Thursday, November 23, 2006

Liberty-Eylau stuns Gilmer in first round of playoffs, 39-36

As the final seconds ticked off the Longview Lobo Stadium scoreboard, and both teams converged at midfield to shake hands; thousands of Gilmer Buckeyes’ fans stood in stunned silence, shaking their heads in unrehearsed unison, refusing to believe the 39-36 score that sent the state’s No. 1-ranked team home after the first game of the playoffs.
After Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor congratulated Liberty-Eylau head coach Pat Brady, the Buckeyes’ boss found himself apologizing, instead of commenting on the next-round opponent. “I’m extremely sorry, I really am; to the team and the fans,” said a subdued Traylor in an interview with the Buckeyes’ Broadcasting Team. “Our team was good enough to do it, but we just didn’t get it done.”
Despite a perfect 10-0 regular season record, and breaking a 46-year old Class 3A scoring record, the Buckeyes will watch the remaining month of the high-school playoffs from the sidelines. Traylor was quick to credit the Liberty-Eylau Leopards for his team’s early off-season. “They outplayed us tonight,” Traylor said. “They played a perfect ball game. They had no turnovers, and we had two turnovers; and that was the difference in the ball game.”
Those two turnovers came in a 5-play stretch of the second half and helped the Leopards keep Gilmer off the field for all but six minutes after halftime. Until that 5-play stretch; the Buckeyes looked deserving of the Associated Press’ No. 1 ranking bestowed on them earlier in the week.
Gilmer elected to receive the opening kickoff, and start the game with the state’s most prolific offense on the field. As usual, Gilmer scored on their first possession, completing an unusually long 3:39 drive with a 5-yard G.J. Kinne touchdown run. Matt Burgin kicked the first of four extra points, to make the score 7-0.
Liberty-Eylau did their best Gilmer impression on their first series, answering the Buckeyes’ score with a 68-yard, 3-play touchdown drive that took only 22 seconds off the clock. Leopards’ quarterback Will Middlebrooks did the honors on a quarterback keeper from two yards out, evening the score at 7-7.
Inspired by the Leopards’ quick score, the Buckeyes’ offense came out on fire, going 72 yards in four plays, scoring on Kinne’s 39-yard pass to Lamar Harris, just 1:25 after the Leopards score. Justin Johnson ran in the 2-point conversion for a 15-7 Buckeyes’ lead.
Liberty-Eylau’s second possession would be a sign of things to come, as the Leopards kept the football for almost five minutes, and took advantage of a questionable fourth down penalty called against the Buckeyes’ defense to keep a touchdown drive alive. The drive started from the Liberty-Eylau 34-yard line. Twelve plays later, the Leopards faced a daunting 4th-down-and-8-yards-to-go from the Gilmer 20-yard line. Middlebrooks’ pass sailed over the head of his intended receiver and landed incomplete out of the back of the end zone. As Gilmer fans cheered in celebration, game officials called an interference penalty on a Buckeyes’ defender, despite the pass being uncatchable. Two plays later, Leopards’ running back LaMichael James made the Buckeyes’ defense look silly with an amazing 20-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Liberty-Eylau’s 2-point conversion attempt failed, so Gilmer kept the lead, 15-13, with 1:36 to play in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes ended their third possession and the first quarter with a punt following a rare 3-and-out series. But the Leopards couldn’t take advantage of the Gilmer punt, as the Black Flag Defense stopped a Liberty-Eylau 4th down attempt, and returned the football to the Gilmer offense at their own 35-yard line. Thanks in large part to a costly 3rd down penalty, the Buckeyes suffered a second straight 3-and-out series on their next possession, forcing Buckeyes’ punter Jake Manning to attempt back-to-back punts for the first time this season.
The Leopards returned the favor on their next series, when Midlebrooks’ punted for the first time. Curtis Brown watched the 66-yard punt sail over his head, before he caught up with the ball and returned it to the Gilmer 32-yard line. The Buckeyes scored 5 plays later when Kinne hit Brown in the end zone with a perfect 33-yard touchdown pass for a 22-13 lead with 3:19 left to play in the half.
Liberty-Eylau tried to answer, but the Buckeyes’ defense held firm, stopping the Leopards four yards short of a first down on a third down play with about 45 seconds left on the clock. The Buckeyes elected to not use one of their remaining two time-outs, allowing the clock to run down as the Leopards attempted another fourth down conversion. But the snap was fumbled by Middlebrooks, who fell on the football at the Liberty-Eylau 49-yard line with only 9 seconds remaining in the half. Kinne took a knee on the next snap, and the Buckeyes went to the locker room ahead by 9.
The Buckeyes kicked off to Liberty-Eylau to start the second half, and watched as the Leopards went on another long scoring drive kept alive by a questionable fourth down penalty called against the Buckeyes’ defense. Nine plays after starting at their 39-yard line, the Leopards faced a 4th-and-4 from the Buckeyes’ 19-yard line. Liberty-Eylau lined up to attempt a 36-yard field goal, only to have one of the Leopards’ lineman jump offsides. But when the referee announced the penalty, Gilmer fans were shocked to hear a 5-yard penalty called against the Buckeyes, giving the Leopards another first down. Three plays later, Middlebrooks took the ball into the end zone from 2 yards out, but failed on the 2-point attempt that followed, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 22-19 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Liberty-Eylau’s kickoff was fair-caught by the Buckeyes at their 18-yard line. Two plays later, the Buckeyes’ tailspin began when Gilmer lineman Cody Lee was injured with 6:18 left in the third quarter. After an almost 15-minute delay, the junior guard was removed from the field on a stretcher with a broken leg. The shaken Buckeyes returned to the field, only to turn the ball over two plays later when Kinne fumbled at the 32-yard line following a vicious hit.
The Buckeyes’ defense stiffened with the short field, forcing a Leopards’ third down and four yards to go from the 26-yard line. Once again, Middlebrooks’ pass fell incomplete to the cheers of Gilmer fans; and once again, the Leopards were given new life with a questionable Buckeyes’ penalty. A late flag, thrown from the other side of the field, was announced to the crowd of 8,000 as a defensive holding penalty against Gilmer, giving Liberty-Eylau a first down at the Buckeyes’ 15-yard line. James beat the Buckeyes’ defenders to the end zone on the next play, giving the Leopard’s their first lead of the game, 26-22, with 4:21 to play in the third quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Buckeyes’ Justin Johnson had the ball ricochet off of his chest, allowing the Leopards’ William Cridell to recover the fumble at the Gilmer 23-yard line. The Buckeyes’ defense managed to force another fourth down attempt by the Leopards, but this time Liberty-Eylau didn’t need help from the officials to convert the first down, as James picked up 10 yards on another impressive run, giving the Leopards a first down at the Buckeyes’ 4-yard line. Two plays later James finished the drive with a 5-yard scoring run, extending Liberty-Eylau’s lead to 32-22 after the Buckeyes blocked the point-after attempt.
Needing a score to keep the game within reach, the Buckeyes started their next possession from their 21-yard line. Gilmer could only manage one positive-yardage play in the series. Facing a fourth down, and needing 11 yards for a first down, Gilmer elected to punt to the Leopards on the first play of the fourth quarter.
That was all Liberty-Eylau needed, as the Leopards consumed another 5:03 off the clock with a 9-play, 63-yard drive consisting of all rushing plays, capped off by James’ third touchdown, giving the Leopards a 39-22 lead with only 6:46 to play in the game. James finished with 134 rushing yards on 22 carries, and added 58 yards on 6 catches.
“We couldn’t get a stop when we needed one,” lamented Traylor. “We just never could stop them when we had to have one.”
Down by 17, the Buckeyes’ offense came to life. Starting from their own 11-yard line, Gilmer traveled the 89-yards in 2:26, scoring on their 12th play when Kinne connected with Harris from 9 yards out, cutting the Leopards’ lead to 39-29 with 4:20 remaining.
The Buckeyes’ onside kick was recovered by the Leopards at their own 48-yard line, but Gilmer’s defense came up big, holding Liberty-Eylau to only their second three-and-out series of the game, forcing the Leopards to punt with 2:52 to play. The Buckeyes decided to go for the punt block, bringing all 11 players to the line of scrimmage, and not dropping a man deep to return the punt. The Buckeyes didn’t get the block, but Middlebrooks shanked the ball out of bounds at the Gilmer 35-yard line, with 2:44 left on the clock.
On the Buckeyes’ first play, Kinne hit Brown on a shovel pass. On what would turn out to be his final catch as a Buckeye, the senior receiver left Gilmer fans with an effort for the ages, breaking about seven tackles on his way to a 44-yard gain down to the Leopards’ 21-yard line. Brown finished with 171 total yards on only 9 offensive touches. Five plays later, Kinne dropped off a screen pass to Justin Johnson, who bulled his way in for the touchdown from 9-yards out, making the score 39-36 with 1:36 to play.
Out of time-outs, the Buckeyes had to recover the on-side kick for a final chance to tie or win the game. Burgin lined up facing the left-side of the field, only to come back to the right side with the dribbling kick. The Buckeyes executed the play perfectly, with four players blocking the Leopards away from the ball, and one Buckeyes’ player waiting to recover the ball once it traveled the required 10-yards. But the kick would only manage 8 yards before rolling out of bounds to the horror of the Gilmer crowd. The Leopards declined the re-kick and took the football at the Gilmer 48-yard line.
Four straight kneel-downs by Middlebrooks ended the game, and the Buckeyes’ hopes for a state championship. Traylor took the blame for the loss, admitting that he should have been more aggressive. “There are a couple of things I regret,” said Traylor, whose record fell to 71-14 in his seven years in Gilmer. “I regret punting the football on 4th-and-10. If I had to do it over again, I’d go for it. I thought we could stop them and we didn’t. And I regret right before halftime not calling a time out. We had played so well, I didn’t want to risk something bad happening right before halftime. I was willing to go in up nine points. When you look back now, those are two things I wish I could do over again. But hindsight is 20/20.”
Despite Traylor’s confession, he insisted that the Buckeyes’ were ready to face the Leopards. “Our coaches worked harder than they ever have. Our players worked harder than they ever have. This is the most prepared we’ve ever been.”
When asked his thoughts on his Buckeyes nearly coming back from 17 points down to win, Traylor simply said, “They don’t ever surprise me; they’re going to fight you till the death.”
Traylor said that his message to the team after the season’s final game is always the same. “It hasn’t changed in seven years. We’ve told every group the same thing the last game. In 20 years, I hope that they have successful jobs, and I hope they have children that love them. And I hope they’re proud of what the program is in 20 years when they come back. I hope they sit up in those stands and know what we’re teaching those young men. We want them to be successful men. If they don’t do that, then they didn’t learn anything from us.”
Gilmer Liberty-Eylau
18 First downs 21
22-69 Rushes-yds 49-175
18-29-0 Passing 13-17-0
298 Passing yds 172
367 Total yds 347
6-39 Penalties-yds 8-75
2 Fumbles lost 0
17:31 Time of possession 28:53
1 2 3 4 T
Gilmer 15 7 0 14 36
L-E 13 0 19 7 39

