Yes, the Buckeyes were wounded coming into Friday’s fray against the Spring Hill Panthers, but they were far from dead. Both teams came into the contest with identical 4-3 season records and 1-1 district records. When the dust settled, the Buckeyes had humiliated the Panthers 76-0 in a game both teams needed to win in order to keep playoff hopes realistically alive.
Previously-undefeated Henderson fell to Carthage at home 43-33, and Pittsburg, previously winless in District 16-3A action, defeated winless Gladewater 20-13. With two games to go, the potential playoff picture is becoming a little clearer. Carthage is now on top at 3-0 in sole possession of first place. Barring a total collapse the Bulldogs will win the district championship outright. Henderson and Gilmer are tied at 2-1, and will meet Friday night in Henderson. The winner of that game will be in sole possession of second place, and should remain there. The loser of that game will face a must-win game on Nov. 5 in order to get into the playoffs.
Spring Hill’s loss coupled with the Pittsburg win over Gladewater puts both those teams at 1-2, and hanging by a thread of hope to make the playoffs, but both will need a good bit of help at this point. Gladewater at 0-3 is in the cellar and can get ready for basketball season.
THOUGH NO ONE knew it at the time, the Buckeyes had enough points to win the game just 16 seconds into the fray. Gilmer won the toss and elected to receive. Luke Turner returned the opening kickoff from his 28 up to the 40, and the Bucks set up shop. One the first play from scrimmage, Gus Johnson took a handoff from Turner straight up the middle and stormed 60 yards for a touchdown. He followed that up with a carry over the left side for the 2-point conversion, and the Bucks were up 8-0 before the Panthers knew what hit them.
The Black Flag Defense, welcoming back a couple of injured players, forced a three-and-out by Spring Hill. The snap back to the punter Spencer Clark sailed over his head, and to prevent the Buckeyes from getting an easy touchdown, he threw the ball out of the end zone. What he didn’t realize, as Gilmer fans learned earlier in the season in the Jacksonville game, is when a player either throws or kicks the ball out of the end zone to avoid a potential touchdown this year, the receiving team gets the ball on the kicking team’s 3.
The easy TD came anyway for the Bucks, as quarterback Luke Turner ran in from three yards out on first down to push the lead to 14-0. Adan Olivares kicked the PAT and Spring Hill was down 15-0 with only two minutes run off the clock. The time of possession on the touchdowns was ten seconds and three seconds respectively.
Spring Hill took possession at their 20 after Olivares’ kickoff went out of the end zone. Dylan Dozier lost four yards on first down, and on second down Ryan Lacy lost two yards on a pass from quarterback Landry Lee, was hit, and fumbled the ball away to the Buckeyes at his own 13.
The Bucks took three plays to go the 13 yards for their third touchdown of the evening. Turner hit Gus Johnson for eight yards on first down, rushed for four yards on second down and ran in from one yard out on next play. This possession was 23 seconds long, and following a rare missed extra point by Olivares, Gilmer was up 21-0 with 8:42 still left in the first quarter.
THE BLACK FLAG forced a three-and-out by the Panthers on the ensuing possession, and Gilmer set up shop yet again at their 40. Seven plays, 60 yards, and 2:52 later, the Buckeyes were in the end zone again when Turner hit Wesley Johnson from 25 yards out. After a successful PAT kick by Olivares, Gilmer led 28-0 with 4:25 still left in the opening period.
It was another three-and-out by the Panthers and Gilmer took over at their 18 on their next possession. They picked up one first down, but were forced to punt the ball back to Spring Hill on the next series.
In one of their only sustained drives of the night, the visitors held the ball for almost two minutes and managed to pick up one first down before being forced to punt again. The kick by Spencer Clark died at the Buckeye 3 where Turner and company took over with 10:17 left in the first half. Five plays later the home team had driven 97 yards and into the end zone again.
On the first play of the drive Gus Johnson ran for three, and Spring Hill was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul for grabbing Johnson’s face mask. Gus was dropped for a 6-yard loss on the next play, but the Bucks got rolling on from there.
Turner threw to Gus for 17 yards, and Spring Hill was tagged again for grabbing the face mask, resulting in a Gilmer first down at their 48. Xavier Easley set up the score with a 42-yard romp down to the Panther 10, and Turner completed a scoring pass to Johnson on the next play. The drive took 1:43, and after the PAT by Olivares, the Bucks were up 35-0.
THE PANTHERS picked up one first down on their next possession but the Black Flag shut them down on the next series, forcing another Spencer Clark Punt. Darrion Pollard fielded the ball at the Gilmer 12 and blasted downfield all the way down to the Spring Hill 28 before finally being downed. The fine return led to the next Buckeye score.
On first down Turner hit Wesley Johnson for a gain to the Panther 17. Turner ran for seven and then hit Traylon Webb for a 10-yard touchdown. Olivares tacked on the PAT and the Bucks were up 42-0 in a drive that lasted 47 seconds.
The Black Flag forced yet another three-and-out and the snap on the punt by Spencer Clark was over his head and behind him once again, resulting in a Ty Barr recovery for Gilmer at the Panther 25.
It didn’t take long for the Bucks to find the end zone, as on the first play Turner hit Xavier Easley for 25 yards and the score. Olivares added the PAT once again, and Gilmer was up 49-0 with 4:41 left in the first half.
Feeling he had to do something to get his team moving in the right direction, Panther Coach Bill Poe went for a fourth- and-three deep in his own end of the field. The pass fell incomplete and Gilmer had a first down on the Spring Hill 37.
Continuing the theme of the evening for the Buckeye offense, it was one-and-done, as Turner hit Wesley Johnson on first down for a 37-yard scoring strike. The PAT by Olivares was good, and Gilmer led 56-0 with 3:09 left in the first half of play.
