The Pittsburg Pirates’ fans had been implying all week they were going to end their 21-year drought of losing to Gilmer. The teams didn’t play a lot of those years, but it had been 21 years since they beat the Buckeyes. Gilmer fans got right back at the Pitt fans by saying it would not happen, and as predicted by the prognosticators, the Buckeyes came out on top of the contest by a 37-22 count. The win secured second place in District 7-4A Division II for Gilmer, and they will advance this Friday night in a Bi-District matchup to take on the Diboll Lumberjacks, third place team from their district, in Marshall Maverick Stadium. The win closes out Gilmer’s regular season at 8-2, and district play at 4-1. The loss leaves Pitt at 6-4 on the regular season and 3-2 in district play. The Pirates will take on the Rusk Eagles in Bi-District. Atlanta, the fourth place team from the District will play Jasper, and Pleasant Grove will take on Tatum in Tatum in a Bi-District clash.
The Pirates won the coin toss and elected to receive. They excited their home fans, as they moved the ball in 11 plays and 77 yards and took a whopping 6:18 off the first quarter clock before getting into the end zone first. The score came with 5:42 left in the quarter when Jaylon Jimmerson hit Keithlen Griffin on a 35-yard TD pass. Alex Rodriguez booted the PAT, and the home team had an early 7-0 lead.
Red Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards, out to the Gilmer 29, and Poppy Brown and the offense hit the field for the first time. Unfortunately, the possession lasted only one play, as Brown’s was intercepted at the Gilmer 45 by Griffin on the first play of the series. No damage was done, as the Black Flag Defense got the pigskin right back when Dain Goudarzi recovered a Pirate miscue at the Gilmer 40.
Brown and the offense clicked on all cylinders when they returned to the field, going on a 7-play, 60-yard TD drive that took just 1:56. The score came on a 20-yard pass from Brown to Morgan Lusty with 3:27 left in the opening quarter. Adan Ibarra kicked the extra point, and the score was tied 7-7.
The Pirates answered back with a 9-play, 59-yard drive that took 4:38 off the clock, but the Black Flag stood the test and forced a 27-yard field goal by Rodriguez with 10:49 left in the half, and Pitt led 10-7. That would be the final Pirate lead of the game as it turned out.
Brown led the offense on another scoring drive of 6 plays over 68 yards in just 1:22. The score came when Brown ran in from the 5 on a quarterback draw with 9:27 left in the half. Rashaad ran into the end zone for a 2-point conversion out of the swinging gate, and the Bucks led 15-10.
Gilmer moved toward what looked to be a certain touchdown on their next possession, but an incomplete pass on 4th and 7 turned the ball over to Pitt after a 13-play drive that took 4:15 off the clock. Neither team scored again before the teams headed to the locker room at the half.
The Buckeyes picked up one first down on the opening possession of the second half, but turned the ball over on downs at the Pirate 38 on the second series. The Black Flag forced a three-and-out on the possession, and Gilmer took over at their own 28 following a Rodriguez punt.
The offense moved the 72 yards in 8 plays and took just 1:35 before Gilmer hit the end zone again. The score came on a 14-yard pass from Brown to JaMareon Granville with 6:27 left in the third quarter. Lucas Enloe came in to kick the extra point in place of Ibarra who suffered an injury earlier in the game on a kickoff, and the kick was good, pushing Gilmer to a 22-10 lead.
The Pirates were determined to stay in the game, and Jimmerson led his team into the end zone again on their next possession. They drove 68 yards in 8 plays and took 3:32 before Jimmerson hit Griffin on a 39-yard TD pass on fourth down. Two Buckeye defenders were with him stride for stride and could not have played the ball any better, but Griffin had the height advantage and made a great play. That closed the gap for Pitt to 22-16 with 2:55 left in the third quarter. Rodriguez missed the PAT, and the score remained 22-16.
