The Bucks had problems maintaining possession of the ball in the first half and Kilgore’s huge offensive line took its toll on the Gilmer defense late in the game, as they spent more time on the field than they usually do.
The two biggest plays in the game that ultimately sealed the Buckeye’s fate occurred in the first half. One was a 25-yard field goal attempt by Pablin Olivares that was blocked by Aaron Foy and returned 61 yards to the Gilmer 21 by Quavian Mumphrey that ended up in a Kilgore TD, and the other was a 10-yard TD pass from Bennie Colbert to Nick Orange with 9.2 seconds left in the second quarter that put the hosts ahead 20-14 at the half. Without those two scores Gilmer would have won the game by nine.
Fortunately, a new season begins Thursday night when Gilmer faces a mediocre Mineola team at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler in a bi-district game. Gilmer will be a prohibitive favorite in that matchup.
Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff last Friday night. Christian Galvan kicked the ball to the Gilmer 30. The ball was bobbled by the Buckeye return man and Jacobie Vidal recovered for Kilgore at the Gilmer 31.
The Black Flag Defense rose to the occasion and gave up only six yards in four downs, and Gilmer went on offense the first time on the night at their 25.
Barr and the offense appeared headed to the end zone, but on a third-and-six when Tanner Barr hit Jaidon Parrish, after an 8-yard gain, Parrish was blasted by the defense and lost the handle. Stefon Tatum recovered for the Bulldogs at his 19 and Colbert brought his offensive unit back on the field.
The Black Flag forced a three-and-out and Glavan hit a 27-yard punt to the Gilmer 47. Kilgore was flagged for a facemask penalty, and the Buckeyes set up shot in great position at the ‘Dog 32.
Once again, it looked like the Bux would almost certainly find the end zone, but the Bulldog defense rose to the occasion, and on a fourth down play on the seventh play of the possession, Foy blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt by Pablin Olivares and Mumphrey made the recovery and the big run to the Gilmer 21.
It took only three plays and 1:25 for Colbert to lead his team into the end zone. The score came on a 14-yard run by Davieonta (JuJu) Brown with 2:27 left in the first quarter. Galvan booted the PAT and Kilgore led 7-0.
The ensuing Galvan kick was fair caught at the Gilmer 36. Barr led the offense into the end zone just 1:03 later on a 47-yard pass to Kris Boyd with 1:24 left in the quarter. Olivares added the extra point and the game was tied 7-7.
The kickoff by Olivares went down to the 2, and Foy returned the ball out to his 35. Colbert led his team to one first down, but on second down of the next series, after a 33-yard gain, Brown fumbled the ball away. It bounced another 16 yards toward the Gilmer goal line before Charles Williams recovered the ball for the Buckeyes at the Gilmer 9.
Gilmer managed one first down, but on third-and-one, after a 5-yard run by Boyd for a first down, he was hit hard and fumbled the ball away to Jake Brantley at the Buckeye 36.
Colbert led his team the 36-yards to a go-ahead score in a 7-play drive that consumed 3:20. The score came on a 2-yard run by Kervin Justice with 6:48 left in the half. Galvan added the PAT and Kilgore led 14-7.
Nick Smith fair caught the next kickoff by Galvan at his 37, and Barr led his offense back on the field. 9 plays and 2:24 later Barr pitched the ball back to Chase Tate and he passed the ball to Barr and he went down the left sideline from the l4 for the TD. After Olivares split the uprights, we were tied again, 14-14 with 4:24 left in the half.
The ensuing kick by Olivares was returned from the Kilgore 17 to the 28 by Vidal. Just as they have done for years, the ‘Dogs went back to their ground and pound game. They moved 72 yards in 10 plays and took 4:15, scoring on a l0-yard TD pass from Colbert to Orange with 9.2 seconds left in the half. The extra point was just wide to the left, and Kilgore went back on top 20-14.
Gilmer tried a little razzle-dazzle on the Galvan kick. Parrish returned the ball from his 20 to the 31. Barr hit Smith for a 7-yard gain. Smith attempted to lateral the ball, but the pigskin hit the ground and Brantley recovered for Kilgore to end the half.
The third quarter kickoff was taken by Foy at the Kilgore 3 and he returned it to the 17. The Bulldogs kept the ball for 4:19 before punting away on fourth down. DeVondrick Dixon fair caught the ball at the Gilmer 29.