Continuing their theme for the evening, the Black Flag forced another three-and-out. Marqualon Tate returned the Clark punt out to the Buckeye 42 to set up the final Gilmer score of the first half. This time it took six plays for the offense to go 58 yards to the end zone. The drive, which took 1:18, was aided by a 15-yard penalty against the Panthers for a personal foul, along with a 21-yard run by Gus Johnson. The score came on a 17-yard pass from Turner to Wesley Johnson with 53.4 seconds left in the half. Carlos Sanchez came in and hit the PAT, pushing the Gilmer lead to 63-0.
The Panthers ran two plays and ran out the clock on what was an absolute half of perfection by Gilmer and total ineptitude by Spring Hill.
Mercifully, the clock continued to run when the second half got under way, with the exceptions of time outs, and incomplete passes on occasion.
Spring Hill took the kickoff to start the second half, and after picking up eight yards on first down, they promptly fumbled the ball away on second down to Jordan McCraven at the Panther 23.
Jordan Traylor came in to quarterback the second half. On first down he hit Gavin Holt, who was promptly dropped for a loss of seven, hit Traylon Webb for nine on second down and threw incomplete on third down. Olivares came in on fourth down and nailed a 39-yard field goal, and Gilmer was up 66-0.
The Panthers found themselves in yet another three-and-out series on the ensuing possession. Spencer Clark’s kick was taken by Marqualon Tate at the Gilmer 30 and returned all the way down to the Spring Hill 35. The Bucks set up shop there and picked up one first down, but that was followed by three incomplete passes, setting up a 40-yard field goal by Olivares. The kick was good, and with 3:35 left in the third, the score moved to 69-0.
In their best drive of the evening, the Panthers moved from their own 29 down to the Gilmer 12 on a 9-play drive. Landry Lee completed a 19-yard pass to Mitch Alm and later in the drive hit Spencer Clark for a 28-yard gain. Just as it looked as though the shutout might be in jeopardy, Lee threw an interception to Marqualon Tate at the Buckeye 12. He returned the ball to the Buckeye 29.
The Buckeyes took six plays to move the 71 yards in 4:01 for their final touchdown of the evening. Key plays in the drive were a 14-yard run by Dylan Bowman, a 15-yard pass from Traylor to Marqualon Tate, followed by a 34-yard pass from Traylor to Hurashio Morgan down to the Panther 1. Morgan ran it in from there, and following a successful PAT by Sanchez, Gilmer led 76-0 with 7:13 left in the game.
Thanks to a quickly expiring clock, after a final three-and-out by the Spring Hill offense, Traylor went into victory formation for three consecutive plays and the rout was finally officially over.
IT WAS an elated Coach Jeff Traylor we spoke with following the big win. “For once, things kind of fell our way. We barely beat Gladewater in overtime; they smoked them 37-7, whatever it was, so everybody thought they were a whole lot better than we were, and truthfully, we were pretty even teams. They caught us on a bad night; we got our tail kicked by Carthage, we got a couple of kids back. We’re getting a couple more back (this week against Henderson); we’re getting a little confidence back, and they just caught us on a bad night tonight. We really—that’s about as good as we can do it.”
“It’s just like I always say; last week it’s never as bad as you think it is, and this week it’s never as good as you think it is. We’ve just got to keep playing. We’re still alive in Week 9, and that’s where you want to be. We still want to be breathing, and we ain’t out of it yet; we’re still breathing.”
One very exciting thing is that for the first time all year, the Bucks made it through the game without losing anyone to injury. “First time this year we didn’t have to get someone off the field, you know, that was nice. We’ll see how beat up and banged we are tomorrow, but as of right now we look really good, so if we can get through practice next week we might be taking the field with almost everyone, except obviously for (Michael) Boddie and (Eric) Miller. Right now it looks like everybody else might be out there, so that would be really encouraging to our kids.”
Coach Traylor was proud of his team’s performance in all phases of the game. “I think we played a total game for once. I think all three phases of the game were good. The thing I noticed was our practice this week was very, very intense. We really got after each other and had a real focus. I don’t know why, but I think that whipping over there in Carthage got us aware, and we’re a team that’s pretty scared right now; scared of not making the playoffs, and scared teams usually play hard.”
The Buckeye mentor said he has one goal for the rest of the season. “I want to get in (the playoffs). I’d like to get my kids pretty healthy and see what they can do. We’re so far from that point (making the playoffs) right now. We’ve got two wins. Two wins won’t get us in; I’m not sure three will. We’ve just got to get number three Friday. I mean that sincerely. It’s been one of those seasons where you can’t look past tomorrow. We’ll enjoy tonight and come in tomorrow and start working on Henderson.”
THERE IS no doubt the Henderson Lions will go into Friday’s game just like the Gilmer Buckeyes will. Both teams would like to win the game and feel confident of pretty much having the playoffs wrapped up going into Week 10. When the dust settles Friday night, ONE of the teams will be in that position. Coach Traylor, his team, and all Buckeye fans are hoping Gilmer will be that team. The Bucks need you to make the trip to Henderson Friday night and cheer them on to victory. This team has fought through almost every imaginable roadblock you could imagine this season, and has weathered the storm. They deserve your support. Show up; be rowdy, loud and proud, and cheer the Buckeyes to victory!
Spring Hill Gilmer
5 First downs 19
25-(-11) Rushes-yds 26-239
12-30-1 Passing 19-29-0
101 Passing yds 282
90 Total yds 521
3 Fumbles lost 0
3-45 Penalties-yds 3-35
24:01 Time of possession 23:59
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 T
S. Hill 0 0 0 0 0
Gilmer 28 35 6 7 76