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
GILMER’S CURTIS BROWN (3) takes the handoff from QB G.J. Kinne (16), left, in the first half and follows the block of Justin Johnson (22), right, to pick up yardage against Texarkana Liberty-Eylau Friday night. One of Brown’s patented direction-changing runs sparked the Buckeyes’ final touchdown drive. Liberty-Eylau staved off a Gilmer comeback to win the Class 3A Division I bi-district game at Lobo Stadium in Longview, 39-36.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
BUCKEYE DEFENDERS Arsenial Richardson (44), left, and David Smith (33) try to stop LaMichael James and Darian Godfrey (20) closes in as James uses a handstand to vault himself into the end zone for the final Liberty-Eylau touchdown. In background is Kezie Camp (18).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Liberty-Eylau beats Gilmer at own game

High School Football Playoffs: Liberty-Eylau beats Gilmer at own game

Texarkana Gazette

LONGVIEW, Texas—Liberty-Eylau coach Pat Brady had a change of heart last Sunday while he considered his gameplan for 3A’s top-ranked Gilmer Buckeyes.

“It seemed like everyone was saying you can’t get into a scoring fest with Gilmer,” Brady said a day after watching his Leopards shock the previously unbeaten Buckeyes, 39-36. “I decided early last Sunday that we had to pull out everything we have on offense and score as often as they scored.”

The strategy worked well early in the game with both teams scoring on their first two possessions, but the game turned L-E’s way with two Gilmer turnovers in the third quarter. The Leopards scored 26 unanswered points to build a 39-22 lead, and then survived a furious rally by the Buckeyes in the final six minutes of the game.

“Gilmer didn’t lose this game, we won it,” Brady said. “I think it all started with the schemes planned by the coaching staff, and the players executing those schemes. That’s why we won this game.”

It was evident from start to finish how much L-E respected Gilmer’s big-play potential. The Buckeyes still made big plays, but the Leopards’ defense rose to the occasion more than once, forcing Gilmer to punt three times.

Gilmer senior Curtis Brown was involved in all 36 of the Buckeyes’ points. He raced 88 yards on four carries, and gained another 81 on five pass receptions. Senior quarterback G.J. Kinne also demonstrated his special skills, completing 15 of 25 passes for 239 yards and 4 TDs. He finished the year with 47 touchdown passes and 3,181 yards, and he only threw one interception.

“Gilmer is a very athletic football team. I saw Kinne out there playing safety,” Brady said. “Brown is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen on a field. He has more impact on their team than anyone wants to give credit.”

