“It doesn't get any better than Gilmer-Gladewater on Halloween for a district championship,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, who expects a strange night this Friday. “I've never played on a Halloween where it wasn't wild and crazy. I don't know if it's because the kids are hyped up on sugar from all the candy; I don't know. It just seems like every Halloween has been a wild night.”
The Buckeyes can clinch a share of their 8th consecutive district title with a win over the Bears, while Gladewater's hope for their first out-right district championship since 1990 is still alive. “They know that they control their own destiny,” said Traylor. “They know if they win out, they win a district championship.”
The Buckeyes' motivation to win should be as full as a first time trick-or-treater's candy bag on Halloween, considering the winning streaks Gilmer brings into the game. In addition to the seven consecutive undefeated district titles, the Buckeyes carry a 37- game district winning streak and a 29-game home winning streak, in addition to a 6-game winning streak over the Bears.
“Our district winning streak is important to us. We just want to keep our community happy and both our players and coaching staff happy,” confirmed Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey. “I think everybody is going to be excited about that game; I'm going to be excited about it just for the fact that we're playing Gladewater.”
Godfrey has quarterbacked the Buckeyes to the last eight district victories, a streak that ranks as the seventh best in Class 3A history. One more win, and Gilmer will tie Gladewater's 38 consecutive district wins from 1986-1991.
The end of the Bears streak in 1991 corresponds with the shift of power in the Gilmer-Gladewater rivalry. From 1972 through 1990 Gladewater led the series 14-2-1. Since 1991 the Buckeyes have enjoyed a 15-2 record against the Bears. Now the all-time series is tied with a record of 25-25-2. A win against the Bears Friday will give the Buckeyes their first lead in the series since 1965.
“It's kind of come around full circle,” admitted Gladewater head coach Scott Callaway, who has clinched his first winning season with the Bears in his third year at the helm. “Of course that is motivation to us; there's a little bit of a streak there and we're ready to change that. We're ready to turn the tide starting with this game and hopefully get a win.”
Traylor believes the Bears have the talent to do it. “They're every bit as talented as all the good teams we've played,” said Traylor. “That's not coach talk; they're that talented.”
That talent was the reason Gladewater made a change in the off season from the spread offense to the wing-t. “We tried to find the offense that we thought would be better suited to our kids; from the abilities we have right now, and the kids fixing to come through our program,” explained Callaway. “It was just a better offense that suited our talents right now.”
The switch has paid immediate dividends for the Bears, who bring a 6-2 overall record and 2-1 district mark into the game. “They've changed offenses, and the new offensive coordinator has done a great job,” praised Traylor about a Gladewater offense that averages over 300 rushing yards and 30 points per game.
“They've got great skill kids,” Traylor stated. “Cardarian Lewis is probably an all-state football player defensively and offensively.” Lewis (6-0, 225, 4.4) has racked up over 700 yards rushing while contributing more than 40 tackles from his linebacker position.
Lewis shares the backfield with super sophomore Corey Davis (5-10, 185, 4.4), who Callaway called the team's fastest player. Davis has compiled almost 1,000 yards of total offense and 13 touchdowns on the season. Davis scored three touchdowns in the Bears' 34-26 win over Bullard last week, including a 74-yard fumble recovery returned for a score.
Traylor said that Lewis and Davis have benefited from a much improved offensive front. “Their offensive line is good,” said Traylor. “They do a good job of coming off the ball and hitting you right in the mouth.”
“They've got a little more confidence,” confirmed Callaway about his team. “You know having success, you feel better when things are going your way. They do respect Gilmer. We know it's going to be a tough ball game.”
Callaway said the Buckeyes' defense has improved as much as his offense. “I think they're a lot better defensively this year from what I've seen. I'm pretty impressed with them,” said Callaway.
Callaway also noted the Buckeyes' improved schedule over the past two seasons as an advantage for Gilmer. “They've had a tough non-district schedule and already played a tough Chapel Hill team, so they've been battle-tested,” Callaway said.
The same can not be said about the Bears, who have faced only one team with a winning record, losing that game 31-28 to Pleasant Grove. “Pleasant Grove is a top 10 team. They lost by three and probably should have won the game,” said Traylor, in defense of the Bears, who lost their district 17-3A opener to Tatum by five points. “Many people have lost to Tatum the last eight or nine years,” continued Traylor.
Defensively, the Bears operate primarily out of 4-3 defense that has limited opponents to under 20 points per game. “They're very skilled. They've got a lot of good looking players,” noted Traylor.
Free safety Terrance Leach (6-1, 185, 4.5) leads the Bears in tackles and earned the praise of Traylor. “He's as good a free safety as we've played this year,” stated Traylor.
Leach will need a big game to slow down a Buckeyes offense that is averaging 462 yards and 45 points per game. “It's going to come down to execution and effort and who's making plays; doing what they got to do to win,” said Callaway.
Traylor agreed, and promised that his Buckeyes would be better prepared than they were last week. “Our kids know their kids. We know how talented they are,” said Traylor. “Our kids will be much more ready to play Gladewater than they were Spring Hill.”
Did you know?
• Gilmer and Gladewater have played every year since 1980.
• Gilmer's 37-game district win streak is currently the third longest in Texas behind class 5A Galena Park North Shore's 50 wins and class 4A Highland Park's 44 wins.
• Gilmer needs 143 rushing yards to reach 2,000 for the season.
• Gilmer needs 161 passing yards to reach 2,000 for the season.
• Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey needs 273 passing yards to give him 2,000 for the season.
• Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey needs 337 passing yards to become the school's all-time leader.
Bounty Hunter of the Week: Tamil Harris
Special Teams Player of the Week: Luke Turner
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Week: Zack Davidson
Defensive Scout Team Player of the Week: Dakota Cannon
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