The Bucks responded in short order on their next possession, as they took just 1:30 and 6 plays to move 75 yards to pay dirt once again. The score came on a 5-yard scamper by Brown with 1:25 left in the quarter. Enloe was once again true on the PAT, and the Gilmer lead advanced to 29-16.
The Black Flag got the job done again on the next possession, as they forced a three-and-out. On the punt, the long snapper lofted the ball over Rodriguez’s head and the Buckeyes pounced on the pigskin at the Pirate 24.
The miscue was basically the shot that gave the Buckeyes the chance to sink the Pirates and drive the nail in the coffin, and they took immediate advantage. Brown ran in from the 24 on the first play of the possession, resulting in a 1-play, 8 second drive. The score came with 10:56 left in the game, and moved the score to 35-16. Bran Webb ran in the 2-point conversion from the swinging gate, and the Bucks extended the lead to 37-16.
The Pirates picked up one first down on their next possession, but the Black Flag forced a punt on the next series, and Gilmer went back on the offensive at their 19.
Brown led the offense up the field, and it looked as though the Buckeyes would find the end zone again, but Ward took a hard hit and lost the ball and Pittsburg recovered at their 38 ending the threat.
Jimmerson got his charges rolling, as the Pirates found the end zone for the final time with 3:03 left in the game when Jordan Turner ran in from the 1, ending a 9-play, 62-yard drive that took 3:01. A 2-point conversion attempt was no good, and the Gilmer lead was cut, but still insurmountable at 37-22.
The Pirates attempted an onside kick and had a player in great position to recover the pigskin, but Tra Fluellen managed to pound on the ball at the Gilmer 38. Brown gained 38 yards on a run on the second play of the possession, allowing the Buckeyes to run out the final 3:03 and walk off with the victory.
We asked Coach Matt Turner his thoughts on the big win closing out the regular season and heading into the playoffs next week. “That’s a great win; great group of young men, you know, our seniors, our captains, we just really played well. We really practiced well all week, so I mean it wasn’t a surprise that we played well. You’re playing a very good opponent, so you had to play well. Hats off to Brad Baca and his staff and his players. They have a great team, and we knew we were going to have to be at our best. There’s things we’re going to look at and feel like we could do better, but we really played well in a lot of areas.”
We also asked the coach about the tremendous job the Black Flag Defense did in the game. “You know, our mantra is to try to get better every week and we try to get better every week, and I think our guys have. We practice to get better, and so we’re getting better, you know we tackled well; we rushed the passer well against some really good athletes. 24 (Jordan Turner), 2 (Jaylon Jimmerson), 16 (Keontae Burns), 3 (Brett McGee), 28 (Mark Thomas), they’re athletic kids, hard to tackle, so we’re getting better. That’s important and it’ll be important this next week. We’re got to get better.”
Additionally, we asked Coach Turner if he thought the fact his team has had to play four quarters in almost every game this season would help in the playoffs due to them being conditioned to having to play four quarters every week.
“I never over-think all that. I have enough things to do to get these guys playing at their best, so you don’t really over-think that. We’ve played very good teams (and) that’s always good for you. The better opponents you play, the better it is for you because you are used to that kind of game, so our guys are comfortable in that kind of game because that’s where we’ve been. Our district opponents right down the line have been just what I thought, every one of them. You’ve got to play your best to beat them, and tonight we made enough plays to beat a very good opponent again.”
We ended our visit asking Coach Turner’s early thoughts about next week’s Bi-District opponent, the Diboll Lumberjacks. “Well, you know, Coach Morrison does a great job. They’re always talented. They’ve got good skill kids, they’ll run and tackle you, so they’re an opponent like these (the Pirates). It’s just another week like we’ve had for the last five. We’ve got to have a great week of practice just like we had this week. We’ll look forward to it. I’m excited about that for this group of guys. You know, they’ve worked hard and they love playing with each other, and I love coaching them, so I mean we’ll prepare the best we can and try to play the best Buckeye Football we can play next Friday.”