But so much for Gilmer, because the Leopards had all the answers needed.

Junior tailback LaMichael James enjoyed his best schoolboy game according to Brady. He rushed for 142 yards and 3 TDs, while catching five passes for 58 yards and another touchdown. He also saw considerable action on defense.

“That was the LaMichael I’ve expected to see all year,” Brady said. “He hasn’t had that type of game all year.”

“That was the LaMichael I’ve expected to see all year,” Brady said. “He hasn’t had that type of game all year.”

Senior Will Middlebrooks was also a major contributor with two rushing touchdowns, while completing 11 of 14 passes for 170 yards and a TD. He also saw considerable duty on defense, and was credited with one of the game’s biggest hits.

The list of L-E stars only begins there.

“I thought the turnovers were the turning point in the game, but our special teams played a huge role in this game,” Brady said. “Our offensive line has stepped it up the last three weeks, and I can’t emphasize what important role James Batts is playing at fullback.

Gilmer running back Justin Johnson came into the game with more than 1,000 yards and was averaging over 11 yards per carry. He had 15 yards on seven carries against L-E.

“Devin Bruce is an impact player for us on defense. Our defense really played well. You had to be there. We knew going in that they were going to score some points.”

Brady said he never worried about a letdown after losing the District 16-3A title game to Atlanta.

“We played well in that game and lost,” he said. “You’ve got to understand from Day 1 we talk all the time about “Season 3” (playoffs) being the most important thing. It’s why Atlanta is still in the playoffs.”

Now the shoe is on the other foot. L-E will be the favorite next week when its plays Tyler Chapel Hill. That game was tentatively set for Hallsville Friday night, but could change depending on the outcome of Hallsville’s playoff game Saturday afternoon.

“You’re talking about Friday night high school football in Texas where anything can happen,” Brady said.

Proof of that was on the scoreboard Friday night at Longview High School’s Lobo Stadium.

Tickets for the Leopards’ next playoff game go on sale Monday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the LEISD Administrative Offices on Leopard Drive. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. All tickets will be $7 at the gate.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Buckeyes face Liberty-Eylau in first round of playoffs at Lobo Stadium

Buckeyes begin title run

When the UIL’s bi-annual realignment was announced in February, both Gilmer and Liberty-Eylau knew that a trip to the football playoffs would mean a first round match-up between the two teams, since both schools shared the distinction of having the largest enrollment numbers in their respective districts. When Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine hit the store shelves this summer, that probable meeting was enhanced to include Class 3A’s preseason ranked No. 1 and No. 3 teams in an epic battle to advance to the second round.
Now it’s here. The 10-0 Gilmer Buckeyes face the 7-3 Liberty-Eylau Leopards Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Longview’s Lobo Stadium. For Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor, and Liberty-Eylau head coach Pat Brady, the game is the culmination of a lot of anticipation.
“I’ve known for a year that we were playing Liberty-Eylau,” said Traylor.
“One of the things I’ve avoided talking about all year is the Gilmer game,” Brady admitted. “But I think from the get-go, my kids knew that is who we’d play in the first round. I know this spring in track meets, they would talk about it.”
There are many reasons for the anticipation among the two teams. The schools haven’t met on the football field since 1979. Both teams have captured state championships recently; Liberty-Eylau in 1999, and Gilmer in 2004. But perhaps most of the anticipation comes from the number of great athletes each team will have on the field Friday night.
“Our kids know that Gilmer’s loaded with talent,” said Brady, when asked about a Buckeyes offense that averages 529 yards and 55 points per game. “They see the scores every week, and they know how many points they are putting on teams. They know that we’re going to have to play really well to compete against them.”
Now take a look at the next quote. Who said this? “We have got to find a way to tackle their running back; he is that good. Their quarterback is that good. Their receivers and tight ends are that good. They have a lot of division one talent out on the field, and just a lot of athletic ability. Our defense will have their hands full Friday night.”
If you guessed Brady, you’d be wrong. That quote came from Traylor, who insists that the Leopards “… are the best 7-3 football team that we’ve ever played against.” Traylor, who has led his alma mater to a 71-13 record since his arrival in 2000, gave high praise to the District 16-3A runners-up. “Athletically, they’re as good as anyone we have ever played. That includes Atlanta, Tatum, Daingerfield and Jasper. They’re no different than any of those great, athletic teams we’ve played in the past.”
Senior Will Middlebrooks (6-4, 197) is the Leopard’s primary weapon. The Texas A&M baseball signee, leads the team with 968 yards passing and is among the best punters and kickers in the state of Texas. LaMichael James (5-10, 185) leads the team in rushing with 954 yards and 10 touchdowns on only 136 carries. “LaMichael James is a (NCAA) Division One tailback,” commented Traylor. “He beat Curtis Brown in the 100-meter dash; that’s how fast he is.”
Despite all of that talent, the Leopards didn’t reach the lofty expectations that their preseason ranking gave them, losing games to Wimberley, Mount Pleasant and Atlanta.
“You look at them and you can’t figure out how they lost three games,” questioned Traylor. “Then you start looking at it; and Middlebrooks was hurt for two games, so that explains two of their losses. Then you look at how they lost the last one. They were in Atlanta, playing for a district championship; where it went to overtime, and they committed a 15-yard penalty in overtime, where I’m not sure Atlanta would have scored without that penalty.”
That would be the same Rabbits team that Gilmer obliterated 49-12 a month earlier in Atlanta. “I think our kids understand that we played Atlanta in week five, and not week ten,” said Traylor. “I could tell you right now, that if we had to go to Atlanta and play for the district championship in Atlanta; we’d probably be in overtime with Atlanta.”
Gilmer quarterback G.J. Kinne agreed that Liberty-Eylau’s 20-17 loss to Atlanta doesn’t change his opinion of the Leopards. “I don’t think so. Anything can happen on any Friday,” said the senior signal-caller, who has thrown for 2,962 yards and 43 touchdowns for the season. Despite those impressive numbers, Kinne feels the Buckeyes haven’t played a complete game this season. “We’re a really good ball team, but we’re not anywhere close to where we can be,” Kinne stated. “I think we’ll show a lot this week of what we’ve got. We’re going to come out ready. The seniors are going to take it on their shoulders and we’re going to step it up. We’ll be ready this week.”
Traylor admitted that the Buckeyes got their own wake-up call in the regular season’s final game against Gladewater, a 49-21 Gilmer win. “I think it definitely got our attention,” said Traylor. “I mean we’re talking about a team that only won four games this year; and they played us a competitive ball game. I think it got our attention.”
Most of that attention is focused on the Buckeyes’ defense which has allowed only 227 yards and 14.8 points per game this season, but now, according to Traylor, “We’re as outmatched, athletically with our defense compared to their offense as any game I’ve ever gone into.” The Leopards average 316 yards and 25.6 points per game. “They’re not a big play team, as much as they are a grind-it-out team,” Traylor stated. “I know with the talent they have, 40 points a game ought to be a piece of cake.”
Despite Traylor’s praise, Brady isn’t as convinced of his offense’s ability to score. “We can’t get in a scoring match with them,” Brady said. “We can’t score as quickly in our type of offense. But we can’t worry about that. What we have to worry about is what we can do; and what we can do, we have to do it very well.”
Brady also discounted the perception that Gilmer is an offensive-only scoring machine. “There are 11 pretty good athletes on the defense too. They can do things to hurt you, if you make mistakes.”
The Buckeyes’ athleticism on defense has forced opponents into 37 turnovers this season. Those take-aways are often followed by a lightning-quick scoring strike from the Buckeyes’ offense. “You can’t make mistakes,” implored Brady. “One of the things that they do is when you make a mistake, they take advantage of it, and they go for the kill. And when they do, it’s a demoralizing thing. It’s a momentum-changer. It almost makes you feel helpless when you turn the ball over and the next play is a touchdown.”
Mistakes are a common theme for Brady when he talks about playing the Buckeyes. “When you make a mistake, it’s like pouring blood in water full of sharks, with Gilmer,” Brady said. They’re going to pounce on it, and they’re going to make you pay for it.”
Traylor insisted that the same is true for Liberty-Eylau’s offense, if the Buckeyes’ defense makes a mistake. “They’ve got five players that can take it and score at anytime. Anytime; they can go to the house.”
Brady’s assessment of the Buckeyes’ offense mirrored Traylor’s claim about the Leopards. “We can’t concentrate on Brown, because then Johnson is going to kill us,” said Brady. “For that matter, if we concentrate on Brown and Johnson, there are two or three other kids that can hurt you bad.”
A total of 15 players have scored touchdowns for Gilmer this season, with Justin Johnson’s 16 scores, and Curtis Brown’s 15 end zone trips leading the way for a Buckeyes’ team that averages 7.5 touchdowns per game. To slow down such a high-powered offense; Brady said, “You want to try to make them beat you with something they don’t do well; and I don’t know what that is.”
Brady did admit that the Leopards match up well against the Buckeyes. “If we play as good as we can play, we can be a pretty good football team too. If we play well, then it should be a good game,” stated Brady, who has an impressive 25-10 record in his three years as Leopard’s head coach.
Traylor pointed out that one of the Buckeyes’ usual advantages over a team is null and void against the Leopards. “Liberty-Eylau is used to playing real deep into the playoffs,” Traylor said. “This ain’t their first rodeo.”
Traylor is also worried about his initial meeting against the Leopards coming in a playoff game. “I don’t do so well against teams the first time,” stated Traylor. “I think I’m a slow learner. We lost to Daingerfield the first time, Spring Hill the first time, Tatum the first time, Atlanta the first time, and Canton the first time. I hope I can figure them out a little quicker this time than I have in the past.”
Did you know?
Liberty-Eylau owns a 10-2 all-time record against Gilmer. The two teams met for 12 consecutive years, starting in 1968 with the Leopards’ 21-14 victory. The Buckeyes’ two wins came in 1970 and 1973, while Liberty-Eylau won the last meeting in 1979.
Directions to Lobo Stadium
From Gilmer, take State Highway 300 approximately 17 miles to Longview. Turn left (east) onto Loop 281 for 2.8 miles, and turn left (north) onto Airline Drive. Stadium is on the left.
Scout Team
Players of the Week
Offense: Travis Lee
Defense: Shaquile Ector

