The Gilmer Buckeyes comprise one of the most successful Class 3A high school football programs in the state of Texas. Since 2000, the Buckeyes have compiled a record of 64-13 with five straight district titles (2001-2005) and one state championship (2004).
Here are game accounts from The Gilmer Mirror of the first two games of the 2006 season, both victories.
Gilmer wins over Tatum, 45-21, before huge crowd here
By JOE DODD
Turnovers and depth proved to be the difference between the Gilmer Buckeyes and Tatum Eagles Friday night, as the host Buckeyes took advantage of six Eagles’ turnovers and shut Tatum out of the end zone the final 28 minutes, on their way to a convincing 45-21 victory before a standing room only crowd estimated at over 7,500 people at Buckeye Stadium.
Hundreds of fans stood in line at both entrances to Buckeye Stadium several hours before the scheduled 7:30 p.m. kickoff, to witness what some people were calling “The East Texas Super Bowl.” They were not disappointed, as the state’s top-ranked team in Class 2A kicked off to the state’s top-ranked team in Class 3A.
Gilmer started their first drive from their 37-yard line, and quickly established the ground game when Justin Johnson picked up 28 yards on the game’s first play. Johnson would score the game’s first touchdown just six plays later on a 4-yard run, capping off a 2:17 drive in which the Buckeyes did not complete a single pass. Johnson ended the night with 131 yards on just 14 carries. Johnson deferred all praise: “The line blocked good the whole game. I give all the credit to them.”
Tatum would answer right back, only 1:44 later when Lennon Creer powered his way through the Buckeyes’ defense from 23 yards out, tying the score at 7-7. The Eagles only gained 33 yards on the drive, due to an onside kick attempt that was recovered inside 10 yards by the Buckeyes, giving Tatum the ball at Gilmer’s 48 yard line. The Buckeyes’ defense contributed another 15 yards thanks to a late-hit penalty.
Gilmer looked like Gilmer on their second possession, completing three straight passes for 62 yards and a touchdown, with G.J. Kinne and Curtis Brown connecting twice for 59 yards and a touchdown, giving the Buckeyes the 14-7 lead only 1:07 after the Tatum score. Brown finished with four catches for 110 yards and added 77 yards on just four carries.
The Buckeyes’ defense came up big on Tatum’s second possession, stopping the Eagles on a 4th-and-2, giving the ball back to the Buckeyes’ offense at their 42-yard line. Once again, Gilmer wasted little time, scoring three plays later on Kinne’s 1-yard plunge with 3:17 to play in the first quarter, making the score 21-7. This series featured the Buckeyes’ ground game again, with Brown picking up 32 yards on the first play and Johnson gaining 25 yards on the second play.
Tatum showcased their own ground attack the next series, covering 54 yards on eight straight runs, finishing with Bryce Beall’s 15-yard touchdown only 41 seconds into the second quarter. That cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 21-14.
Gilmer’s next series is where the momentum shifted permanently in the Buckeyes’ favor. On the fourth play of the drive, Kinne threw a wild pass under heavy pressure, only to have Tatum’s Jonathan Humphries intercept the throw and return it for a touchdown. As the Eagles’ fans celebrated what looked to be a tied ball game, Gilmer fans were pointing to two yellow flags on the field. The first flag was for defensive holding, and the second flag was for a Tatum personal foul, so the Buckeyes got the football back at the Eagles’ 26-yard line. The Buckeyes went for the jugular on the very next play. Kinne threw a quick pass to Jake Ashley near the Gilmer sideline, and Ashley immediately pulled up and threw a perfect strike to a diving Johnson in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, and a 28-14 lead with 9:22 to play in the half.
Tatum answered back with a methodical 5:19 drive, picking up 15 yards on a Gilmer penalty, and 53 yards on nine rushes, capped off by Cashas Pollard’s 1-yard touchdown run with 4:03 remaining until halftime. That made the score 28-21, but that was as close as Tatum would get the rest of the night.
The Eagles finally managed to stop the Buckeyes from scoring on Gilmer’s fifth possession, forcing the Buckeyes into an apparent punting situation on 4th-and-22 from the Tatum 44-yard line. Gilmer lined up for what would have been their first punt in three games dating back to last season, but the ball was snapped to Brown, who ran for 16 yards before being knocked out of bounds at the 28-yard line.
