GILMER BUCKEYE Coach Jeff Traylor told us in the preseason interview The Mirror did a couple of months ago that he had a young, inexperienced team, but that IF his charges could stay together as a team, grow week by week as they gained experience, just find a way to win and get through the first three games in the District of Doom “still in the race”, they would be a pretty good team and that he liked their chances of making the playoffs for the 12th straight year. He added that they would be battle-tested if they got into the playoffs and would be a very good team at that point.
It hasn’t been easy for the team, the coaches, nor the fans, but the Buckeye mentor couldn’t be more pleased with where his team is sitting at this point. They are 5-1 on the year and 2-0 in district after having clawed their way back from third quarter deficits two weeks in row over Gladewater and Chapel Hill. The mental toughness and refusal to give up has made this team truly something special to watch on Friday nights. The win over the defending Class 3A Division I State Champions now gives the Buckeyes a 9-2 record against defending state champions under Coach Traylor.
It was a frantic game for just over three quarters, as the teams were knotted at 28-all going into the final period. Then things changed, as Gilmer rang up the scoreboard for 22 unanswered points and walked away with a blowout 50-28 victory over the 1-5 Bulldogs to set the stage for Saturday night’s KYKX Game of the Week against the Henderson Lions at Lobo Stadium in Longview. Kilgore and Gilmer are tied for the district lead with perfect 2-0 district records after Kilgore’s 27-14 win over previously undefeated Bullard. Henderson is a half game behind at 1-0.
Chapel Hill won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. The game started rather sluggishly for both offenses, as both teams went three-and-out on their first two possessions of the night, using up just over five minutes of the first stanza.
Gilmer came to life on their third possession of the night, putting together an 11-play, 72-yard drive that consumed 4:59 when Josh Walker ran in from one yard out with 1:58 left in the first. Pablin Olivares added the PAT and the Bucks had a 7-0 lead. Boyd, Walker, Jamel Jackson and DeVondrick Dixon all contributed during the drive.
It didn’t take the Bulldogs long to retaliate, as they started their next possession at their 30. They went on a scoring drive that took 2:27 and seven plays to move the 70 yards into the end zone. The score came on a 1-yard run by Londreyus Johnson with 11:30 left in the first half. Sammy Guzman hit the point after and the game was tied at 7-7.
Not to be outdone, Gilmer responded with a 4-play, 73-yard drive in 1:16 when Boyd scored the first of his five touchdowns on the evening with a spectacular 62-yard scamper around left end with 10:14 left in the half. Olivares was true once again and Gilmer reclaimed the lead at 14-7.
The determined Bulldogs came right back on their next possession, moving 79 yards in nine plays and taking 2:31 off the clock. They set up the score on a 23-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Black to Reginald King and found the end zone on the next play on a 15-yard run by Jamarcus McCowin with 7:43 left until halftime. Guzman added the point after and we were tied again, 14-14.
Gilmer started out from their 37 after a 10-yard return of the ensuing kick by Brandon Barnes. The drive was short-lived, as after picking up 20 yards on a quarterback draw, Tanner Barr had the ball stripped away and Chapel Hill recovered on their 42.
The Bulldog converted a fourth down in the drive, but Black fumbled three plays later and Xavier Fluellen made the recovery for the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, the offense went three-and-out and the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 20 after a Barr punt went into the end zone.
The visitors picked up two first downs on the possession, but were forced to punt away on the third series, giving Gilmer the ball back on the Bulldog 48 with just 18 seconds left in the first half. Barr threw incomplete on three straight downs and a Hail Mary into the end zone on the last play of the half was intercepted.
Chapel Hill came out with a fire in their eyes on their first drive of the second half. They began on their 26 after a 22-yard return by Joseph Clark. They went on a 10-play, 74-yard drive that took 3:44 and found the end zone on a fourth-and-22 when Black hit Guzman from 32 yards out with 8:16 left in the third quarter. Guzman’s PAT sailed wide right, but the visitors took their first lead of the night, 20-14
It didn’t take much more than the blink of an eye for the Bucks to bounce back. Boyd returned the ensuing kick from his 25 to his 42, and on the first play from scrimmage, he broke free for a 58-yard TD, capping a 19-second drive, and tying the game at 20-all. Olivares put the Bucks back up 21-20 with his successful kick.
Black fumbled the ball away to Dakota Fluellen at his 37 on the second play of the Bulldogs next possession, but Gilmer was unable to take advantage of the good field possession, turning the ball over on downs at the Chapel Hill 30.
The visitors picked up two first downs on their next possession, but were forced to punt away on the next series thanks to a great stand by the Black Flag Defense. Unfortunately, Chase Tate lost the handle on the punt and the Bulldogs recovered at the Gilmer 10. They took only one play and 13 seconds to retake the lead. McCowin ran in from the 10 with 1:39 left in the third quarter, capping a 13-second possession. After Black hit King on a 2-point conversion pass, the Bulldogs were back up by seven, leading 28-21.
Tate took the kickoff after the score at his 12 and returned it to the 24, setting up Boyd once again. On the first play from scrimmage, he broke free around left end again for a 76-yard run into the end zone, capping a 22-second drive. Olivares nailed the extra point, and we were tied again at 28-28.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next possession. Tate returned the Guzman punt from his 40 to the CH 39, and the Bucks were set up in excellent position for what would end up being an easy score.
