“We kept the streaks going and passed it down to the younger kids,” said Gilmer senior quarterback Stump Godfrey, who finished the game 13 of 16 passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and added another touchdown rushing.
Despite the win, the Buckeyes were frustrated by the Eagles’ game plan. “We won, but we didn’t win the way we wanted to win,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, who watched Tatum dominate time of possession by an almost 5-to-1 margin. The Eagles had the football for over 39 minutes of the game, running 74 plays; while Gilmer had the ball for less than nine minutes, running only 28 plays.
“Usually when we stop someone as much as we did, they start throwing the ball, but they didn’t,” said Traylor about the Eagles, who didn’t score until 2:37 remained in the third quarter.
“We told our kids, we’re not going to panic no matter what happens,” said Tatum head coach Andy Evans, who fell to 0-5 against the Buckeyes. “We’re going to stick to the game plan, which was to run the ball and keep their offense off the field.”
“We didn’t get a chance to play. They just tried to keep the score close,” complained Godfrey, who is 36-3 as Gilmer’s starting quarterback. “It was a great learning experience for us. It’s going to be this way in the playoffs.”
Godfrey and the Buckeyes’ offense performed well enough in their limited appearances, averaging almost 10 yards per play, and scoring four touchdowns, to help tie the 2006 team record of 554 points in a 10-game regular season.
Gilmer’s first score was set up when Paul Chesnut recovered a B.J. Allen fumble at the Eagles’ 26-yard line on Tatum’s first possession.
Despite picking up a first down on an 11-yard pass from Godfrey to Luke Turner on the first play, the Buckeyes had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Adan Olivares for a 3-0 lead with 8:54 to play in the first quarter.
Gilmer’s Black Flag Defense came up big again on the Eagles’ second possession, holding the Eagles to three yards in three plays and forcing a punt that rolled out of bounds at the Tatum 46-yard line.
This time the Buckeyes took advantage of the good field position as Godfrey connected with Braylon Webb on two passes that covered 30 yards. Two runs by Marlon Granville took the ball down to the 8-yard line. Godfrey finished the drive with an amazing run, faking two defenders and stiff-arming another before cutting sharply up field for the touchdown. Olivares’ extra point made the score 10-0 with 5:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
Tatum’s third possession was the charm. Despite not scoring, the Eagles executed their game plan to near perfection, holding on to the football for 8:56, covering 52 yards in 14 plays. Gilmer finally got the ball back at the 33-yard line after an incomplete pass on fourth down.
It took the Buckeyes only four plays to go 67 yards. A 22-yard run by Gus Osborne and a 31-yard pass from Godfrey to Tevin Godfrey got the ball down to the 14-yard line. After a 1-yard run by Osborne, Godfrey executed a perfect screen pass to Osborne, who barreled his way into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown with 7:12 to play in the second quarter. Olivares’ extra point was wide left, leaving the score 16-0.
Tatum struggled on their next possession gaining only 14 yards on four plays before punting from their 46-yard line. Gilmer’s Tristan Holt caught the punt at the 18-yard line with a defender in his face. Holt sidestepped the first defender, then made the second defender miss before following his blockers down the home sideline for an 82-yard touchdown with 3:39 to go in the first half. The Buckeyes’ Chris Miller ran in the 2-point conversion to make the score 24-0. It was Holt’s fourth punt return for a touchdown this season.
The Eagles held the football for the final 3:39 of the first half, reaching the Buckeyes’ 37-yard line before intermission.
A short kick by Tatum to start the second half gave Gilmer the football at the 47-yard line. It took the Buckeyes only 46 seconds to score when Godfrey hit Holt on a 12-yard slant for the touchdown just four plays later. Olivares’ extra point made the score 31-0.
Tatum’s offense got back on track their first possession of the second half, consuming 6:40 off the clock on 12 plays before turning the ball over on downs at the Gilmer 12-yard line.
The Buckeyes’ drive lasted only 53 seconds this time, but was not punctuated with a score. Thanks to two incomplete passes, Gilmer’s Turner was forced to punt from deep in his own territory. The sophomore’s punt was good for 41 yards, giving the Eagles the football at the 41-yard line.
Following a 5-yard run by Allen, Brandon Woodard stunned the Buckeyes’ defense with a run up the middle, then a cut to the sidelines for a 54-yard touchdown with 2:37 to play in the third quarter. The Eagles’ 2-point conversion was intercepted two yards deep in the end zone by Gilmer’s Webb, who returned it 102 yards for the safety, leaving Tatum trailing 33-6.
“I didn’t see anyone in front of me. All I saw was green and I didn’t look back,” said Webb.
Gilmer answered right back with a 52-yard, 4-play drive that lasted only 70 seconds. Stump Godfrey connected with Tevin Godfrey for a big 36-yard gain on the first play. Godfrey then handed the football off to Osborne 3 consecutive plays, allowing the junior running back to cover the final 16 yards and score from a yard out with only 1:27 to go in the third quarter. Olivares’ kick was wide left again, making the score 39-6.
That drive would be the last time Osborne touched the football, ending the game with 41 yards and a touchdown on seven carries along with two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown. “I thought he looked as good as he’d looked all year,” stated Traylor about Osborne, who is trying to recover from an early season injury. “That was good to see.”
Tatum countered with their grind-it-out offense again, despite being down by five touchdowns. After gaining only 24 yards on the first six plays of the series, the Eagles hit pay dirt again when Tyler Centers broke two tackles and raced 56 yards for a touchdown with 8:50 left in the final quarter. Samuel Zapata’s extra point cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 39-13.
But the Eagles weren’t finished, as Tatum recovered an onside kick at the Gilmer 47-yard line following Centers’ touchdown.
Staying true to their keep-it-close game-plan, the Eagles took 11 plays and 4:20 off the clock before Desmond Fite scored on a 2-yard run on fourth down with 4:20 remaining in the game. Zapata’s extra point made the score 39-20.
“Tatum getting that onside kick really hurt our defense. Our defense had to go right back out there again and the momentum shifted,” said Traylor.
“A team hasn’t run it down our throats like that all year,” lamented senior defensive tackle Luis Castro, who led the Buckeyes with 17 tackles.
“We weren’t as bad as you think we were,” said Traylor. “We played hard for about three quarters; our defense really played hard. I think the fourth quarter, we got a little tired.”
Traylor added, “Tatum’s line was really good; they blocked us well. Their running backs were good. Tatum deserves the credit, but we finally got tired in the fourth quarter.”
Tatum’s Evans returned the praise. “I think they’re the best football team in the state,” said Evans of the Buckeyes, who enter the playoffs ranked number one in Class 3A.
Evans admitted that Gilmer brought out the best in his team. “We played better tonight than we played all year. This is the best we played all year.”
“They fought the whole game,” said Holt, who finished the regular season with 18 touchdowns. “We needed a little adversity.”
Traylor agreed with Holt, but added. “It depends on how we handle adversity,” said Traylor, who recalled the 2004 regular season finale against Pittsburg that saw the Buckeyes come from behind to win 22-18. “It was the best thing that could have happened to them. Pittsburg took it to us and we came back and responded really well from there on out.”
Well enough to win the 2004 Class 3A D. II State Championship. Now it’s time to see how the 2009 Buckeyes will respond.
19 First downs 14
65-294 Rushes-yds 12-67
5-9-0-0 Passing 13-16-2-1
74 Passing yds 200
368 Total yds 267
1 Fumbles lost 0
39:11 Time of possession 8:49
4-25 Penalties-yds 5-50
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 T
Tatum 0 0 6 14 20
Gilmer 10 14 15 0 39