a 2-way starter and a special teams player, returned the opening kickoff at his 32 and returned it to his 38. The Lions sent a message very quickly to the Buckeyes that they were going to be in for dog fight, as they moved the 62 yards into the end zone for their first score in only four plays and they took only 1:34 off the first quarter clock. On the first play of the drive, Wright picked up four. Brown followed that with an 11-yard gain that picked up a first down and on the first play of the next series he broke free into the secondary for a gain of 43 down to the Gilmer 4. Wright ran into the end zone on the next play with 10:26 left in the quarter. William Mann’s PAT was blocked, but Henderson jumped out to an early 6-0 lead.
DeVondrick Dixon to the kick after the score at the Gilmer 3 and returned the ball all the way out to the 41. It didn’t take the Bucks but four plays and 1:08 to move the 59 yards for their first score of the evening. Tanner Barr hit Trey Washington for a gain of nine on first down before connecting with Boyd for a gain of six on second down. Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Barr matched Brown with a run of 43 on the next play, then Josh Walker ran into the end zone from the 1 to tie the game at 6-6. Pablin Olivares tacked on the extra point and Gilmer led 7-6 with 9:18 left in the opening quarter.
Olivares kicked off to the Henderson 29. The Lions fumbled the ball, but managed to recover and Brown and his unit hit the field again. Once again, it took only four plays and 2:02 for Brown to get his team back into the end zone. A first down pass was almost intercepted by Adam Witcher before Brown broke loose for a gain of 12. Wright was stopped for no gain on the next play before a deep pass from Brown was tipped by the Buckeyes. Tre’ Hollins juggled the ball, but somehow made the catch and coasted into the end zone for a 59-yard score with 7:40 left in the first. Brown ran into the end zone for a 2-point conversion, and Henderson led 14-7.
The two teams exchanged three-and-out possessions and then Gilmer set up on their 18 for their next drive. Barr completed a 20-yard pass to Patrick Finch on the first play. The Bucks gained nine on a run on the next play, and then tragedy struck. A lateral pass by Barr was picked up off the ground at the Gilmer 38 by J’Korrie Centers and returned for a Henderson TD with 4:41 left in the first quarter. Mann added the extra point and Henderson held a 21-7 lead.
The score didn’t seem to bother the Buckeyes whatsoever, as Dixon took the ensuing kick at his 5 and returned it down to the Lion 48. Barr and the offense went on an 8-play, 52-yard drive that consumed 2:24 and scored with 2:17 left in the quarter. The touchdown came on a 6-yard run by Walker. Olivares added the PAT and Gilmer was back within seven, at 21-14. Key plays in the drive were a 10-yard pass to Dixon, a 13-yard run by Tate and a 15-yard pass from Barr to Tate on the play prior to Dixon’s scoring dash.
After 7-yard kickoff return, Henderson set up on offense once again on their 32. They took 10 plays and 3:23 to move the 68 yards for another score. Brown hit McKenna Hunt from the Gilmer 11 to get his team into the end zone with 10:54 left in the second quarter. Mann added the extra point and Henderson jumped back up by two scores, 28-14.
Boyd returned the ensuing kick 15 yards up to the Gilmer 25, and the offense took over again. The Bux held the ball for 3:40 and moved 47 yards in nine plays before a fourth-and-11 pass by Barr fell incomplete. The Lions took back over on downs at their 28.
Things didn’t look good for Gilmer early on in the drive. Wright picked up 20 on a rush on third down and on the second play of the next series Brown hit Jamal Kind for a gain of 17. The Black Flag stiffened on the next series and forced a 40-yard field goal attempt by Mann. The kick was good, capping off a 9-play, 60 yard drive that took 4:18 off the clock, and Henderson had their biggest lead of the game, 31-14, with 2:56 left in the first half of play.
Observing the Gilmer sideline from the press box, as has been the case all season, there were no signs of gloom and doom by the team. There was simply a focus of knowing what they had to do to get back into the game, and they did just that.
Henderson kicked onside, but Dylan Bowman fell on the ball at the Gilmer 49, and the offense set up in great position. It took a mere three plays for Barr to lead the offense the 51 yards to pay dirt. Boyd ran for 23 on the first play, Barr passed to Finch for a gain of 18 on the second play and Barr then ran into the end zone from the 10 on the third play. The drive took only 22 seconds off the clock. After Olivares nailed the extra point, Gilmer was back to within 10, at 31-21 with 2:34 left in the half.