Boyd picked up 17 on the first play of the possession and Barr ran it in from 22 yards out on the next play, capping a 43-second drive. Olivares added the PAT and Gilmer had the lead for good, 35-28.
Things fell apart from there for the visitors. Clark fumbled the kick and managed to recover at his 13, but on the very next play he fumbled again and wasn’t as fortunate this time, as the Black Flag captured the loose pigskin at the CH 20.
Though they failed on a fourth-and-four incomplete pass, the visitors were still trapped deep in their territory at the 14. They managed to pick up one first down, but on the first play of the next series Black was hit behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled. Josh Walker recovered for Gilmer at the Bulldog 20.
It took only one play and 20 seconds for Boyd to run in for his fourth TD of the night, and Gilmer was up 41-28 with 6:19 left in the game. Olivares’ kick was no good, but the ‘Dogs were slapped with a 5-yard running into the kick penalty. Gilmer went for two after the mark off and Walker ran in for the conversion, pushing the score to 43-28.
McCowin returned Olivares’ kickoff from his 15 to his 30. The Bulldogs’ woes continued once again from there. They were tagged for a false start on the first play and Black was dropped for a loss of five after the penalty. He fumbled the ball, but managed to recover it. He hit Guzman for a gain of 11 on the next play before being hit seven yards behind the line of scrimmage on the next play. He fumbled the ball again, but this time Ardarius Johnson was there to recover for Gilmer at the CH 22.
It took only 52 seconds for the Bucks to find the end zone for the final time. Boyd picked up six on first down and garnered the final 16 on second down, scampering almost untouched into the end zone. The snap was fumbled on the PAT, but somehow Olivares managed to get just enough of the ball on the kick to push it over the goal post and Gilmer led 50-28.
The ‘Dogs went three-and-out and didn’t even try to pick up a first down on fourth down, as they punted the ball down to the Gilmer 28. Barr and the offense went into Victory Formation and ran out the clock on four consecutive kneel-downs to end the game.
We asked Coach Traylor his thoughts on the game and his team’s performance after the big home win.
“Chapel Hill played really well. They were almost error-free ‘til the fourth. Like we’ve done all year, we came alive in the fourth, and we’ve got to quit doing that. We saw signs in the first half of getting closer, we’re just not quite there, but we’re pretty heck on wheels in that fourth quarter. We’re healthy tonight and we get four players back on Monday. You never know in this business; you never know. When you think you know, you’re always wrong. I know we’re extremely inexperienced, we have a great mindset and we’re getting better every day, so usually that bodes well. Our opponents are still tough. You might not can tell, but I know from coaching them and I can just tell we’re getting better. We’re in great condition, but we play a lot of kids and everybody buys into their role, and that’s the greatest thing about our team. If everybody does their job and buys into it, it just works real well.”
He continued, “Tanner did a wonderful job of reading some stuff tonight and our backs did a great job of blocking for each other. Jamel Jackson came in replacing Jaidon (Parrish) and did a great job and our line blocked a lot better than they have been. We’ve still got to pitch and catch better. We didn’t pitch and catch very well tonight, which is disappointing. We work so hard on our passing game. We’re going to keep doing that; we not going to stop. We’re always going to be a team that does both. We’re just going to try to find a way to win the ball game and we were lucky to win tonight.”
The running game was “lights out” for the offense, particularly the running of Kris Boyd. Boyd gained 293 yards in just 17 carries on the night with an unbelievable average of 17.2 yards per carry, and scored five touchdowns on runs of 62, 58, 76, 20 and 16 yards on the evening.
We caught up with Kris after the game and asked him what the secret was to his career-topping performance on the night. “The line; the blockers, they executed because I really couldn’t have done it without them. I am really thankful and I was blessed to do it with the faith in God. I just have the mentality to get the ball and go and win it for the team. At halftime Coach Traylor gave us another speech as he always does. There’s really nothing to do after that but pick it up. It took us time to get together, like the team chemistry, but it’s getting there. We’ve just got to keep working harder. We play our best, but we’ve really been a second half team, so we’ve been trying to pick it up in the first quarter. We’ve got to get better at that.”
We asked Coach Traylor his early thoughts on the upcoming Henderson game Saturday night. “I really haven’t peeked at them yet. I just know they have some beautiful kids and some beautiful running backs. That #3 is a monster (Patrick “Monster” Brown), and they have three All-State kids on defense. They are really good. We’ll see how our young kids respond.”
The teams have three common opponents: Prestonwood, Jacksonville and Chapel Hill. Henderson lost to Prestonwood by five points more than Gilmer did. Henderson defeated Jacksonville by 23 points more than Gilmer did.And Gilmer defeated Chapel Hill by four points more than Henderson did.
While those are interesting stats for fans and the media to look at and draw conclusions from, Coach Traylor would be the first to caution NOT to put a lot of stock in that. Both schools are perfect in the young district slate, so there’s no doubt this will be another battle royale and it could well be another nail-biter. Be sure to be in your place on the visitor’s side of Lobo Stadium Saturday night in your orange and black, but also be sure to wear a pink ribbon to help highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month.