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
BUCKEYE SENIOR Curtis Brown scores from 56 yards out after catching a G.J. Kinne pass against Gladewater. In background is Dakota Hagler (70). Gilmer plays Liberty-Eylau on Friday night, Nov. 17, in Longview.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curtis can fly ... literally

Photo / Jocelyne Carter

CURTIS BROWN goes airborne for a pass during a 7-on-7 last summer at Buckeye Stadium. The Longhorns need him RIGHT NOW in the secondary, but fortunately he's still a Buckeye for at least the next month.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Class 3A Division I Playoff Brackets

AP Poll after Week 10

Team Rec Pts Pvs
1. Gilmer (6) 10-0 184 2
2. Cuero (12) 10-0 183 1
3. Giddings (2) 10-0 160 3
4. West Orange-Stark 10-0 144 4
5. Celina 10-0 119 5
6. Decatur 10-0 92 6
7. Madison 9-0 73 7
8. Wimberley 9-1 60 8
9. Liberty Hill 7-2 31 9
10. Hondo 10-0 25 10
Also receiving votes: 11, Sweetwater 5. 12, Snyder 4. 12, Port Isabel 4. 12, Palestine 4. 15, Abilene Wylie 3. 15, Hutto 3. 17, Bellville 2. 17, Diboll 2. 19, Royse City 1. 19, Monahans 1.

Local High School Football Scene: Liberty-Eylau

Texarkana Gazette

LAST WEEK: Atlanta’s Brandon Stiger scored on fourth down in overtime to earn the Rabbs the District 16-3A championship with a 20-17 victory over the Leopards.

THIS WEEK: The Leopards challenge second-ranked Gilmer in 3A bi-district play Friday night at Longview High School’s Lobo Stadium.

OFFENSIVE STANDOUTS: The L-E coaching staff bragged on the offensive line. Quarterback Will Middlebrooks did not enjoy a great night throwing the ball, but still threw 41 and 62-yard touchdown passes to Jermaine Waller and LaMichael James respectively. Middlebrooks kicked a 34-yard field goal in overtime and averaged 57.5 yards punting, including 78 and 73-yard kicks. James had 4 catches and also rushed for 80 yards.

DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS: Junior linebacker Charles Jones had 13 tackles, 2 behind the line of scrimmage. He also caused a fumble. Cory Cook had 10 tackles and recovered a fumble, while Stedmon Dewberry was credited with 9 tackles.

PAT BRADY’S POST-GAME COMMENTS: “We’ve got to put the Atlanta game behind us. We’re now starting our third season. I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting ready for Gilmer, we’ve known for a long time this game was coming. Our gameplan was to throw the ball against Atlanta, because other teams had thrown on them successfully. After watching the film I wish we had run the ball more. I thought we played well defensively. We gave them short field on turnover, and then they made a great call with the halfback pass. The facemask penalty in overtime just killed us. I really thought this was one of the best games I’ve been involved in during my coaching career. It was very evenly matched and it was very physical. We just came out on the short end.”

WR Johnson out for No. 16 Sooners

NORMAN (AP) - Oklahoma receiver Manuel Johnson will not play Saturday against Baylor after being knocked out on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Sooners' game against Texas Tech this weekend.

Johnson, who has 23 catches for 255 yards this season, had started the previous three games before the No. 16 Sooners (8-2, 5-1 Big 12) opened in a three tight end set against the Red Raiders.

