Not according to Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, who explained that the possibility of the Buckeyes' 36-game district winning streak and 28-game home winning streak coming to an end is all the motivation his team needs.
“That would be a terrible thing. You could lose everything in one night,” cautioned Traylor about the district streak that dates back to 2000 and the home streak that goes back to 2002.
“The district winning streak is the one that really matters. That is the only one that has a continuation of the entire program,” explained Traylor. “We talk about it all the time; that pressure is a privilege. It's a good thing to have pressure.”
Pressure is something the Buckeyes have grown accustomed to since Traylor took over the program in 2000, guiding the team to two championship game appearances in his eight seasons. And while no trophy is at stake this Friday night, the Buckeyes promise to be fired up.
“We play every game like it's the district championship,” said Dakota Hagler, who doesn't want to be known as part of the senior class that lost the winning streak.
Zack Jones, another senior, added, “We're going to play hard the next three; we're going to keep fighting.”
That's bad news for Spring Hill, who is suffering one of their worst seasons in several years. “We're just struggling,” admitted Panthers head coach Robert Bero. “We're finding a lot of ways to lose, and when you're struggling you can find a lot of ways to lose football games, and we seem to be real good at that right now.”
The Panthers started the season by allowing 36 unanswered points in a 50-21 loss to Lindale. Two games later, the Panthers got behind Brownsboro 34-10 before outscoring the Bears 30-14 in the second half, only to come up short 48-40. Last week against Gladewater the Panthers' four turnovers in the first quarter led to an 18-0 Bears lead, and a 31-14 loss.
“We're playing with seven sophomores on the defensive side of the football, and physically we're just not matching up as well as we have in the past against some people,” explained Bero. “That's not an excuse. I expect to win. I don't care if we're playing seventh graders on the varsity, I expect to win here at Spring Hill. We've been to the playoffs seven out of the last eight years, and we expect that.”
The Panthers have shown flashes of their playoff form this season with wins over 5-2 White Oak and 6-1 Van. “Against White Oak, we matched up real well with them, and ended up winning a close football game,” Bero said. “Against Van it was just one of those nights where really just everything clicked for us. We just played real well that night.”
The Panthers will have to play well against the Buckeyes to get their third win of the season. “We know we've got our hands full coming over there,” stated Bero, who promised, “Our football team is going to come over there and play. We are not intimidated by Gilmer. We never have been intimidated by Gilmer. They can put that on their bulletin board. Respect them? We respect the heck out of them, but we're not intimidated.”
Traylor would expect nothing less from the Panthers. “I know this; Robert Bero has been coaching a long time, I have a lot of respect for him personally and I know his kids will play very hard, and they'll be sound and they'll get after us,” said Traylor.
Traylor also believes that, “Week eight is really when football season begins. If you're in a 6-team district, you could have absolutely done nothing the entire year and you can strap it up in week eight and you might win a state championship. I believe that.”
“This is when great teams get great right now,” Traylor continued. “Most people are counting down the days until it's over right now. Our kids have a different mentality, our coaches have a different mentality. We really believe week eight is when football season begins.”
When Spring Hill has the football
Expect to see a lot of senior running back Jake Fudge ( 5-8, 175, 4.4) whose 903 total yards leads the Panthers offense. Fudge has 617 yards on 94 carries and 286 yards on only five catches. “Their tailback Jake Fudge is a great athlete,” praised Traylor.
Sophomore quarterback Dylan Brown (6-0, 170) has been impressive, racking up 923 yards and 3 touchdowns passing while completing 54 of 114 attempts. “They've got a really good sophomore class. Dylan Brown is a good quarterback,” said Traylor.
The Panthers operate primarily from the I-formation averaging 177 yards rushing and 159 yards passing, while scoring just under 21 points per game.
When Gilmer has the football
“On defense they play a lot of man-to-man in the secondary. They're real aggressive,” surmised Traylor.
That could be good news for the Buckeyes' receiving corps that has spread 1,557 yards and 18 touchdowns among 15 receivers over the first seven games.
Spring Hill has allowed an average of 247 yards rushing and 141 yards passing through seven games.
Sophomore middle linebacker Alex Voelzke (6-2, 205) leads the Panthers with 70 tackles on the season for a defense that has given up 31 points per game.
That's a big concern for Bero. “You've got to find a way to keep Gilmer's offense on the sideline,” Bero stated. “Somehow you've got to control the football and put points on the board. We've got to find a way to keep their offense off the field, much like Liberty Hill did last year, and we're not Liberty Hill.”
Traylor said that despite the apparent mismatch on paper, he is concerned about the Buckeyes following such an emotional victory over Chapel Hill last week. “It will be interesting to see if we have a let down. The Chapel Hill game was so intense; so physical,” Traylor said.
And while Bero concedes the Buckeyes' favored status, the long time coach said there is only one way to find out. “Will they win? That's why we're going to play at 7:30 Friday.”
Did you know?
• Gilmer is 10-2 all time against Spring Hill.
• Gilmer's 36-game district winning streak is currently the third longest in Texas behind 5A Galena Park North Shore's 49 wins and 4A Highland Park's 43 wins. (source: Joe Lee Smith)
• Gilmer has outscored its opponents 1,597-343 during a 36-game district winning streak.
• Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey needs 96 passing yards to give him 4,000 for his career.
Bounty Hunter of the Week: Shaquille Ector
Special Teams Player of the Week: Hunter Harrison
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Week: B.J. Moses
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Week: Austin Hollingsworth
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