Two plays later, Jules Johnson intercepted an errant Pollard pass at the Buckeyes’ 37-yard line with 19 seconds to play. Gilmer again reached into their bag of tricks, this time with Kinne throwing to Lamar Harris on a quick hitch pattern. As Harris was hit from behind he flipped the football to Johnson, who raced around the corner and down the Buckeyes’ sidelines before being tackled at the 7-yard line with only six seconds remaining. Gilmer kicker Matt Burgin calmly kicked a 24-yard field goal to give the Buckeyes’ a 10-point advantage going into halftime. Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor praised his senior kicker, “I was extremely proud of Matt Burgin; he had a big field goal right before halftime.” Burgin also converted all six of his extra-point attempts.
The start of the second half looked as if the Eagles had handed the Buckeyes a gift, when Gilmer lined up to receive the second half kickoff due to a Tatum error at the game’s opening coin toss.
“Their kid just made a mistake;” said Traylor. “But it worked out good for (Tatum coach) Andy [Evans], we dropped it, so he’s a genius,” said Traylor referring to the Buckeyes’ fumble of the kick, that gave Tatum the ball at the Buckeyes’ 32-yard line.
The Buckeye’s Black Flag defense emerged on this drive, forcing turnovers on all four Tatum possessions in the second half. Jules Johnson recovered a Pollard fumble at the 10-yard line, setting up Gilmer’s longest touchdown drive of the night. The Buckeyes stayed on the ground for seven of the nine plays, but the two pass plays were big. On 3rd-and-5 from their own 27-yard line, Kinne hit Brown for 49 yards. Then on 4th-and-7 from Tatum’s 18-yard line, Brennan Thompson made a spectacular catch over the top of an Eagle defender, giving the Buckeyes a first down at the 1-yard line. Kinne scored the second of his two rushing touchdowns on the next play, giving the Buckeyes a 38-21 lead with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.
Tatum responded with a 10-play drive that saw them reach the Buckeyes’ 1-yard line before two great defensive plays by the Buckeyes. On 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Tatum’s Creer was dropped for a 5-yard loss. On fourth down, Dunterius Goodman hit Pollard as he threw the ball; Justin Johnson intercepted the pass at the 16-yard line and returned it 84 yards for his third touchdown of the game. “I figured somebody was behind me,” Johnson said. “I was praying that they wouldn’t pull me down from behind.”
Lamar Harris and Kezie Camp ended the Eagles’ final two possessions with interceptions, as the Buckeyes’ defense held Tatum to 112 passing yards and 176 rushing yards on the night. “Defensively we played a really good second half,” commented Traylor. “We made some adjustments at half-time, and the defense did the bend-but-not break. Whenever your defense causes six turnovers; it’s a good night.”
The Buckeyes almost doubled the Eagles’ total offense despite 18 fewer plays. Gilmer racked up 536 total yards, with a balanced attack of 288 yards passing and 248 yards rushing. Traylor cited the turnover margin as key to the win. “If you look at our offense; we had one turnover, and that was in the fourth quarter,” said the Buckeye Boss. “That’s pretty impressive to run the offense that we run, and only turn the ball over one time.”
Traylor admitted that he wasn’t confident in victory until the very end. “Whenever you’ve got those kinds of athletes on the field; where they can score on any play, you’re worried. I didn’t feel good until I was taking a knee,” said Traylor, who improved his career record to 4-1 against the Eagles.
For Kinne, the third time was the charm, as his Canton teams had been knocked out of the playoffs by the Eagles in 2003 and 2005. “I had never beaten them before,” said the senior quarterback, who finished 13-of-16 passing for 263 yards and a touchdown. “This year, we have a great bunch of players; it takes a lot of the load off of my shoulders, just to distribute the ball and letting them run.”
Traylor cited Kinne, among others, as doing the little things it takes to win ball games. “There were some great hustle plays that people don’t know about. When Lamar Harris fumbled; G.J. Kinne, from the quarterback position, recovered that fumble. On our first touchdown run, Lennon Creer was blocked to the ground on his back by Jamell Kennedy; we call that a will-breaker. There are just some kids giving some unbelievable effort that people are not even noticing.”
