THE GILMER BUCKEYES celebrated Thanksgiving a day late at Lobo Stadium in Longview last Friday night by making turkey out of the Atlanta Rabbits in a 57-13 blowout victory. The win moves the Bucks to 11-1 on the season, while Atlanta drops to 5-7 on the season and heads to the basketball court.
The game was especially sweet for this sportswriter as the Buckeyes honored my 57th birthday by ringing up 57 points on the scoreboard. It is a victory I won’t soon forget.
Though the game turned into a complete blowout, it was a very tight game until early in the third quarter. Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive and sent the message to the Rabbs very early they were going to hit on all cylinders.
DeVondrick Dixon returned Chris Ibarra’s kick from his 14 out to his 42. From there it took the Buckeyes on 2:11 and five plays to move the 58 yards for their first score of the evening. The first four plays gained 24 yards on runs by Dixon and Tanner Barr and passes from Barr to Chase Tate. On the fifth play of the drive Kris Boyd kicked it into overdrive and ran in from 34 yards out for the first score of the game. Pablin Olivares added the PAT and Gilmer led 7-0 with 9:49 left in the opening period.
Not to be outdone, the Rabbs came back with their most impressive drive of the night. Damien Lawson took Olivares’ kick at his 21 and returned it to the 35. From that point Atlanta held on to the ball for 6:53 and drove the 65 yards into the end zone in 11 plays, scoring with just 2:56 left in the first quarter. Ruben Duran added the PAT and the game was tied at 7-7.
Dixon returned the ensuing kick from the Gilmer 12 out to the 43 and the Bucks were in business again. They ran seven plays and moved the ball down the field, ending the first quarter. On the eighth play of the drive, Barr’s pass was intercepted at the Atlanta 16 by Everett Dickerson and he returned the pick out the 38.
The Black Flag Defense shut the Atlanta offense down, forcing a three-and-out. Quaid Taylor hit a 31-yard punt down to the Gilmer 31, and Barry and his offensive teammates took the field again. Just five plays and 1:19 later, they had moved the ball the 69 yards into the end zone. On the first play of the drive Barr hit Jaidon Parrish for a gain of 25. Jamel Jackson followed that up with a run of 10 yards and then Boyd rushed for gains of three and 27 before Josh Walker came in to close the drive with a 3-yard TD run with 8:17 left in the first half. Olivares kicked the extra point and the Buckeyes were back in the lead, 14-7.
After a 7-yard return on the next kick by Randel Clark, Atlanta set up on their 35. The drive was short-lived, as the Black Flag gave up 14 on a run by Corion Webster on the first play, but then forced a punt on the next offensive series. Taylor punted away again and Dylan Bowman returned the kick nine yards up to the Gilmer 32.
The offense took only 2:01 and five plays to move the 68 yards and get into the end zone for the third time of the first half. Chase Tate gained 15 on the first play, Barr ran for 12 on the next play Dixon picked up five on a reverse before Boyd finished things off with rushes of 12 and then 24 yards into the end zone with 3:33 left in the half. Olivares split the uprights and Gilmer’s lead advanced to 21-7.
Lawson returned the kick from Olivares from his 19 to his 36 where the Rabbs went back to work on offense. Quarterback Chase Musgrove hit Nick Stiger for a gain of 18 on first down, but Webster lost five on the next play and was stopped for no gain on the next play. Third down picked up six on a pass from Musgrove to Dickerson, but the Black Flag forced a punt and Gilmer took over at their 24 with 31 seconds left in the first half. Barr took a knee and the teams headed to the locker room with the Buckeyes up by 14.
Olivares kicked away to begin the third quarter. The kick was fumbled by Terry Dickerson at the Atlanta 15, but he recovered and his offensive teammates were set up for what would be their second and final score of the night.
It took only five plays for the Rabbits move the 85 yards for a score. On the first play from scrimmage Musgrove broke up the middle for 54 yards. Trey Washington made a touchdown-saving tackle on the play. Webster was stopped for no gain on the next play, but Musgrove hit Stiger on a pass that picked up 27 yards, setting Atlanta up with a first-and-goal at the Gilmer 4. Webster was dropped for a loss of 1 on first down, but Everett Dickerson ran in from 5 yards out on the next play, and with 9:50 left in the third quarter the Rabbs trailed 21-13. The PAT by Duran hit the left upright and bounced in front of the goal post, keeping the Gilmer lead at eight points.
The score put fire in the eyes of the Buckeye special team on the next Taylor kick. DeVondrick Dixon took possession of the ball at his 19 and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone 81 yards and 14 seconds later, pushing the Gilmer advantage to 27-13. The Rabbs were called for an illegal substitution on the extra point attempt, and as has been the case all season, the offense returned to the field after the half the distance to the goal from the 3 was marked off. Walker scampered into the end zone for the 2-point conversion and the lead advanced to 29-13 with 9:36 left in the third quarter.
