Congratulations to the No. 1-ranked Rattlers, who proved beyond any doubt they deserved their season-long ranking at the top.
Way to go, Buckeyes, on making it to the championship game for the fifth time in school history and the fourth time since 2004.
There will be another night. The Army of Buckeyes will always be proud of you guys. Merry Christmas and let's all get ready for next season, which may be even better than this very magical run the team just made.
By ELWYN HENDERSON
The Gilmer Buckeyes concluded their Cinderella 2012 season one win short of their third State Championship Friday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, as they fell to the Navasota Rattlers 39-3.
Though it was a sad ending to an improbable 14-2 season, the team and all Buckeye fans need to remember all the obstacles this team overcame just to make it to Jerry World. A large majority of this group of young men had little or no varsity playing experience coming into the season. Many pundits showed them finishing third or fourth in the District of Doom v2. They went 6-0 and won the District 16-AAA Championship, marking the eleventh time in the last twelve years they have gone undefeated in district play. The only year they didn’t win the district was year one of the original District of Doom when they lost to Carthage on the road.
What everyone in Gilmer needs to remember is that we have been blessed beyond measure, and have nothing but sunny skies ahead in the coming seasons due to the tremendous talent we have in Gilmer, and the endless dedication of our coaching staff.
When you go back and assess this season, there were several games that this team won that MOST teams would have lost. In the Jacksonville game, the Bucks were down 33-14 and they came back with a dramatic last-minute 34-33 win. They trailed the Gladewater Bears 13-0 at halftime in the first district game. They held on to beat Henderson the first time the two met in district play, snatching a two point victory. They held the Kilgore Bulldogs four straight plays inside the Gilmer 5 in the eleventh hour at Buckeye Stadium to preserve a 10-6 win that gave them the district championship the last game of the regular season. When you consider all this, we should be full of nothing but excitement at what this group accomplished. The pain of the loss will go away for the coaches, the team, and the fans, but the positive things accomplished this season will last for a lifetime!
Things started out well in the Championship, as Navasota won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Kris Boyd took the opening kick at the Gilmer 20 and returned it to the 35. Tanner Barr led the offensive unit on what looked like would most certainly be a scoring drive. The first offensive play was a 12-yard pass from Barr to Jaidon Parrish. The Buckeyes picked up one more first down in the possession, but following a false start, Barr was intercepted by Dustin Savensky at the Navasota 38.
The Black Flag Defense forced a three-and-out on the Rattler possession, and after a 35-yard punt, Gilmer was back on offense at their 26. The Navasota defense countered with a three-and-out. Barr booted a 34-yard punt to the Navasota 40 and the Rattlers went back on offense.
The Black Flag allowed one first down on a defensive holding call on the first play of the possession, but then stiffened and gave up only three yards on the next three plays, forcing another punt down to the Gilmer 26.
The Buckeyes started what was to be their only scoring drive of the game with an 18-yard pass to Parrish. Three plays later Barr hit Parrish again, this time for a gain of sixteen. Kris Boyd followed that up with runs of 3, 20 and 2. Navasota shut the door from there, and Pablin Olivares came in and kicked a 29-yard field goal with 4:33 left in the first quart, and Gilmer led 3-0. The drive was 11 plays and covered 52 yards and took 2:25 off the clock.
Olivares kicked away to the Navasota 30, where the ball was fair caught. On the first play of the possession, Matthew Fontana was dropped for a loss of 5, but on the next play quarterback Kadarius Baker hit Fontana for a gain of 26. Fontana was stopped for no gain on the next play, but then Austin Collins got behind the defense and snagged a 51-yard TD pass from Baker with 2:46 left in the opening frame. Michael Martinez hit the PAT, and the Rattlers had a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game, 7-3.
DeVondrick Dixon took the ensuing kick at the Gilmer 10 and returned it to the 22. Unfortunately, Gilmer went backwards in the drive and Barr was forced to kick the ball away. The kick went from the 12 out to the 44 and was returned back to the 35.
It took the Rattlers only four plays to hit the end zone again. Derrion Randle ran for a gain of 15, Collins rushed for a gain of 14, and Baker finished things off with a 4-yard gain before running into the end zone from the 2 to finish the drive off. DeVondrick Dixon blocked the PAT, but the lead moved to 13-3.
Gilmer had another three-and-out before Barr blasted a 51-yard punt down to the Navasota 18. Things started out well for the Black Flag, as Collins and Randle were stopped for no gain on the first two plays, but Baker hit Solomon McGinty for a gain of 26 on third down, and the Rattlers were on the roll again. They moved the 82 yards for their third score of the night in 8 plays and 3:57. The score came on a 52-yard run by Randle. Martinez hit the extra point, and the Bucks were in a 20-3 hole with 6:46 left in the first half.