Traylor and his staff notice that effort. They also know how to keep their team’s success in perspective. “For a non-district game, it was a huge win,” said Traylor.
23 First downs 20
46-176 Rushes-yds 32-248
8-18-4 Passing 14-17-0
112 Passing-yds 288
288 Total yds 536
2 Fumbles lost 1
6-49 Penalties-yds 7-70
31:29 Time of possession 16:31
0-0 Punts-avg 0-0
1 2 3 4 T
Tatum 7 14 0 0 21
Gilmer 21 10 7 7 45
Buckeyes get off to impressive start with 56-14 win over Gaels
By JOE DODD
The Gilmer Buckeyes wanted to be good hosts to the visiting Bishop Gorman Gaels of Las Vegas, Nevada, in their season opener Thursday night in Tyler. The Buckeyes even gave the Gaels a couple of first quarter gifts to make them feel welcome. Luckily for Gilmer, the Gaels couldn’t take home all of those gifts, suffering a 56-14 blowout to Texas’ top-ranked 3A team in the first game of the third annual East Texas Football Classic played at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Gilmer’s first gift came on the Buckeyes’ very first play from scrimmage, when much-heralded quarterback G.J. Kinne threw an interception to the Gaels’ Trey Mays, who returned it to the Gilmer 47-yard line. The Gaels’ offense went to work for the first time, plodding the 47 yards in 10 plays, and taking a 7-0 lead on Corey White’s 2-yard touchdown run with 6:37 left in the first quarter.
Gilmer’s second possession was a little better than the first. That drive lasted three plays before Curtis Brown fumbled the ball away to Gorman at his own 42-yard line.
“That’s not the way you draw it up to start,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor. “When you start out with an interception and then a fumble, that’s never good. But we knew it was a long game, and we have some mature kids.”
One of those mature kids is Kinne, who transferred to Gilmer from Canton in April. Last season’s 3A Player of the Year, didn’t have the start he wanted for his new team. “We didn’t start off too hot with that interception and then the fumble, but we rallied back,” said the senior quarterback, who finished the game 13-of-23 for 261 yards and five touchdowns after throwing the interception.
“I haven’t been a part of Gilmer football long, but that’s a good way to start,” Kinne continued, deflecting the credit to his coaches and teammates. “I threw that interception and Coach
Traylor didn’t jump down my throat or anything, so I felt comfortable,” stated Kinne. “It’s a complex offense, and I’m still new. The guys are so good around me that it helps a lot. The offensive line and the receivers did a great job.”
Traylor said there was no reason to be upset at his new quarterback. “I thought he played great. It was his first game out there. I thought he stood in the pocket and threw the ball well. I was very pleased with his effort.”
Following the Buckeyes’ second turnover, Gilmer’s Black Flag Defense would hold the Gaels and force a punt.
The Buckeyes’ third time was the charm, as Gilmer went 80 yards in only 4 plays, capped off by a screen pass to Justin Johnson, who turned up-field and used his blockers to guide him the 58 yards to Gilmer’s first touchdown. Matt Burgin’s PAT was good for a 7-7 tie with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter.
At this point in the game, Bishop Gorman took over the role of giver, trying an ill-advised 4th-and-long attempt that resulted in Gilmer’s ball at their 42 yard line. Johnson led the Buckeyes on a 5-play, 58-yard drive capped off by his second touchdown on the night, this one a 3-yard run up the middle. After a missed extra point, the Buckeyes led 13-7 with 11:28 left in the first half.
The Black Flag Defense flexed their muscles the next series, holding the Gaels to no yards on three plays, forcing a Gorman punt that went to the Gilmer 35. The Buckeyes’ offense then proceeded on their longest scoring drive of the night, covering the 65 yards in nine plays. Kinne did the honors this time, diving into the end zone from a yard out for the touchdown. The Buckeyes lined up for the extra point attempt, but instead quickly snapped the ball, allowing Johnson to run in for the 2-point conversion, giving Gilmer a 21-7 lead with 7:07 remaining in the half.
Just as the Buckeyes looked to be pulling away from the Gaels, junior running back Keola Antolin put the Las Vegas team back into the game with a 50-yard touchdown run just four plays later, closing the score to 21-14 with 5:31 to play in the half.