The Black Flag was fired up by the quick score and they forced a quick three-and-out on the next Atlanta possession. Taylor booted a 28-yard punt that wasn’t returned, and the Buckeyes took back over on offense at their 38. It took only 1:55 and eight plays for Barr and company to find the end zone again. Walker raced in from one yard out with 6:32 left in the third, and after Olivares’ kick the lead advanced to 36-13. Key plays in the drive were runs of 12 and 18 by Boyd on the first two plays of the drive, and runs of 14 and nine by Walker.
Everett Dickerson took the ensuing kickoff from Olivares at his 23 and returned it to the 43, but the frustration of one of his teammates cost the Rabbs a 15-yard mark off for a personal foul, moving the ball back to the Atlanta 29. Lawson picked up 18 on the first play of the possession before Musgrove threw incomplete. The next play basically drove the final nail in the coffin on any hope that Atlanta had of staging a comeback. Musgrove lost the handle on a bad snap from center and Josh Walker was in the right place at the right time, picking up the pigskin and racing untouched 24 yards into the end zone for yet another Gilmer TD. Olivares was true on the extra point, and Gilmer led 43-13 with 5:38 left in the quarter. The score was Gilmer’s third TD in just 3:58 of playing time.
After a touchback to the 25 on the next kick, Atlanta set back up on their 25. They picked up one first down on a 25-yard run, but the Black Flag stiffened and a Musgrove pass on fourth down from the Gilmer 37 fell incomplete and the ball went over on downs to Gilmer. Unfortunately, the Bucks couldn’t pick up a first down, and Barr boomed a 60-yard punt into the end zone on fourth down, setting the Rabbits back up on their 20.
Musgrove and his offensive partners picked up only four yards in three plays as the third quarter came to a close. Taylor punted away on fourth down and after a 35-yard punt the Bucks took over at their 40. This time they took 3:20 and six plays to move the 60 yards to pay dirt. The score came on a 14 yard run by Kris Boyd with 8:32 left in the game. Olivares split the uprights again and Gilmer led 50-13. Key plays on the drive were a 16-yard pass from Barr to Tate on the first play of the drive and a 21-yard run by Walker.
The next Rabbit possession began on the Atlanta 35. Once again the Black Flag forced a three-and-out and Taylor punted down to the Gilmer 36 where the second unit took over on offense. After a solid performance, the starting offensive team had a chance to rest on the sideline and enjoy the remainder of the game.
McLane Carter led the team on a 6-play, 64-yard drive and connected with Desmond Pollard for what would be the final score of the game on the fourth down scoring pass of 31 yards with 2:23 left in the contest. After the Olivares kick, Gilmer led 57-13.
A pooch kick by Olivares on the kickoff was recovered by DeMarco Boyd. Carter came in and utilized the victory formation for three plays and the game was over.
Coach Traylor was very pleased with the performance of his team after the big win. “For them to score on the opening drive (of the second half) was a killer, but DeVondrick (Dixon) responded (with the kickoff return), then our defense got one too, and we just kinda busted it open and it was just fantastic for our kids. They played really well. They played well in the kicking game, defense and offense, and our crowd was fantastic. It was just what I wanted it to be. Everyone was excited to be here, our crowd was into it, our band, cheerleaders; it was just a good night.”
As Buckeye fans will remember, the Black Flag didn’t have the best of nights a week earlier in the 51-36 win over Canton, but they were lights out against the Rabbits. We asked the coach HOW the unit could make such a dramatic turnaround in such a short period of time with the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It was focus. Our kids were embarrassed with their performance (against Canton). They practiced well, and when you practice well, you play well. It’s just focus. I mean that’s just what it is. We didn’t focus very well last week. We were distracted the whole night and we didn’t play well.”
When asked if the Rabbits did anything in the game he wasn’t expecting, he replied, “That opening play of the third quarter they ran a little “mo-mo” where they had our back side four technique and we weren’t ready for that, but we got it coached up on the sideline. You know, we’ve played them four times over the last 15 months, so there’s not a lot of surprises. We just played real well.”
The Buckeyes will now move on to the third round of the Division II playoffs Friday night at another venue that has been good to the team. They will take on the Argyle Eagles, the team that has eliminated Gilmer in the third round the last two years at Mesquite Memorial Stadium in a 7 p.m. tilt. We asked the coach his early thoughts on making the third time the charm against the Eagles.
“We’re young and we probably don’t even know where Mesquite is and we don’t even know where Argyle is, so we’ll go over there and get after them.”
Buckeye fans showed up in Longview last Friday better than at any other game this season. We all know just HOW IMPORTANT this upcoming game is. Help the Buckeyes dish out a little revenge on Argyle Friday night. Whatever you have to do to get off work early, make sure you get it done and be in your place at Mesquite Memorial Stadium. This team needs you to be loud, rowdy and proud!