The next Gilmer possession was taken by Boyd at the Gilmer 16 and returned to the 37. Despite the excellent field position, the impenetrable Rattler defensive unit closed the door, and it was another three-and-out for the Buckeye offense. Barr hit a 42-yard punt down to the Navasota 26.
On the first play of the next possession, Baker hit McGinty for a gain of 19. Fontana followed that up with runs of 37 and 14 on consecutive plays before Collins was stopped for no gain on the next play. Baker followed that up with a 4-yard TD pass to Collins with 3:35 left in the half. Martinez’s extra point was wide right, but the Rattlers had a commanding 26-3 lead.
Brandon Barnes returned the kickoff from the Gilmer 25 out to the 48. Barr gained 11 on first down, and Navasota was called for defensive holding on the next play. From that point the Rattlers closed the door and Barr punted away to the 12.
Randle ran the ball for a loss of 1 and then for no gain as the teams headed for their halftime break with the score remaining 26-3.
Knowing they had to do something to change momentum in the contest if they wanted to have any chance of staging a comeback, Coach Jeff Traylor called for an onside kick. Olivares popped it up perfectly and Dixon streaked down the sidelines and recovered the ball at the Navasota 45.
Barr led his team on what was the longest drive of the season on the possession. Gilmer moved 43 yards in 16 plays and consumed 6:42 off the third quarter clock and appeared headed for a certain TD. Barr was going down and tried to stretch the ball over the goal line. From a couple of angles it appeared as though he might have been successful on the attempt, but the ball came out and rolled out of the end zone and the officials ruled a fumble and a touchback, and the Rattlers took back over on their 20.
Randle was hit two yards behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled, but the Rattlers recovered. Baker threw incomplete on second down, but any hopes Gilmer had of getting back into the game faded fast on third down, as Collins broke around the left side out of the Wildcat formation for an 82-yard touchdown run with 4:01 left in the quarter. Martinez was good on the point after, and the Rattlers led 33-3. The drive was officially 3 plays, 82 yards and took 1:17.
The next kick was taken by Parrish at the Gilmer 18. He lateraled the ball across the field to Dixon, who returned the kick out to the 36. Barr moved the offense down the field on a drive that lasted 3:29. It was a 10-play drive that covered 35 yards, but ended when Barr was dropped for a 9-yard loss back at the Navasota 29 on a fourth-and-ten.
The Rattlers ran one play before the third quarter came to a close. On the first play of the final quarter, Baker hit McGinty for a gain of 29. They managed one
additional first down in the drive, but an incomplete pass on fourth down on the next series gave the Bux the ball back at their 19.
Barr was dropped for a loss of 10 and then Boyd was dropped for a loss of 1 before he lost the ball on the next play. McGinty recovered the pigskin and Navasota took back over at the 12 with 5:29 left in the game.
Fontana was dropped for a loss of 1, but made up for it on the next play, as he raced into the end zone from the 13 for what would be the final TD of the game. The Martinez extra point was wide right and the score moved to 39-3 with 4:39 left in the contest.
Gilmer faced another three-and-out and then the Black Flag forced a three-and-out. The Buckeyes ran two plays and the game ended with Navasota capturing the Class AAA Division II Championship by the score of 39-3.
Coach Jeff Traylor addressed the media after the game. We reminded him of the fact the 2012 team wasn’t expected to do near what they accomplished this season. “Well, that’s for you guys. I thank you for the compliment though. Our goal is to win a State Championship, and that’s our goal every year. We tell everybody. We get made fun of, but that’s what we try to do. We’ve got two goals in Gilmer: to win a State Championship and to grow up and be the finest men we can be. We fall short of both those goals at times, but wake up the next day and go again. That’s what you do in life.”
“We’ve been down all year and we’ve been behind all year, and these guys (the Buckeyes) just won’t let you go away. That’s who they are. We’re excited because we’ve got a lot coming back, but I feel sorry for these two beside me (Seniors Trey Washington and Dylan Bowman, who were in the post-game press conference along with Tanner Barr). I’ve got 26 seniors who have kind of been in the background all year because my skill kids have been getting the ball all year. They’re just fantastic leaders, and I’m so proud of them; I really am.”
We ALL should be really proud of this team and the lofty goals they aspired to that propelled them into the State Championship game. Make sure you make a point to thank these young men for the excitement they provided for all Buckeye fans during this exciting year. They added tremendously to that Gilmer P.R.I.D.E., and deserve a big “Thank You” from ALL of us. They provided memories that we will take with us for the rest of our lives, and this loss is just a drop of water in the ocean compared to the greatness they attained during their 14 wins this season.
The seniors will move on to continue their lives, and the Buckeyes will start out next season with great expectations due to the experienced players that will be returning. There is plenty of reason to believe that the Gilmer Buckeyes very well could be back in Jerry World again next December.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Read more: Navasota 39, Gilmer 3