"They're not having him do anything yet. They'll start getting him into some lifting and some exercising the middle of the week but he won't play this week," coach Bob Stoops said.

Johnson was hospitalized after the game Saturday but returned home on Sunday.

"He's all right. He looks normal. He got a concussion. A real bad concussion is what he had," said Malcolm Kelly, a fellow receiver and one of Johnson's roommates. "He came home yesterday, laughing and joking like there wasn't nothing wrong. He's cool."

Johnson had just caught a 4-yard pass when he and Texas Tech's Chris Parker collided and hit helmets. Johnson had to be carted off the field and taken to a waiting ambulance.

"His whole body was just stiff, kind of like you see a squirrel laying on the side of the road. That's how he was, just laying on the ground," said Kelly, who also was the first to attend to Johnson.

"It scared me, and I asked the trainer what was wrong with him and then he acted like he didn't want to tell me, like it was something real bad. So then I got real mad."

Kelly said Johnson was completely still for about 35 seconds before he opened his eyes, appearing as though he didn't know where he was. Kelly said Johnson didn't speak to him and didn't make any movements.

Stoops said he also didn't speak to Johnson but saw him communicating with medical personnel.

Before the injury, Johnson had set career-highs with six catches for 87 yards. The sophomore also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass.

"He said all he remembered was getting tackled and then waking up in the X-ray room," Kelly said.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lobo Stadium

The Gilmer Buckeyes (10-0) will take on the Texarkana Liberty-Eylau Leopards (7-3) at Lobo Stadium in Longview on Friday night, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. This is a Class 3A Division I bi-district game. The winner will face the winner of the Mabank-Tyler Chapel Hill game.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gilmer 49, Gladewater 21
Buckeyes win battle of G-Towns

From the Longview News-Journal
From the Tyler Morning Telegraph

The Gilmer Buckeyes claimed their sixth straight undefeated district championship Friday night at Jack V. Murphy Stadium in Gladewater as the Buckeyes dominated the Bears 49-21. Gilmer improved their district winning streak to 29 games, and finished regular season play with a perfect 10-0 record for the third time in the past four years.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a commanding 28-0 first quarter lead, and then held on as Gladewater used ball control, big plays, and Gilmer fumbles to play the Buckeyes to a 21-21 draw for the remaining three quarters.
“You have to give Gladewater credit. Their kids played hard and never quit,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor. “It was a good wake-up call for us the last three quarters; so we’ve got a lot to work on,” added Traylor, who will lead the Buckeyes against Liberty-Eylau in the first round of the playoffs this Friday night.
Gilmer’s Jamell Kennedy returned the opening kickoff to the Buckeyes’ 38-yard line. It took the Buckeyes only four plays to cover the 62 yards, as Gilmer quarterback G.J. Kinne delivered a strike to Curtis Brown from 24 yards out for a touchdown. Matt Burgin kicked the first of seven straight extra-points, giving the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead with only two minutes off the clock.
The Bears didn’t seem fazed by the Gilmer score, as they took the kickoff back to their 45-yard line and proceeded on an impressive drive into Buckeyes’ territory. But on first down from Gilmer’s 32-yard line, Bears’ quarterback Brandon Gibbons fumbled to the Buckeyes’ Wes Wynne, who recovered the football at the 33-yard line. Gilmer’s Justin Johnson returned the favor on the next play, coughing up the ball to the Bears’ Devvyn Eddington at the 39-yard line.
Gladewater’s offense picked up where it had left off, driving down to the Gilmer 26-yard line, before the Buckeyes’ Lamar Harris stepped in front of a Gibbons pass at the 18-yard line and returned the interception 88 yards for a touchdown. “The play of the game to me was Lamar Harris’ interception return for a touchdown,” Traylor said. “It was still 7-0 at that point, and they were in our end of the field with the wind at their back. That was the turning point of the ball game.”
Traylor took advantage of the momentum swing, electing to attempt an onside kick, which the Buckeyes’ Dunterius Goodman recovered at the Bears’ 44-yard line. Three plays later, Kinne hit Brennan Thompson on an 11-yard touchdown to take a 21-0 lead with 3:19 remaining in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes opted again for an onside kick, due in large part to a gusting wind in their face; but this time the Bears recovered at the 50-yard line. The Buckeyes’ Black Flag defense accepted the short-field challenge, and forced the Bears to punt four plays later. Gladewater’s Dwight Johnson boomed the punt to the Gilmer goal line, where the Buckeyes’ Dustin Jones returned the punt to the 9-yard line.
On the next play, Kinne handed the ball off to Justin Johnson, who went untouched up the middle for a 91-yard touchdown run, giving Gilmer a 28-0 lead with only 24 seconds left in the first quarter. “We played really well the first quarter,” understated Traylor who added, “From the second quarter on, we looked like the Dallas Cowboys. We had turnovers, we had tons of penalties, and we gave up big plays. The second quarter on, was as bad as we’ve played in a while.”
The Bears looked like a different team in the second quarter, as Gladewater controlled the clock for nine minutes and kept the Buckeyes off the scoreboard. The Bears’ first drive of the quarter lasted almost seven minutes, but ended with another punt that pinned the Buckeyes at their 3-yard line. This time, there was no big play for Gilmer, as the Buckeyes punted the ball back to the Bears four plays later.
Gladewater took possession of the football at their 42-yard line and proceeded on an 8-play, 58-yard drive, punctuated with a 7-yard touchdown run by the Bears’ Edwin Harris with only 52 seconds to play in the first half cutting the Buckeyes lead to 28-7.
Despite the short amount of time remaining in the half, the Buckeyes’ offense was looking to score, and got off to a great start when Kinne found Brown for a 49-yard gain on the series first play. But the Gilmer drive would stall, and force a Buckeyes’ field goal attempt. Burgin’s 24-yard kick was good, but the Buckeyes were flagged for an offensive penalty, that took the points off the scoreboard, and forced Burgin to try again from 29 yards out. This time the Bears broke through the Gilmer line and blocked the kick as time expired in the first half.
The Bears received the second-half kickoff and managed only 4 yards in 3 plays, before punting to the Buckeyes’ 38-yard line. Gilmer’s Justin Johnson took the hand-off on the next play, and had the ball stripped from him for the second time in the game, giving the ball back to the Bears at the Gladewater 38-yard line.
The Bears used 7 straight runs to methodically move down to the Gilmer 6-yard line, before the Buckeyes’ defense came to life with an inspired goal line stand that turned the Bears back on four straight runs inside the 6-yard line, forcing Gladewater to turn the ball over on downs at the 1-yard line.
The Buckeyes’ offense made use of the momentum shift, going 99 yards in only 3 plays, with Kinne finding a wide-open Kennedy for a 59-yard touchdown pass with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter to advance Gilmer’s lead to 35-7.
Gladewater took advantage of an overly aggressive Buckeyes’ defense on their next possession. Faced with a 2nd down-and-23 from their own 22-yard line, Gibbons scrambled under heavy pressure from the Gilmer pass rush, desperately throwing the football high into the air downfield. The Bears’ Dirk Martin outjumped the Buckeyes’ remaining secondary, caught the ball, turned around and raced untouched the remaining 60 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, cutting the Gilmer lead to 35-14 with 11:46 to play in the game.
The Buckeyes’ offense responded quickly; just two plays later, Kinne hit Brown across the middle on a wide-receiver screen. Brown caught the ball and bounced off a vicious hit from a Bears’ defender, then turned on the speed and raced 56 yards for his second touchdown of the game; giving the Buckeyes a 42-14 advantage only 46 seconds after the Bears’ score. Brown finished with 129 yards on only 3 catches, but was not happy with his team’s overall performance.
“We played real bad, I think. We should have had at least 60 points,” claimed Brown. “We made stupid mistakes, so we’ve got to fix that.”
The Buckeyes’ defense forced another Bears’ 3-and-out on the next series, giving the Gilmer offense the football on their 25-yard line. The Buckeyes final scoring drive of the game consisted of 8 plays, and was capped off with Kinne’s screen pass to Justin Johnson, who took it 37 yards for his second touchdown of the game. Justin Johnson finished with 232 total yards on only 12 touches, and earned the praise of his head coach, who forgave the junior running back for his two fumbles. “He’s a great running back, that’s all there is to say about him,” Traylor said.
After yet another 3-and-out series by the Bears; the Buckeyes’ backups gave Gladewater a gift when the Bears’ Eddington picked up a Ross Stevens fumble at the 12-yard line and scooted into the end zone untouched for the touchdown, making the final score 49-21.
“We didn’t play very well at all,” opined Kinne, who finished the game with 300 yards passing and 5 touchdowns to 4 different receivers. Despite Kinne’s assessment of the team’s performance against the Bears, the senior quarterback admitted that this undefeated regular season has been special. “It feels good. It was a total team effort; linemen, receivers, running backs, defense; everyone stepped it up and we just had a really great year, and hopefully we’ve got five more games.”

