Friday night, Nov. 14 Backup Audio Stream
When the Gilmer Buckeyes were moved into Region III at the UIL's bi-annual realignment in February, some Gilmer fans were happy to see the Buckeyes move out of Region II, where the Buckeyes had been knocked out in the first two rounds of the playoffs four times in the past seven seasons.
Welcome to Region III, where Gilmer will potentially have to defeat three top 20 teams just to make it out of the region. “We're not familiar with any of them, so it's definitely different,” admitted Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor about the Buckeyes' first playoffs in Region III. “It's the unknown; we just don't know. We'll find out here soon.”
The first challenge for the Buckeyes (9-1) will come Friday night at 7:30 in Carthage when Gilmer meets the Diboll Lumberjacks (8-2) for the first time in school history.
While the Lumberjacks are unfamiliar to the Buckeyes, their head coach is not. Tom Sheppard spent the last three years as Tatum's defensive coordinator before moving to Diboll for his first head coaching opportunity. “I'm sure he's very familiar with us,” said Traylor. “We've played them three years in a row. I know he knows us.”
Even though Gilmer enjoyed a 3-0 record against Sheppard's at Tatum, the new Lumberjacks' coach insists that southeast Texas is not the same as northeast Texas. “It's a lot different down here,” said Sheppard. “When Gilmer walks on the field a lot of places up there, they've won the game just by who they are. And our kids haven't figured that out, which is good for me because right now they believe they can win. That's a big difference when you go to play a football game.”
“They'll be hard to beat,” proclaimed Traylor, who is 94-16 in his nine seasons at Gilmer's helm. “They played a tough schedule, they've got a good record, they've got good athletes, so it should be a good game.”
The Lumberjacks started the season with a loss at Kirbyville before reeling off seven straight wins, including a win over class 4A Nacogdoches. A 62-28 loss to district 18-3A rival Carthage was followed by a 66-19 thrashing of Rusk.
“We're getting better every week,” said Sheppard. “We had a let down against Carthage, but they're a good football team.”
“Carthage makes a lot of people look bad,” agreed Traylor. “I'm sure they will be real fired up about playing Gilmer. They'll give us a great effort like everybody does. I would hope that our big game experience will come through.”
The Lumberjacks possess some big game experience of their own, returning 26 seniors who are in the playoffs for the third time the past four years. “They are an extremely mature football team,' said Traylor. “They've got nine seniors starting on offense, and nine seniors starting on defense.”
Traylor points to senior quarterback Jacolby Spencer (5-10, 165) as the Buckeyes' primary concern on an offense that averages 40 points and 398 yards per game. “Their quarterback is very good,” Traylor said. “He's the heart and soul of their team. He's a college football player. He runs around and makes things happen; he can run and throw.”
“They've got good skill kids,” continued Traylor, naming receivers Alex Castillo (6-0, 185) and Nicholas Cortines (5-11, 180) for their 870 combined yards and six touchdowns. “Their tight end is huge,” said Traylor about 6-5, 240 pound Antonio Johnson.
“They are very multiple. They're in a different set every snap. They'll be in shotgun, twins, wing, trips, doubles, I, power-I; they're everywhere,” Traylor said.
“Defensively, they are just the same; they are everywhere,” said Traylor. “They are just an attacking, come after you, defense. They play hard; they get after you.”
“They are a big play defense, and a big play offense,” summed up Traylor.
“I think we can play with them,” said Sheppard. “If we can slow them down then I think we have a chance to play pretty good football Friday night. We need to chew the clock up. The best defense is keeping their offense off the field.”
Sheppard pointed to the strategy employed by Tatum last week, in holding onto the football for over five minutes on their opening drive, but admitted, “We can't get down the field and come up empty-handed like Tatum did.”
“Our offense is pretty good; we can put points on the board,” said Sheppard, who stated that it doesn't always have to be touchdowns. “We have a really good field goal kicker. Our kicker has kicked four field goals over 40 yards this year; he can boot it. We feel like if we can get it inside the forty we've got a chance to score and at least take three out of it.”
Sheppard admitted that his defense, which has given up an average of 348 yards and 26 points per game, will need to play better to stop Gilmer's offense. “We're not very big; we're similar to what Tatum is, we put a lot of kids on the field that can run, and we just hope we can put them in the right spot at the right time.”
“He's not afraid to stunt; he's not afraid to do what it takes to win,” Traylor said about Sheppard's defensive mind set. “We're going to give up big plays in the defense because we're so aggressive,” admitted Sheppard, who said that is why it is so important to keep Gilmer's offense off the field.
“They score so fast that instead of calling plays to get down the field, a lot of people get in a situation where you're calling plays to try to make touchdowns, and that's how you get behind,” Sheppard said. “I plan on staying with what we try to do, and hopefully we can stay with them going into the fourth quarter and have a chance.”
Traylor expects his team to be up for the challenge. “I would expect this team to be ready; I really would,” said Traylor, who has a 14-6 record in playoff games. “You lose now and you go home; it's just a lot more fun.”
“We know it's win or go home,” said Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey. “We've got to give it all we've got every game.”
“The objective now is just to stay alive,” said Traylor. “Each week you just try to win, no matter how. You just want to keep advancing. The further you get, the closer you've got a shot. It's one week at a time literally.”
• Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey needs 253 total yards to pass Manuel Johnson for most in school history.
• Diboll quarterback Jacolby Spencer needs 300 passing yards to break the school's single season record of 2,178 set by Luis Rios in 2003.
• Diboll quarterback Jacolby Spencer needs 3 touchdown passes to set the school's career record, passing Jay Wyatt's 48 touchdown.
• Diboll quarterback Jacolby Spencer needs 18 completions to become the school's career leader and pass Jay Wyatt's 215 completions from 1972-74.
Diboll Free Press:
Lumberjacks and Buckeyes
to battle in
Class 3A opening round
Lufkin Daily News:
set for playoff shootout
Buckeyes at a glance
Bounty Hunter of the Week: Tamil Harris
Special Teams Player of the Week: Tristan Holt
Offensive Scout Team Player of the Week: Kavin Patton
Defensive Scout Team Players of the Week: Ben Martin & Jordan Abrom
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