With the win, the Bucks will now return to Lobo Stadium Friday night to take on the Van Vandals, the same opponent they disposed of in the second round of the playoffs last year.
Van defeated Ferris 51-23 last Thursday night to go 10-1 on the year and earn the rematch. Their only loss of the year was to Lindale.
Gilmer won the coin toss and elected to receive to open the game. After Chris Ibarra’s kickoff was returned from the Gilmer 15 to the 30 by Darrion Pollard, the Buckeyes set up for their first possession of the night.
Thanks to a holding penalty on the second play from scrimmage, the possession turned into a 3-and-out. Tanner Barr nailed a 58-yard punt down to the Atlanta 5 on fourth down. Everett Dickerson returned the kick out to his 12 and the Rabbs began their first possession.
To no one’s surprise, speedy back Corion Webster carried the ball on the first play and picked up 15 and a first down. A Webster 14-yard run on the next series earned another first down, but the Rabbits were able to gain only three yards on three plays before punting the ball back to the Bucks. Pollard lost the handle on the ball, but the Buckeyes recovered and began their second possession on their 23.
The second possession turned out to be fruitful for Gilmer. The Bux got the first touchdown of the game, driving 77 yards in only five plays that consumed only 1:52 off the scoreboard clock. Jordan Traylor threw incomplete on first down, Chase Tate ran for one yard on second down and Traylor connected for 13 and a first down to Eddie Fluellen. Gavin Holt ran for one and then Tate broke for a run of 62 and a trip into the end zone with 6:15 left in the first quarter. Pablin Olivares added the PAT and Gilmer took the lead 7-0.
David Olivares squib-kicked the ball to the Atlanta 32, and after an 8-yard return the Rabbs set up on their 40. On the first play from scrimmage Webster broke free for a 60-yard run into the end zone. After Chris Ibarra split the uprights, the game was tied 7-7.
The Buckeyes did a superb job on special teams on the ensuing kickoff, as Pollard fielded the Ibarra kick at the Gilmer 15 and returned it 38 yards to the Atlanta 47. From there, Traylor and his offensive teammates ground it out, taking 11 plays and 4:18 to move the 47 yards and reclaim the lead. Key plays in the drive were three runs of nine yards each by Holt, the workhorse in the drive. The score came on a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Traylor with 1:40 left in the opening period. Pablin Olivares was good on the point after, and the score was 14-7.
David Olivares’ kick was taken by Everett Dickerson at his 23 and returned out to the 36 where the Rabbits took back over on offense. On a 4th-and-1 Webster broke free for a 32-yard gain, but on the next play he fumbled the ball away and Trey Washington recovered at his 22, and the Black Flag put the Gilmer offensive unit back on the field.
Tate gained 11 on the first play but the drive stalled as Atlanta’s defense stiffened on the next series, and Tanner Barr punted the ball 48 yards down to the Rabbit 18 where Webster and his teammates went on the offensive again.
The drive started with a 15-yard pass interference call against the Buckeyes, but on the next play Atlanta was called for holding. Two plays later Dylan Bowman intercepted Lee Raley at the Rabb 46, as the Black Flag rose to the occasion.
As happens frequently after a turnover, the Buckeyes decided to go for the jugular on the first play. Traylor lofted a deep pass to Tray Webb and he cruised into the end zone for the third Gilmer score of the night. The play took only nine seconds. A big rush from his left side forced Pablin Olivares to have to rush the kick and it hit the left upright and bounced away, leaving the score at 20-7 in favor of the Buckeyes.
The Black Flag turned the pressure up on the next Atlanta drive that began at their 42. Dickerson was dropped for a 2-yard loss on a direct snap and caught a pass for a gain of one on the next play before Raley threw incomplete on 3rd down. Quaid Taylor punted away on 4th down and Pollard returned the ball seven yards to the Buckeye 31.
Gilmer used another grind-it-out drive to find the end zone for the fourth time in the first half. The drive was 10 plays, 69 yards, and took 4:54. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Traylor to Fluellen with 3:11 left in the first half. Holt took a direct snap on the 2-point conversion and made it into the end zone, bringing the score to 28-7.
David Olivares’ next kickoff was returned from the Atlanta 30 to the 41 and Raley brought his offensive unit back on the field. Webster picked up a first down on a 4th-and-1 and then Gilmer was called for pass interference on the next play. A 3-yard loss followed, and then Raley decided to go for it all on a deep pass to the goal line. Tanner Barr was stride-for-stride with the intended receiver and picked the pass off at the Gilmer 1 for his 8th interception in 11 games. Momentum took him into the end zone and the ball was brought out to the 20.
The interception came with just under five seconds left in the first half, so Traylor took a knee at the 14 and the first half came to a close with the Buckeyes in total control, leading by 21.