Gilmer Gladewater
20 First downs 13
15-209 Rushes-yds 40-140
14-23-0 Passing 5-14-1
324 Passing-yds 118
533 Total yds 258
10-71 Penalties-yds 11-80
3 Fumbles lost 2
15:11 Time of possession 32:49
1 2 3 4 T
Gilmer 28 0 7 14 49
Gladewater 0 7 0 14 21

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
AFTER CATCHING a G.J. Kinne pass, Brennan Thompson (12) scores from 11 yards out with blocking help from Chip Elms (54). Gilmer won, 49-21, to capture the District 15-3A title outright.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
ON FOURTH AND ONE foot, a wall of white forms to thwart Gladewater’s Edwin Harris in his run toward the end zone. Gilmer’s Wes Wynne (11), Jules Johnson (4), Dunterius Goodman (2), Jeremy Reeves (32) and David Smith (33) are joined by Darian Godfrey (20) in stopping the final Gladewater try.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
JOSH NELSON (28) leads the Gilmer Buckeyes onto the field in Gladewater last Friday night. The Buckeyes defeated the Gladewater Bears, 49-21, to achieve their sixth straight district championship without a loss. Gilmer also has now gone undefeated in regular season in three out of the last four years. “Son of a Champion” is this year’s team motto, a tribute to Nelson, who has been battling leukemia. The Buckeyes (10-0) will face the Liberty-Eylau Leopards (7-3) Friday night, Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Longview’s Lobo Stadium. This will be a Class 3A Division I bi-district game.

