That 7-3 team eventually wound up 12-3 as it won the 2006 Class 3A Division I state championship instead of the No. 1-ranked team it had defeated in bi-district.
Of course, we refer to the Texarkana Liberty-Eylau Leopards’ 39-36 upset of the Gilmer Buckeyes at Longview’s Lobo Stadium.
This Friday night, the roles are reversed.
The battle-tested 7-3 runner-up team of District 16-3A, the Gilmer Buckeyes, faces a Liberty-Eylau Leopards squad which has cruised to a District 15-3A championship with a 5-0 run, giving up only one touchdown in the last 14 quarters.
There are some differences, of course. The Leopards are not state-ranked and are not undefeated overall, as was that 2006 Gilmer team. In fact, the 8-2 Leopards’ two losses were both to District 16-3A teams — to Gilmer 28-12 on Sept. 17 and Henderson 37-13 on Sept. 24.
ASIDE FROM that, though, the Buckeyes would love to see the 2006 scenario play out in reverse when the two teams engage in a 2010 Class 3A Division II bi-district rematch at Bobcat Stadium in Hallsville. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“I know this team, no matter how it comes out Friday, is as ready for the playoffs as any team I’ve had,” said Coach Jeff Traylor of the Buckeyes Sunday.
“Obviously you’d like to have an all-state nose guard in Eric Miller; you’d like to have an all-state offensive lineman in Michael Boddie,” he added, referring to two key players out for the season.
“But other than those two, you know, we’re really battle-tested and we’ve been through a lot of tough games. We’ve been behind.We’ve been ahead. We’ve had to come from behind. We’ve had to defend leads. You name it, we’ve been through all the scenarios.
“So I think we’re physically and mentally ready. We might not be as talented as we’ve been in the past, but we’re ready for the playoffs.”
WEEK EIGHT is “when the fun starts,” he said. Coach Traylor then made a point having to do with the importance of focus and persistence and also made a sociological observation.
“Most teams ‘check it in’ right when the fun starts. They just haven’t ever experienced it. They’ve been working. They’re just ready to do something else. That’s just kind of our society. Get done with something. Go on to the next thing.
“The mental part of this game is as big as the physical. In the last three (regular season) games of the year in the last 11 years, we’re 32-1.
“We’ve done pretty good in the games that matter. And when you throw in the playoff games, obviously, we’ve made the playoffs nine times (2010 is the 10th time) and we’ve lost seven games in the playoffs. So we’ve lost eight after Week Eight. That’s pretty impressive.”
The team other than Miller and Boddie is pretty healthy, Traylor assessed.
“We’re banged-up like everybody else is, but there’s nothing that’s going to keep us from playing Friday
“You’ve gotta stay alive. However you do it. It’s a lot of fun, ‘cause you know if you lose, you’re done. And we’ve already been through one of those games — against Pittsburg.”
AS TO the Buckeyes’ state of mind as the playoffs begin, he said, “You know, I think we’re pretty confident. Of course, Liberty-Eylau’s a very good team. They’re very talented and they’ve been to the playoffs a lot and they’ve had a lot of success. Pat’s won a state championship and beat us before and won it (referring to the aforementioned title run by seventh-year L-E Coach Pat Brady’s Leopards in 2006).
“We know we’ve got our hands full this Friday. We have the dreaded ‘we’ve already beat this team once.’”
Traylor said he has already had people come up to him and say that, but it doesn’t reassure him.
That game was “at home” and was “a long time ago” and came at a time “when we were pretty much sick of losing” (Gilmer had lost two in a row at Buckeye Stadium) and “he just caught us on a bad night.”
These two teams are about as familiar with one another as is possible, having played each other every year since 2006 (Gilmer is 4-0 in the series since the playoff loss in 2006).
THE BUCKEYES know they have to shut down 6-0, 225-lb. tailback Tra Carson again. In the first meeting, the Black Flag Defense limited him to 88 yards on 23 carries, his lowest total of the season.
Carson has rushed for 1,964 yards and needs only 80 yards to break LaMichael James’ (now a sophomore Heisman Trophy contender with the top-ranked Oregon Ducks) single-season school record of 2,043 yards.
Carson has already eclipsed James’ single-game record with a 334-yard performance on Oct. 8 against Paris.
He has only carried 172 times, giving him a gaudy 11.4 yards-per-carry average. His 21 touchdowns in 2010 ties James’ career mark of 49.