That touchdown temporarily quieted the crowd of approximately 6,000 mostly Gilmer fans. “I know we had them sweating early,” opined Bishop Gorman head coach David White.
The ensuing kickoff by Bishop Gorman opened the floodgates to a Buckeyes’ 22-point scoring barrage over the final 5:17 of the half, putting the game out of reach, at intermission. Johnson bobbled the kickoff, picking up the ball at the 20-yard line just as Gorman defenders descended around him. This gave Johnson an opening and he took advantage, sprinting down the Gorman sideline untouched for the 80-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes would fake the extra-point attempt again; this time with holder Brennan Thompson throwing to Johnson for the 2-point play, making the score 29-14.
That gave the junior running back 22 points, as Johnson finished with 195 total yards and three touchdowns, despite not playing in the second half. “He’s a gifted athlete, and he played a good first half,” Traylor said. “I’m proud of him.”
Buckeyes’ linebacker Arsenial Richardson delivered a crushing blow three plays later when he picked off a Dylan Barrera pass on a tipped ball. Four plays later Kinne hit Brown from 15 yards out for the senior receiver’s first touchdown of the season. Burgin’s extra point attempt was good, giving Gilmer a 36-14 advantage with 2:27 left in the half.
Gilmer’s defense quickly forced another Gorman punt. Brown caught the ball at midfield and raced through the Gaels’ defenders all the way down to the 23-yard line. Four plays later Kinne hit Lamar Harris with a quick pass, allowing the junior receiver to break free for a 10-yard scoring strike with only 46 seconds remaining in the half, giving Gilmer a 43-14 lead.
Traylor was pleased that the first half provided his Buckeyes some challenges. “It was good for us to have a little adversity. It was really good for us to see how we would come back.” Brown agreed with his coach, “We kept our composure, and we played as a team. We just started making big plays.”
The Gaels came out in the second half determined to get back in the game, taking the opening kickoff and going on a nearly 6-minute drive, before the Buckeyes’ Jud Murry recovered a Gorman fumble on fourth down, giving Gilmer the ball at the Gaels’ 48-yard line. Six plays later, facing a 3rd-and-18 at the 20-yard line, Kinne found Brown in the end zone for the touchdown, and a 49-14 lead after another missed PAT, with 5:13 to play in the third quarter.
Following another Gorman punt, the Buckeyes finished the scoring when Kinne and Brown hooked up for their third touchdown, this one a 40-yarder with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter. Burgin’s PAT was good, making the final score 56-14.
Brown finished with four catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns, and added 18 yards on four carries to go along with his 29 yards on three punt returns.
While Kinne, Brown and Johnson made the headlines, Traylor attributed the win to, “Our depth; we just had so many players that played the game. They had about eight really good players, but they try to play them all both ways. I think our depth was the difference.”
White agreed with Traylor. “These kids saw some Texas football, and they got after us,” said White who became the first high school coach from Nevada to face a Texas team. “We knew they were good. They’re every bit as good as advertised. I would compare them to the best teams we’ve ever played. They’re a great program.”
Traylor quickly quelled White’s assessment. “We don’t need to get carried away; we’re not a national power by any means. We’re a 3A school that plays really good football,” said the Buckeye Boss, who saw his team rack up 429 total yards on offense, while his defense only allowed 194.
“I’m just glad that our first game is over. We’ve got a long weekend, and we’ll see where we are,” Traylor said, cautioning his team not to dwell on the big win against the Gaels, but to focus on next week’s opponent.
“If they don’t know about Tatum, then shame on them. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that. If we do, we’re not as mature as I thought we were. They know the difference between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Tatum, Texas; at least I hope they do.”
Kinne agreed with his coach. “We have to forget about the win. We have to go out there and work hard in practice next week. Vegas is a real good team, but they’re not in the same league as Tatum.”
11 First downs 19
41-144 Rushes-yds 28-147
5-17-2 Passing 14-28-2
50 Passing-yds 282
194 Total yds 429
29:25 Time of possession 18:35
8-62 Penalties-yds. 3-20
1 Fumbles lost 1
6-30 Punts-avg 0-0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 T
Gorman 7 7 0 0 14
Gilmer 7 36 13 0 56