“So far we enjoy Region III,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor after posting his largest winning margin in a playoff game. “It's been a long time since we've enjoyed a fourth quarter in a first round game. Usually our first round games are wars, so we were grateful.”
A cold front that moved in just before game time, had several Buckeyes remembering their last playoff game; a windy loss to Liberty Hill in last season's state championship game.
“When I saw the wind, I thought about Liberty Hill,” said Gilmer quarterback Stump Godfrey, who led the Buckeyes to a season-low 135 total yards in the 38-13 loss. “That was a learning experience. We got better and we executed well.”
Godfrey's two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter helped the Buckeyes jump out to a commanding 21-0 lead as Gilmer took advantage of a howling wind at their back.
“I'd like to take credit for it, but I lost the flip, so I got lucky,” said Traylor about the Lumberjacks' decision to receive the opening kickoff.
“I definitely didn't want to give them the ball first,” explained Diboll head coach Tom Sheppard, who watched his team's first four possessions total only 27 yards and result in great field position for the Buckeyes. “We just couldn't ever get anything going.”
“It worked out perfect; it couldn't have been better,” admitted Traylor about the wind. Gilmer's worst starting field position in the first half was their own 40-yard line, while Diboll's first seven series started inside their own 20-yard line.
“It was big,” agreed Godfrey. “Once you got that, you've got to take advantage of it, and that's what we did.”
After the Lumberjacks' first series ended with a punt from their own 40-yard line, the Buckeyes took over at their own 41-yard line and marched the 59 yards in seven plays, highlighted by a 23-yard pass on 3rd and 10 from Godfrey to Prentiss Bell to keep the drive alive. Godfrey scored three plays later on a 3-yard run around the left side. Adan Olivares kicked the first of six successful extra points for a 7-0 lead with 6:47 to play in the first quarter.
Two plays later, Diboll quarterback Jacolby Spencer fumbled under heavy pressure and Gilmer's Luis Castro recovered the loose football at the Lumberjacks' 18-yard line.
Jeremy Jackson covered the distance on two carries, scoring from 10 yards out with 5:19 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 Gilmer lead. “We were going to throw the ball a lot more, but since the wind was blowing so hard we got to run some more,” said Jackson, who finished with 99 yards rushing on only 10 carries.
The Buckeyes' defense held Diboll to a three-and-out series on their next possession, giving the ball back to the Buckeyes' offense at their own 40-yard line. A 22-yard pass to Gus Osborne and a 21-yard run by Marlon Granville set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Godfrey with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter for a 21-0 lead.
Another three-and-out series by Diboll gave Gilmer the football at the Lumberjacks' 48-yard line, but the Buckeyes' offense stalled and Luke Turner's 37-yard punt pinned Diboll back at their own 10-yard line.
Four plays later, Gilmer linebacker Mikey Wilson intercepted a Lewis pass at the Buckeyes' 41-yard line. Gilmer drove to the Lumberjacks' 14-yard line before Godfrey had the football stripped from his hands for the Buckeyes only turnover of the game.
Gilmer's defense came to the rescue again when Braylon Webb intercepted Spencer on the next play at the Lumberjacks' 45-yard line.
But for the third straight possession, the Buckeyes' offense stalled. “I wasn't happy about it,” said Traylor when asked if he was concerned at that point in the game. “As good as our defense was, it didn't. I knew we had a 3-touchdown lead, and we were punting well.”
Turner's punt bounced to the 2-yard line where the Buckeyes downed it, leaving Diboll deep in their own territory again.
The Lumberjacks responded with their longest drive of the game, going 55 yards in 10 plays before another Spencer fumble was recovered by Gilmer's Osborne at the Buckeyes' 48-yard line.
Three plays later, Godfrey lofted a perfect pass into the wind and found Tristan Holt open for a 13-yard touchdown with 1:20 to go in the first half. Olivares' extra point kick was ruled wide, so the Buckeyes took a 27-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Gilmer was even more dominating in the second half, with the offense scoring on all four possessions, while the defense held Diboll to only 12 total yards.
The Buckeyes took the second half kickoff and drove 74 yards in seven plays, with Godfrey hitting Holt again with another perfect pass into the wind for a 27-yard touchdown just two minutes into the half for a 34-0 lead. “Stump played his best game of the year,” praised Traylor. “He threw it unbelievably well in the wind. I was very proud of him. He threw it into the wind well, he threw it with the wind well; he was very accurate tonight.”
Gilmer's Paul Chesnut ended the Lumberjacks' next drive when he intercepted a Spencer pass at the Buckeyes' own 3-yard line to stop Diboll's only real scoring threat of the game. “We had seen on film where sometimes he would just throw the ball up and the wind was a big factor in that so we were looking for some picks,” said Chesnut.
“We put some good pressure on him, so he made some bad throws and that was the difference in the ball game,” Traylor said.
The Buckeyes stuck to the running game on the next series, covering all 97 yards on the ground. Godfrey finished the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the game, a 3-yard run. “The line blocked great; they had big holes for me to run in, and I was able to make it into the end zone,” said Godfrey, who was untouched on all three of his scoring runs.
“Caleb Denton had a great game and so did Michael Boddie and Beau Blair on the offensive line,” said Traylor.
Diboll's next possession ended in the Lumberjacks' sixth turnover of the game when Granville and D.J. Stanley knocked the ball out of Cornelius Polk's hands at the Diboll 40-yard line and Granville picked up the football and returned it for a touchdown with 1:53 to play in the third quarter for a 48-0 lead.
“We both knocked it out and then I just saw it on the ground and picked it up and ran. I just saw green grass,” said Granville who had seven tackles and two forced fumbles to go along with his 111 rushing yards on just nine carries.
“You have six turnovers, you don't have a chance,” said Diboll's Sheppard. “You can't turn the ball over against Gilmer, they're like sharks.”
“That was the story of the game,” agreed Traylor. “We had one and they had six.”
Two consecutive three-and-outs by Diboll were followed by two Gilmer field goals to complete the scoring in the final quarter.. Olivares' kicks were good from 35 yards and 22 yards.
The shutout was the Buckeyes first of the season. “It felt so good; we've been waiting for that all year, and to come in the first round of the playoffs it means something to us,” said Osborne, who recorded six tackles, three quarterback pressures, and a sack to go along with his fumble recovery.
“We practiced so hard this week trying to get a shutout, and we played as hard as we could and got one,” said Wilson, who had eight tackles and one pressure to go with his interception.
“Our defense played exceptionally well, and our offense was real good for the conditions,” summarized Traylor. “Our coaches did a wonderful job. Those guys did a good job of preparing, and our kids are very mature and they played real well. It was a great win.”
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