And, if all that’s not enough, he’s a straight “A” student ranked in the top 10 percent of his class.
Traylor noted that the quarterback, Trey Norman, is also quite an athlete. Brian Reed, his favorite receiver, is also someone who must be stopped from making the big play.
“We’ve never covered him, and probably never will,” Traylor lamented. “He’s just so fast.”
THE LEOPARDS do not pass much, but once they get Carson rolling behind their huge offensive line, it opens up the pass for them. In the first meeting, Carson often took the snap from center out of a “Wildcat” formation.
Liberty-Eylau’s overall team speed probably exceeds that of any team Gilmer plays, Traylor said.
He said Daingerfield and Tatum also have fast players — “they just don’t have as many.”
He said the Leopards’ team speed was comparable to that of Henderson in that “so many kids can run so fast.”
It is perhaps on defense where this has been most evident in recent weeks as the Leopards have allowed only one touchdown in their last four games.
Defensive standouts include linebackers A’keylan Ware and Daniel Thompson, safeties Kendrick King and Demetric Martin and cornerback Reed, who obviously goes both ways.
After the first game, Coach Brady told the Texarkana Gazette:
“We did a good job on Gilmer’s passing game, but they’ve got an answer for everything. They’re a well-coached team. I didn’t see any dropoff from last year’s Gilmer team.
“I thought our defense played well. Gilmer just came up with a scheme that they executed well.
“Their offensive line was the best we’ve faced this year.
“It’s very hard to stop everything Gilmer does.”
BRADY has not changed his opinion since then.
“To me, they’re just a typical Gilmer Buckeye football team. They’re loaded with talent, do a great job. Hopefully, we can make it a game. Hopefully, we can give ‘em a battle.” he said Monday.
He said Carson “possibly” has an added incentive getting to play the only team which contained him all year again.
“He didn’t have a great game the first time we played” but “it wasn’t all his fault.”
“It doesn’t matter how good that guy is back there. Games are won in the trenches. And those five up front have improved. They’re all young. We’re playing better up front right now.
“And I think Tra has also gotten better as the season has progressed. I think he’s gotten in better shape, a little bit stronger; hopefully, a little bit faster, and is running the ball better right now.”
As to comparisons of Carson to Oregon’s James, he said, ““Tra is a very different runner than LaMichael, and our offense different because of that,” he said. “The line is different. With LaMichael they were small and quick and pulled a lot, and now we’re big.
“But I will say Tra is a little different from the rest. He’s got it all — speed, vision, and he’s strong and hard to tackle. And he can handle carrying the ball as many times as he needs to. Right now he’s got 11 solid (college) offers, and is getting more attention every day.”
The Leopards mentor also has a lot of confidence in Trey Norman, his field general.
“We can offset Tra’s running with a quarterback who can absolutely fly,” Brady said. “A big part of our success on offense is if defenses key on Carson, you turn Trey loose, and he’s really improved on his running.”
HE ADDED, “We’ve got capable receivers in Brian Reed and Robert Jackson, and we’re going to throw enough to keep defenses honest. But we’re trying to run what fits the kids we have, and right now we have a horse who can handle a lot of carries and can go.”
Brady said the Leopards’ defensive line is also young, but “with each game is getting better and better.”
“Obviously, we have a lot of speed on defense,” Brady added. “We don’t necessarily have a whole lot of size, but make up for it with speed. And the more experience they get the better they get.
“We’ve done a good job of bending but not breaking this year. We’ve given up some drives that looked like they would be rough, but we’ve been holding the other team to field goals or stopping them altogether. The other thing is not giving up big plays. Our pass coverage has been good, and when someone does get loose, we’ve been able to run them down with our speed.
“We do have speed, and speed’s nice to have, but you’ve got to go play football, along with that speed, in order to beat good teams.
“We know going in it’s fixing to be a war. We know that we haven’t seen a defense like Gilmer’s in five weeks. We’re going to have to play our best game. And we know that. We know that going in.
“We have seen Gilmer several times over the past few years, so we know what we have to work on, we know what we have to stop; we know what we have to be good at, we know what we can’t do and that kind of thing. So now it’s just a matter of getting it done. They’ll have a little bit to say about that.