Olivares’ kick went out of bounds at midfield, and following the 5-yard penalty Henderson took over at the Gilmer 45. Realizing they needed to get a stop, the fired up Black Flag forced a three-and-out. The punt died at the Gilmer 16 with only 1:24 left in the half.
Using a precision 2-minute offense, Barr carved up the Lion defense in grand fashion. Tate ran for two yards before Barr hit Slade Morris for a gain of 13. He followed that up with a 7-yard pass to Jaidon Parrish and a 32-yard pass to Washington. He then threw a 7-yard toss to Finch, and then he hit Morris, who outran defenders, and on sheer determination, found his way into the end zone for a TD with only six seconds left in the first half. Olivares hit the PAT, and the Buckeyes had made a major comeback and trailed by only 31-28.
Olivares’ kick was fair caught. Brown was dropped for a loss of nine on first down, and the first half came to a close. Gilmer fans as well as the team KNEW that good things were to come in the second half of play.
Henderson kicked off to begin the second half. Boyd got a great return, moving the ball from his 7 out to the 43. Barr led the offense on a 9-play, 26 yard drive that took 2:56 off the clock, but on a fourth-and-10 Barr was dropped for a 6-yard loss and the Lions took over on downs on their 32.
Brown led his team to one first down in the possession, but the Black Flag gave up only three yards on the next series and the Lions were forced the punt the ball away. After a fair catch, Gilmer took back over on offense at their 28 with 7:07 left in the third quarter.
In their longest drive of the night, Barr led the offense on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive that chewed 3:39 off the clock. The score came on a 3-yard pass from Barr to Washington with 3:28 left in the quarter. Olivares was once again true on the point after, and Gilmer retook the lead, 35-31.
Brown took Olivares’ next kickoff at his 33 and returned it only to the 38. The Black Flag got the job done yet again, as on a third-and-nine Hollins was dropped for a loss of 11, forcing a Henderson punt. The kick was a booming 51-yarder that died at the Gilmer 20.
The Bucks set up with 1:06 left in the quarter. They ran out the remainder of the third quarter and scored on the first play of the final quarter. The score capped a 5-play, 80-yard drive, and came on a 63-yard run by DeVondrick Dixon with 11:48 left in the game. Olivares extra point was wide, but Gilmer held a 41-31 lead, and seemed in control of the game.
Olivares kicked away from Brown, but after fielding the kick at the Henderson 20, Hollins threw a lateral pass across the field to Brown on the far sideline and he rambled for 36 yards, down to the Gilmer 44, before a touchdown-saving tackle by Olivares.
Brown led his charges on a 7-play, 24 yard drive that took 2:44 off the clock. Just as it appeared the Lions were heading into the end zone, they were called for a personal foul after a 4-yard run by Wright on third down, forcing a 37-yard field goal attempt by Mann. The kick was good, and Henderson cut the lead to 41-34 with 9:04 left in the game.
Parrish took the ensuing kick at his 25 and returned it to the 41, but sensing they were back in the game, the Lion defense forced a three-and-out. A huge rush by Bo Brady forced a shank on the Barr punt, and the ball went out of bounds 10 yards downfield at the Henderson 48.
Brown led his team on an 8-play drive that took 3:27 off the clock, yet netted only 18 yards. On a fourth-and-10, a pass from Janson Moore to Brown, who had gone over to a wide receiver on the right side of the offense, was broken up near the goalline in great double coverage by the secondary, and the Black Flag had saved the day, giving Barr and company the ball back at the Gilmer 34. All the offense needed to do with 4:06 left in the game was run the ball and pick up a couple of first downs.
They did just that, pickup three first downs and running nine plays, the last of which was a kneel-down by Barr out of the victory formation, ending the game and giving the Buckeyes a 41-34 victory.
The win moves Gilmer into the Class 3A Division II Semi-Final game against Graham, a 40-35 winner over Gatesville. The game will be played in Mansfield and kickoff is slated for 7:30 pm.