Gilmer travels to Gladewater in search of sixth straight district title

The Gilmer Buckeyes have a lot at stake Friday night when they travel the 15 miles south to Jack V. Murphy Bear Stadium to take on longtime rival Gladewater in the final game of the regular season. With a win, the Buckeyes will capture their sixth consecutive undefeated district championship. With a win, the Buckeyes will complete their third undefeated regular season in the past four seasons. With a win, the Buckeyes will extend their district winning streak to 29 games. With a loss… well, Buckeyes head coach Jeff Traylor doesn’t want to think about what a loss would do. “Obviously if we lose, we’re sharing the district championship with Spring Hill and Gladewater, and that’s worse than kissing your sister,” said Traylor.
Traylor leads his Buckeyes into Bear country with a perfect 9-0 season record, and a number one state ranking according to many polls. Gladewater (4-5 overall, 3-1 district) enters the game as 36-point underdogs, needing a win to assure them of a playoff spot the following week. Gilmer’s first round playoff game is set, with the Buckeyes meeting Liberty-Eylau next Friday at Longview’s Lobo Stadium.
“You play every game, every week to win; so that’s our goal here, to win the ball game,” said Bears’ head coach Scott Callaway. “Whether it’s to get in (to the playoffs) or just playing for pride; we’re going in to this week with a goal of trying to win this ball game.” Callaway is no stranger to winning ball games. He lead the Big Sandy Wildcats to a 51-14 record and an appearance in last year’s 1A state championship game, before moving down Highway 80 to Gladewater in the off-season.
Traylor can appreciate Callaway’s challenge at Gladewater. Like Callaway, Traylor was charged with taking over a storied football program when he arrived in Gilmer in 2000. Traylor’s first game as Buckeyes’ head coach was against the Bears. “In 2000, Gladewater was state-ranked, and we were the underdogs,” said Traylor. “They were kicking our tails all over the field out here, and we just kept hanging with them, and finally we came back and beat them.” Traylor still considers Gilmer’s 42-21 win that night one of his greatest. It also helps him put this matchup in perspective.
“This game reminds me of that one,” stated Traylor. “We’re the established program now; we’re the state-ranked program and they’re the program with a first-year head coach, so that immediately gets my guard up because I know that anything can happen.” Traylor also knows that, “It’s Gilmer-Gladewater, so you can throw the records out the window.”
“It’s a rivalry week,” continued Traylor. “Our kids are excited about this week. We’ll have a great week of practice, and it will be fun. We’ll go over there and the hair will be standing up on your neck.”
Callaway may be new to Gladewater, but he realizes how important this game is. “You know there’s pride at stake for both communities; it’s a big ballgame for each school, and each program,” said Callaway. “We know we’re going to get their best game. We know they’re going to be prepared, and they’re going to play to their best; and that’s what our goal is also for our team; just come out and play the best that we can.”
Traylor said that despite his team’s playoff matchup already being set, the Buckeyes have too much at stake to think about resting their starters against the Bears. “We’re going over there to play,” Traylor said. “There’s not a bigger game on our schedule than Gladewater. We won’t take them lightly. We’ll prepare hard this week, and we’re going over there to win.”
Traylor knows how to win against the Bears. He sports a 5-1 record against Gladewater, including four wins in a row. The Buckeyes have outscored the Bears in those six games by an average of 41-16. Despite his success against them, Traylor still harbors a healthy respect for his arch-rival. “Athletically, they scare me. They’ve got some kids that can play,” said Traylor. “Coach Callaway is in his first year, and he’s trying to learn those kids and get them in the right positions. By the end of the year; he’s got that figured out and they’re playing a lot better football right now than they were earlier in the year.”
Earlier in the year, Gladewater struggled to a 1-4 non-district record. After beating Pine Tree to start the season, the Bears lost their next four games to Rains, Rusk, Wills Point and Lindale. Not exactly losses to be ashamed of, since those four teams have a combined record of 24-12 this season. The Bears’ only district loss was to Spring Hill, a 51-16 setback just three weeks ago. Since then, Gladewater has been impressive in wins over White Oak and Sabine by a combined score of 99-27.
Callaway said that his team knows the odds are stacked against them. “It would be a huge win,” Callaway said. “Nobody’s really expecting us to win this ball game. It would be nice to have a win, but we know that we have a big task at hand this Friday.”
Traylor finished his preview with this statement: “It ought to be a wild and exciting night.”
When Gladewater has the football
Callaway brought the spread offense with him to Gladewater. The Bears seem to be learning quickly, as Gladewater averages 30.5 points per game. Senior quarterback Brandon Gibbons is 96-of-189 passing for 1,376 yards and 15 touchdowns, with just 3 interceptions. Senior Carwin Cooper leads the Bears ground attack with 572 yards and 5 touchdowns on 85 carries. “Their quarterback (Brandon Gibbons) started last year, and he can play,” said Traylor. “Gibbons can run and throw. Edwin Harris, the tailback, can play. Jason Prince is a great offensive lineman; he’s a returning starter. Cameron Cockerel is a great offensive lineman. Carwin Cooper at receiver, can really play. So they’ve got some kids that can go.”
The Buckeyes counter with a defense that doesn’t get a lot of respect from the fans, despite allowing only 14 points per game so far this season. Traylor said that isn’t fair. “Our defense has played well all year except for one half at Daingerfield. Other than that one hiccup, our defense has been great.” Gladewater’s Callaway agrees. “I’m pretty impressed with their defense also,” Callaway stated. “They’re creating a lot of opportunities for their offense now.”
Linebackers Arsenial Richardson (111 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions) and Dominique Buchanan (72 tackles, 1 forced fumble) lead a Buckeyes’ defense that has forced 34 turnovers in nine games, while allowing only 132 yards rushing and 92 yards passing per game.
When Gilmer has the football
The Bears also mirror the Buckeyes’ defense with the 50 scheme, to take advantage of their team speed. Senior defensive end Dwight Johnson and sophomore linebacker Cardarian Lewis lead a Bears’ defense that has given up 34.2 points per game. A Buckeyes’ offense that averages 56 points and 528 total yards per game will be Gladewater’s toughest challenge of the season. “They’re a very talented football team across the board,” stated Callaway.
Traylor said that despite the point totals the Bears have given up; Gladewater’s defense is improving. “Edwin Harris, their middle linebacker, he’s a stud; he can play. (DE) Dwight Johnson; he can play. (LB) Cardarian Lewis; he can play. (FS) Devvyn Eddington; he can play. (CB) Carwin Cooper started for us in junior high, so I know he can play.”
Did you know?
Gladewater leads the all-time series 25-23-2. Gilmer won the first meeting 77-0 in 1929. From 1929 to 1971 the Bears led the series 9-8-1. From 1972 through 1990, Gladewater dominated the series 14-2-1. The Buckeyes have been the dominant team since 1991, leading the series 13-2. The two teams have met every year since 1980.
Despite leading all Class 3A teams in scoring with 505 points in nine games; the Buckeyes need 58 points against Gladewater just to break the team’s regular season scoring mark set in 1930. The 1930 team scored 562 points in their first 10 games, on their way to an 11-2 season record.
Directions to Jack V. Murphy Bear Stadium
Take U.S. Highway 271 South 14 miles to Gladewater. Turn right onto West Gay Avenue and go 1.5 miles. Stadium will be on the left.
Scout Team
Players of the Week
Offense: Kedon Franklin
Defense: Joseph Crocker

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
THE BLACK FLAG defense closes in on Spring Hill’s Max Garcia (25) as Zach Jones (13), Arsenial Richardson (44), David Smith (33) and Dunterius Goodman (2).