“We are playing better right now, and I think Gilmer is, too. Both teams have progressed somewhat from the first game. We’re both more seasoned. I really felt Gilmer played better than we did in that first game. The one thing Gilmer did is show us a defense that we weren’t ready for and kind of caught us by surprise.
“It’s just a matter of taking care of business and not making mistakes” Friday night, Brady concluded.
“You gotta be on your ‘A’ game the whole time any time you come out against these guys. You’ve got to be playing well. And when you do, you’ve got a chance to win. And then you just let the chips fall where they may.”
GILMER will wear black Friday night, but the Buckeyes are the visiting team.
The winner of this game will advance to the Area round against the winner of the Van-Crandall game being played Friday night at Mesquite’s Hanby Stadium.
But Coach Traylor is definitely NOT looking ahead.
“This year’s so crazy, I just want to coach tomorrow,” he said. “I’m just glad I’m still coaching. It ought to be a good game. We need our crowd to show up; that’s for sure.”
Gilmer Buckeyes Season to Date
Atlanta, won 63-28
Tatum, lost 47-41
Jacksonville, lost 43-36
Liberty-Eylau, won 28-12
Daingerfield, won 39-18
Gladewater, won 36-35
Carthage, lost 38-21
Spring Hill, won 76-0
Henderson, won 29-28
Pittsburg, won 42-17
Liberty-Eylau Leopards Season to Date
Paul Pewitt, won 35-27
Mount Plesant, won 20-15
Pine Tree, won 36-7
Gilmer, lost 28-12
Henderson, lost 37-13
Paris, won 36-21
Pleasant Grove, won 40-10
North Lamar, won 35-3
Mount Vernon,won 35-0
Gilmer is averaging 41.1 points per game. It is averaging 453.5 yards per game on offense, with 225 on the ground and 228.5 through the air.
Luke Turner is 167-of-265 passing for 1,993 yards and 20 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He has rushed for 791 yards on 153 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry and 22 touchdowns.
Gus Johnson has rushed for 962 yards on 105 carries for an average of 9.2 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He has caught 35 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns.
Wesley Johnson has caught 40 passes for 482 yards and five touchdowns.
Jordan Traylor has caught 31 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns.
Dakota Cannon leads the team in tackles with 68 followed closely by Chase Spencer with 66.
Bounty Hunter of the Week: Austin Hollingsworth
Special Teams Player of the Week: Jordan Traylor
Scout Team Players of the Week:
John Stone, Offense; Josh Walker, Defense
November 12 - Liberty-Eylau
2010 Record: 8-2, 5-0 district
Last meeting: 2010, Gilmer won 28-12
Series Record: Liberty-Eylau leads 11-6
Head Coach: Pat Brady (7th season, 53-29, 53-29 overall)
Returning Starters: 5 Offense/5 Defense
Did you know? Liberty-Eylau’s Tra Carson needs 80 yards to break LaMichael James’ single-season school rushing record of 2,043 yards.
FAVORED TO WIN:
Gilmer is a 12-point pick, according to Massey Ratings.
BUCKEYES DOING WELL:
True freshman QB Stump Godfrey in his first start for New Mexico led the Lobos (1-8) to their first win of the season, 34-31, over the Wyoming Cowboys. Godfrey was 16-0f-20 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns and ran 23 times for 69 yards and another touchdown.
Junior QB G.J. Kinne continues to shine for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-3) as he was 26-of-39 passing for 371 yards and four touchdowns in a 64-27 home win over Rice.
Many East Texas high school football fans frequent discussion forums such as Smoaky.com and 3ADownLow.com.
One of the classiest posters on those sites was a Liberty-Eylau supporter named Carl Hines aka “Topcat” on Smoaky and “LE Dad” on 3ADL. He was killed in an auto-pedestrian accident in Texarkana after the Liberty-Eylau game at Pleasant Grove on Oct. 15. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to his daughter, Ariana, who was injured in the same incident, and his son, Daniel, and the rest of his family and friends. Carl Hines was 43.
BUCKEYE TICKET LINE:
LUNCH WITH THE COACH:
Noon Wednesdays, Buckeyes Booster Club meets at Gilmer Country Club
Gilmer Cable TV, Ch. 2, 9 a.m., 7 p.m. Saturdays
Etex, Ch. 1, 10 a.m. Saturdays, 6 p.m. Wednesdays
(These channels also carry the audio of the games live.)