David Olivares kicked off to begin the third quarter and Dickerson returned the ball from his 29 to the 35 to begin the Rabbs next possession. Webster broke free and for a moment it looked like he might be off to the races again, but Bowman managed to get just enough of him to trip him up after a gain of 10. The offensive until followed that up with runs of seven by Webster and seven by Dickerson before Gilmer was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty after a 3-yard Webster tote. The penalty moved the ball down to the 22. From there Webster gained four before Dickerson ran into the end zone from the 18. Ibarra was good on the PAT, and the Rabbs capped a 3-minute, 64-yard drive in six plays, and were back in the game at 28-14.
The score seemed to do nothing more than fire the Gilmer offensive unit up. The Buckeyes returned the kick from the 26 to the Rabb 48. From there it took only 1:19 and five plays for the Bucks to go back ahead by 21 again. The key play in the drive was a 38-yard pass from Traylor to Tray Webb. The score came two plays later on a 9-yard run by Holt with 7:41 left in the third stanza. Pablin Olivares was good on the PAT, and the score moved to 35-14.
Atlanta began their next drive on their 41 after an 11-yard return of David Olivares’ kick. The Rabbs could manage only eight yards in three plays and the Rabbits punted the ball away. Quaid Taylor shanked the kick and it traveled only 14 yards, going out of bounds at the Rabbit 47.
Gilmer lit up the scoreboard yet again with a 4-play, 53-yard drive that took 2:50. Key plays in the march were a 19-yard run by Holt and a 23-yard run by Tate. Holt got the score on the next play after Tate’s run on a 9-yard jaunt with 4:51 left in the third quarter. Pablin Olivares kick was just wide to the left, and the game was officially a rout, with Gilmer up 41-14.
The next Rabbit drive began at their 43. On the first play from scrimmage after the return Raley hit Randel Clark for a gain of 35, but things fell apart for Atlanta from there, due mainly to a swarming Black Flag Defense. Raley was dropped for a loss of eight, and then picked up three before being intercepted on a deep pass at the Gilmer 19 by Tray Webb. Webb returned the pick all the way up to his 49 where the Bucks began what was to be their final scoring drive of the evening.
It took Traylor and his friends 3:03 and nine plays to move the 53 yards into the end zone. Key plays were an 11-yard run by Holt on the first play of the drive, a 9-yard pass from Traylor to Webb, a 4-yard run by Josh Walker on a 4th-and-2, and a pass interference call against Atlanta. Two plays after the penalty Walker found the goalline from six yards out on the first play of the final period with 11:53 left in the game. Pablin Olivares was true on the point after, and Gilmer was up 48-14.
The Rabbs began what was to be their final possession on their 27 after Webster returned the ensuing kick from his 15 to his 27. Atlanta held the ball for seven plays and picked up one first down before the Black Flag put an end to any thoughts they had of scoring again.
After a punt on fourth down, the Bucks took the field with 7:03 left in the game. Traylor took the 25-second clock down almost all the way on each play and the Buckeyes managed to run out the clock during the 10-play drive. Gilmer picked up three first downs during the drive and did an excellent job of draining the clock.
Coach Jeff Traylor was very pleased with his team’s performance when we talked with him after the contest. “Yeah, we played really well, we really did. That Pittsburg game was good for us; got our attention, and we had a great week of practice. We knew Atlanta had improved, you know, they played those other teams well. They played Paris well, played Liberty-Eylau very well, so we’ll see; we’re just a shell of what we were. We’ve lost a lot of kids, but we’ve had other kids step up, and it’s just amazing how these kids have kept this thing going, and I’m glad to be doing it again next week. We lost a couple of kids again, but that’s just part of it.”
We also asked his thoughts about what may well have been the turning point of the game—Tanner Barr’s interception at the Buckeye 1. “Yeah, a big play by Tanner; it really was, and he’s done that all year. He just keeps making play after play after play. That was huge. Very few players have made that many interceptions in their career, much less in their sophomore season.”
We also asked about how serious the injuries sustained by the Buckeyes in the game were. “We’ll see tomorrow. It’s hard to tell. There’s so much adrenalin running through these kids right now, sometimes there’s kids hurt and you don’t even know they’re hurt, so we’ll see tomorrow and get a good evaluation.”
“We played real well tonight, and this time of the year it’s a tournament, and we advanced. That’s the name of the game, and we’ve got to advance again next week. It doesn’t matter if you win by one, or like we did tonight, you just have to keep advancing. You just try to stay alive. It’s a rugged sport and it’s tough. Everybody’s got a tough team and I’ve got a smart team, so we’ll see what we can do.”
We asked the Buckeye Mentor if he had done any scouting of Van so far. “No, not a bit. I’m fixing to get on the phone and swap video and get on it. All my attention has been on Atlanta and I’ve not looked at Van one second. I hear they’re real good. They’re the real deal. They’re no fluke from everybody I’ve talked to, so we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
There was a great crowd from Gilmer at the game. We need the same or better turnout this Friday. We are very fortunate to be able to play so close to home again this week. Gilmer will be the visiting team again Friday night. Be sure to make the short drive back over to Longview and back the Buckeyes as they play for the right to head to the third round of the playoffs. It promises to be another exciting game. We’ll see you there!