We visited with an ecstatic Coach Jeff Traylor after the game. He was asked what the team did differently after falling behind by 17 to take complete control of the game. “We had done some things in the first half that were not typical of us, and not recovering that fumble (on the lateral) was really big—we gave them a cheap seven, and then that pass on a post that we tipped up and gave them seven. You just can’t give a team as good as Henderson 14 cheap points. We knew we had a big hole and we had to battle out of it, but I knew we wouldn’t go away. We just tried to let our conditioning get to the end of it. We’re a very well-conditioned football team.”
Coach Traylor was asked what the Black Flag did to control Brown in the second half. “Well, we started playing harder. They were just whipping our tails there for a while and just got after our kids and our kids just took it personal. Our defense is undersized and people say we don’t look good out there, but they play; they play extremely hard and they take pride in that “G” on the side of their helmets, and they don’t want to let that “G” down. It means a lot to them.”
When asked what the Buckeyes started doing differently after getting down by 17, the coach responded. “We just started slanting our front and started taking some chances. It was our effort and our execution. It wasn’t so much (our) scheme. We took a gamble a couple of times and got lucky, but it was just mainly our kids’ effort. Our kids just love to compete and they just play till the end, so this doesn’t surprise me at all.”
When asked his thoughts about the exciting contest, he replied, “It couldn’t have been better. It’s everything you hope from a game in East Texas with the hills packed, Lobo completely packed, people all up in the trees; it was one for the ages. It reminded me as a kid of watching Daingerfield and Gladewater as a kid in the ‘80s at Rose and watching the Lobos. It’s what made me want to be a coach; same kind of stuff.”
We commented to Coach Traylor about our observation that the team never panicked after falling behind 31-14 early. He responded, “It’s a long game. It’s four quarters; people don’t understand how long football games are. They are very long and our kids are always prepared to go the distance.”
We also talked with Josh Walker after the game and asked him about the calmness of the team when they had their backs against the wall early. “That’s what the Gilmer program is about. We stress on finishing. It doesn’t matter how far down we are, we’re going to finish the game. We had to get the underclassmen going, keep their heads up and just keep coming out and fighting and fighting and we’ll win, and that’s what happened.”
We asked Josh how big a win this was for the team. “It was a huge game. The first time we played them (Henderson) we didn’t finish. We only scored one touchdown in the second half when we were up 21-3. It’s a huge win; they’re very talented, and Monster Brown, you know, we stressed on stopping him. We had to stop him and execute our plays on offense, and that’s all we had to do and we’d win the game. We went in at halftime and we kinda got chewed out defensive-wise. They were just running power, power, power and we’d been working on it all week, and we weren’t stopping it, so we had to go in there and stress on tackling and wrapping up because he was breaking too many tackles.”
We talked with Trey Washington and asked his thoughts on just HOW the Buckeyes manage to keep it together as a team when they face adversity. “I don’t know. It was just effort. We practice perfect effort all the time, and effort plays a big part in our offense and defense. Effort brings you a long way, and that’s pretty much what it was. We weren’t down at all at halftime because a lot of the games we’ve played this year, we’ve been down at halftime, and we came from behind with Jacksonville with 20 points in the fourth, so being down doesn’t affect us. We just keep a steady pace and stay intense and persevere.”
All the Gilmer players KNOW that with a win Friday night against Graham they will propel themselves into the Class 3A Division II State Championship Game on Friday, December 21st at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. We asked Trey what it meant to the team knowing what was on the line this Friday night.
“It’s a thing that you always dream of. When you’re a little kid, you always want to play where the Cowboys play, especially like myself, when you’re from Dallas. We’re just one game away from getting there. It’s a great feeling. We feel like we have all the pieces to do it. We’re really focused, we’re playing our best football now. We just want to keep it going, and HOPEFULLY, we’ll make it to Jerry’s World!”
We want to give a HUGE “shout out” to the Gilmer fans in attendance at the game last Friday. The home side of the stands was packed, and the noise level was off the charts. Whatever you have to do, it is VITAL that you show up like that again in Mansfield Friday night. The team needs and most certainly deserves your support. If you are there and do your part to cheer them on to victory, you’ll be rewarded by watching our Beloved Buckeyes playing in the most impressive sports venue in the world. Even if you’re not a Cowboys fan, it will be the chance of a lifetime to be able to see the Bucks play in Cowboys Stadium.
We’re all behind you, Buckeyes. Grab that victory over Graham, and we’ll ALL see you at Jerry World!