The team’s decision to go to Commerce paid off, as the Bux went a perfect 3-0 in pool play and then won their semi-final match which guaranteed their trip to State. In their first game at 9 am, Gilmer faced Grace Community School from Tyler. With an offense that was clicking and a defense that shut the door, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 27-0 lead at the half and advanced the lead to 34-0 before coasting to a 53-13 victory.
In their second game at 10 am, the team faced familiar foe Prestonwood and wide receiver Michael Irvin, son of the former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame Receiver Michael Irvin. Although he did get behind the defense a couple of times for long scores, Gilmer led 32-18 at halftime. Prestonwood closed the gap to 39-34 during the final ten minutes, but the Bucks didn’t give up another score and won the contest 52-34.
In their final game of pool play at 11 am, they faced Lone Oak. Gilmer struggled a bit early on, but never trailed and led 28-12 at halftime. They gave up only one score in the final twenty minutes and rolled to a 42-18 victory. Gilmer was the only team to make it through pool play without a loss. Prestonwood, along with Tatum and Paris in the second pool all went 2-1 in pool play. Due to their win over Paris, Tatum claimed the top spot in Pool B, setting up a Prestonwood/Tatum matchup in one semi-final contest, along with a Gilmer/Paris matchup in the other semi-final.
Paris gave Gilmer a run for the money, trailing only 21-13 at the half. They actually closed the gap to 28-25 late in the second half, but the Bucks found the end zone once more and added a 2-point conversion to go up 36-25. Paris appeared to be headed toward another score to tighten the game once again, but Kris Boyd picked off a pass on defense, and the Buckeyes milked the clock and preserved the 11 point win. Prestonwood defeated Tatum 40-20 in their semi-final game, giving the two best teams on the day the ticket to State. Both teams agreed to forego the Championship Game.
Buckeye 7on7 Coach Rebel Jackson was happy with the results when we talked with him after the semi-final playoff win that punched the team’s ticket to State. “It is great because we played really well this season, and it wasn’t all for naught. We’re trying to get better. There’s a lot of things we’re working on, but this is what we had our eye on, so it’s just one of those deals. We hadn’t planned on being here, but couldn’t get in the Bullard Tournament, couldn’t get in the Mt. Vernon Tournament, and luckily this came open and we jumped on it and it paid off today. We had some good competition. We didn’t come over here and just steal one; we had to play hard. Prestonwood and Paris are two good football teams, but so was Lone Oak. Lone Oak played hard and Grace played hard, so I’m really proud of our kids, how they battled probably the hottest day we’ve played this summer. Again, we just have so many kids that play, and as the day gets longer that plays to our advantage.”
It was a very windy day in Commerce, which helped keep the players cooler than what it would have been on a still day. The Bucks had the end of the field with their backs to the wind in all 4 games they played, and Coach Jackson talked about that factor.
“Coming up here we thought it would be a little cooler, and we had the wind in our back all day, which was what we wanted, but then I got to thinking that not many quarterbacks have the arm strength that McLane has and it does play to our advantage because he does throw the ball around well. He played well today. Zac Spears was unable to be here today (due to illness), but he (Carter) played well; the whole team played well. Having the wind at our back was nice, but probably more from just a comfort standpoint it probably threw things off a little bit, but I think if we’d have had to go into the wind we’d have been okay as well.”
We asked since both Prestonwood and Gilmer qualified by virtue of making it to the finals but chose not to play due to the heat, if the Bucks were still the Champions of the Tournament.
“I’m not sure how that works. I’d like to say we won it since we beat Prestonwood, but if we had played them again, it would have been another dog fight.”
We closed our interview by asking Coach Jackson who he thinks the strongest teams will be on Saturday, June 14, at the SQT at Buckeye Stadium in the final games Gilmer will play until the State Tournament in Bryan/College Station next month.
“Carthage will be there, along with Chapel Hill. They’ve already qualified, but they wanted to come and get some work in like we are. I think those two, along with us. It’s going to be a great tournament for somebody to qualify in. I think we’ll probably be playing in the same pool. We will be playing the three games in pool play, and then we’re done, so you take all of us out of the equation, it’s a great opportunity for someone to come in there and qualify. Hopefully, we go in there and compete and then sit back and enjoy it.”
The Buckeyes have lost only one 7on7 game this season and have a chance to be only the second Gilmer 7on7 team to lose only one game the whole season. The team before Luke Turner’s senior year was the other team to accomplish that. We asked what contributed to this team being as good.
“We’ve just got a little rare ability to jump on some people and our kids do such a great job of being focused, regardless of how they’re playing or who they’re playing. They do a great job of not getting down and not getting overly anxious to play a big game. I like our team this year. We’ve got a lot of people (fans) that show up and watch us. I know it’s not easy on a Saturday when it’s 95 and you’ve got lots of things going on. It’s great to see 50 people or so out here cheering us on.”