Barr led the offense the 71 yards into the end zone in a 7-play drive that took 1:44. The score came on a 9-yard run by Boyd. Olivares added the extra point, and Gilmer was back on top 21-20 with 5:57 left in the third period.
Olivares kicked away to the Kilgore 20, but the Bulldogs were called for an illegal block on the return, and Colbert led his team out his 8 to begin the possession. The hosts managed two first downs in the possession, but Colbert was sacked for a 7-yard loss by Harrison Foster, forcing another punt. Dixon attempted to field the punt at his 49, but lost the handle and recovered back at the 40, and Gilmer went back on offense with 2:15 left in the quarter.
The Buckeyes held onto the ball for 10 plays and moved 40 yards in 3:05, but a Barr pass on a fourth-and-eight fell incomplete, and Kilgore took back over on their 19 with 11:08 left in the game.
Colbert then led his offense on a 9-play, 81-yard scoring drive that took 5:04 off the clock. The score came on a 10-yard run by Justice with 6:04 left in the game, and Kilgore led 26-21. The ‘Dogs went for 2, and Colbert hit Jack Johnston for the conversion, advancing the lead to 28-21.
Galvan’s kickoff went into the Gilmer end zone and the Bucks set up shop at their 20. It took only 1:02 and 4 plays for Barr to lead his team into the end zone again. He hit Tate on a 25-yard pass on the first play, followed that up with a 9-yard pass to Smith and hit Boyd for a gain of two before Tate took the ball and hit Desmond Pollard on a 39-yard halfback option pass for the TD with 5:02 left in the game, bringing the score to 28-27 in favor of Kilgore.
Coach Jeff Traylor decided to go for two, hoping to seal a win. Tate took the handoff from Barr, then tossed a lateral to Parrish, who then hit Barr for the 2-point conversion, giving Gilmer a 29-28 lead with 5:02 left in the game.
The final Olivares kickoff went to the Kilgore 38 with no return, and the Bulldogs set up for what would end up being the winning score in the game.
Colbert led his offense on an 8-play, 62 yard drive that took 3:24. After they picked up a big first down on the play before the score, Coach Traylor called a time out and called the ONLY play that realistically would give his charges a final chance to win the game. KNOWING that Kilgore was already in field goal position, and that they could probably run out the clock and kick a winning field goal on the game’s final play, the defense allowed Justice to go up the middle from the Gilmer 22 with no resistance into the end zone for a touchdown. A try for two resulted in an incomplete pass, but Kilgore had a 34-29 lead with 1:38 left in the game.
Galvan’s kick went to the Gilmer 30 and was returned to the 45 by Parrish, and Gilmer took over for one final last-gasp effort at gaining the victory. After a first down run, the play was called back for a holding on Gilmer, but the Buckeyes overcame the hanky by gaining 10 yards each on two consecutive plays. The first was a run by Boyd and the second was a pass from Barr to Pollard. Unfortunately for the Bucks, any hope of victory slipped away on the next series.
Barr threw incomplete on first down, was dropped for a 6-yard loss on second down, and then threw incomplete on third and fourth downs under heavy pressure, and Kilgore took back over on downs at their 48 with 19.7 seconds left. Colbert lined up in victory formation and took a knee as the clock expired, giving his Bulldogs the District Championship.
The Bulldogs will play Van in the bi-district round of Division I, while the Gilmer-Mineola matchup will be a Division II clash. Gilmer will be a monumental favorite in their game, as will Kilgore in their contest.
We want to commend the Gilmer fans for turning out en masse for the game, and encourage you to do the same thing at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium Thursday night and cheer the Bucks on as they open the playoffs.
While the loss to Kilgore is a disappointment to everyone tied to Gilmer, it might just be the inspiration the team needs to win six playoff games and a State Championship on Dec. 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Buckeyes gave it their all in Kilgore, and we have a LOT more football to come. Encourage our players this week and let them know you’re behind them 100 percent, and let them know you believe in them.
None of us likes to lose, but we all need to keep things in perspective. The loss to Kilgore was only the second Gilmer loss in a district game since 2001, giving us a 64-2 record during that time. The only other district loss during the period was to Carthage in 2010, also a road game. We have been VERY BLESSED with our dynasty in G’Town, and we have MANY MORE WINS to come!
Good luck in the playoffs, Buckeyes. The Army of Buckeyes is solidly behind you!