Buckeyes win 28th straight district game, 55-7, over Spring Hill

To understand just how thoroughly the Gilmer Buckeyes dominated the Spring Hill Panthers, you just have to look at the numbers. Gilmer quarterback G.J. Kinne passed for 429 yards and five touchdowns. The Buckeyes’ offense had 457 total yards, while the Buckeyes’ defense held the Panthers to only 112 total yards. And those were only the first-half statistics, as Gilmer jumped out to a 41-7 lead at intermission, on their way to a 55-7 victory over the Panthers.
Kinne finished with 456 yards passing and five touchdowns, while completing 15 of 21 passes. The Buckeyes’ offense finished with a season-high 684 total yards, including 211 yards rushing, as Gilmer improved their season record to 9-0 and their district record to 4-0. Spring Hill managed just 176 total yards, as the Panthers fell to 5-4 for the season, and 3-1 in district play. The win was the Buckeyes’ 28th straight in district play, dating back to the 2000 season; and the team’s 20th consecutive win at Buckeye Stadium. Gilmer’s last loss at home was in 2002.
“I was surprised at my own team,” said Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor. “We were so physical. We were really dominating the football game in every aspect; and that was a pleasant surprise to me. I knew we were going to play, but I didn’t know we were going to play at that level. I was as surprised as anyone at halftime.”
While Traylor was pleasantly surprised, the Panthers were shell-shocked. Buckeyes’ senior receiver Curtis Brown, who had missed the last three games due to an injury, made his presence known on the third play of the game, when he streaked up the home sideline, and Kinne hit him in stride for a 74-yard touchdown just 55 seconds into the game. Brown finished with 158 yards on only three receptions in limited action. “He’s what makes it go,” said Kinne about Brown’s return to the offense. “When he’s back, he’s definitely the go-to guy. I just have to throw it up to him and he’s going to go make a play.”
Traylor echoed his quarterback’s thoughts. “He’s our leader, so I think the kids were excited to see him back out there. We were going to try and get him involved early, and try to get him in the end zone, so that worked out really well.”
For Brown, who has committed to play for the Texas Longhorns next season; his return came just in time to play in his final game at Buckeye Stadium. “I can’t believe it. It seems like I just started. It’s over so fast. What happened to the time?”
It was definitely over fast for the Panthers who suffered three-and-out drives on their first two possessions. The Buckeyes took advantage with a 27-yard Matt Burgin field goal, and a 12-yard Kinne to Jamell Kennedy touchdown pass, to take a 17-0 first quarter lead.
The next two Spring Hill drives ended with the Panthers turning the ball over on downs. Gilmer needed just five plays to score their next two touchdowns, as Kinne dumped off a short pass to running back Justin Johnson, who ran it in for the score from 57 yards out with 10:44 to play in the half. Then Kinne hit Lamar Harris on a quick-strike 8-yard touchdown with 5:53 left in the half.
Three plays later, the Buckeyes’ Dustin Jones intercepted a Chris Lee pass at the 46-yard line and returned it to the Spring Hill 14-yard line before being forced out of bounds. Kinne found Ross Stevens on the very next play for a touchdown, but the Buckeyes were penalized on the play for holding, moving the ball back to the 24-yard line. Two sacks and a penalty on the next three plays, moved the Buckeyes back to the 39-yard line to face third down with 35 yards to go. Kinne’s pass to Johnson gained 27 yards, but was well short of a first down, so Burgin punched a 30-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining in the half.
The Panthers’ Jacob LeTourneau returned the kickoff to the Gilmer 30-yard line, and Spring Hill scored their only touchdown of the night four plays later when Lee snuck it in from a yard out, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 34-7 with only 48 seconds to play.
But 48 seconds is more than enough time for the Buckeyes to score, even when they start from their own 26-yard line.
Following a Kinne run for four yards, the Buckeyes turned to Brennan Thompson to cover the remaining 70 yards, as the junior receiver had catches of 15, 9 and 46 yards, the last coming on a spectacular catch on a jump ball in the end zone. Thompson took the ball out of the hands of a Panther defender for the touchdown, giving Gilmer the 41-7 lead at the half.
Thompson was the fifth Buckeye on the receiving end of a Kinne touchdown pass in the first half.
“I just read my progressions and gave it to athletes and let them run. I didn’t really do anything too special,” said Kinne. “The stats are all good and everything, but just coming out here and dominating the first half that was pretty amazing for me.”
“Our game plan was to come in throwing it,” admitted Traylor. “We had a good feeling we were going to have some good mismatches back there. We had prepared Justin that we were going to go to the air a lot.” That turned out to be good for Justin Johnson, who finished with a team-high 176 yards receiving on five catches, to go along with his seven rushes for 40 yards.
“They had seven in the box and we were prepared for that, we knew that the running was going to be tough,” said Justin Johnson. “The screen passes out to the running back helped tonight; there were some big plays made off of them.” Four of Justin Johnson’s catches went for 29, 63, 57 and 27 yards respectively for the junior running back, who usually went uncovered by the Panthers defense. “That’s the exciting part; you turn around and all you can see is two of your players and one of their players, you get happy and see the end zone,” said Johnson.
Justin Johnson and the rest of the Buckeyes’ starters may have seen the end zone five times in the first half, but they only saw the field for one possession in the second half as Spring Hill held the ball for most of the third and fourth quarters. Kinne and company’s lone appearance in the second half lasted all of 3:36 before the Buckeyes turned the football over on downs for the only time of the night.
The Panthers offense fared worse, as the Black Flag defense forced three more turnovers in the second half, including interceptions by Kezie Camp and Jules Johnson, and a fumble recovery by Wes Wynne. The Buckeyes’ defense limited Spring Hill to only 81 yards rushing and 95 yards passing for the game. “That was our best game of the year defensively I thought, as far as our energy level and the way we hit,” praised Traylor.
Jules Johnson and Arsenial Richardson led the Buckeyes’ defense with 11 tackles each; while Dominique Buchanan, Dunterious Goodman, Donte Harris and Kodey Wear each had seven tackles.
The Buckeyes’ two other possessions of the seconnd half ended in touchdowns, as freshman quarterback Stump Godfrey led the offense to 163 total yards on only five plays. Godfrey and sophomore running back Josh Thompson took turns running the football on the first drive, before Godfrey let loose his only pass of the game, a 17-yard touchdown to Camp that made the score 48-7 with 5:33 left to play in the game.
Gilmer’s final touchdown came on a 73-yard run by Godfrey with 2:09 to play, and gave Godfrey 119 rushing yards on only 3 carries. “Stump Godfrey gets better every week,” marveled Traylor. “He really played well.”
Traylor continued the accolades for his offense by praising his front five. “Our offensive line never gets enough credit. Chip Elms does a great job of snapping the football. He’s the leader of that group. He gets us checked into all of our coverages correctly. He doesn’t get near enough credit,” stated Traylor, who added, “Daniel Jenkins had another good game at tackle.”
Traylor finished his thoughts on the Spring Hill win by commenting on his team’s 20 straight wins at home. “That’s pretty remarkable” said Traylor. “That’s why this game Friday (at Gladewater) will be big for us because it could be our sixth consecutive district championship which is just remarkable when you think about it.”

Spring Hill Gilmer
11 First downs 18
33-81 Rushes-yds 20-211
10-24-3 Passing 16-22-0
95 Passing yds 473
176 Total yds 684
2-10 Penalties-yds 9-63
1 Fumbles lost 0
29:11 Time of possession 18:49
1 2 3 4 T
Spring Hill 0 7 0 0 7
Gilmer 17 24 0 14 55

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
G.J. KINNE rolls out to pass against Spring Hill on Nov. 3 at Buckeye Stadium. The Buckeyes' QB passed for 456 yards and five TDs.

Mirror Photos / Mary Laschinger Kirby
BRENNAN THOMPSON (12) makes a spectacular catch of a G.J. Kinne bomb for a 46-yard touchdown and CURTIS BROWN (3) breaks a tackle on his way to a gain of 40 yards to set up a field goal. The Buckeyes (9-0; 4-0) blasted the Spring Hill Panthers last Friday night, 55-7, at Buckeye Stadium. Gilmer closes out the regular season Friday night against Gladewater (4-5; 3-1) there. See Pages 6-7A for more on the Buckeyes.

Eatin's good at Gilmer press box

Things have been cooking at Gilmer High this fall, and those working in the Buckeye Stadium press box benefit from the culinary explorations of the Food Preparation Class.
While all the members of the class prepare food for the press box on Friday evenings, some of the members of the class have also been on the field as members of the Black Flag Defense of the Gilmer Buckeye football team.
Hannah Henderson, Teasia Brooks, Sting Salgado, Wes Wynne, C.J. Kyle, Tia Hall, Kaci Crawford, Erica Flatt, Dominique Buchanan, Dunterius Goodman and Aston Grigsby worked together to prepare a different menu for each of the four home football games this fall.
After the food is finished, Wynne, Kyle, Buchanan and Goodman prepare for the evening’s activities on the field. The four are starting members of the defense.
In the press box, visiting scouts, camera crews from both teams, representatives of the media, public address announcer Jeff Rash, his spotters and others snack off the various foods prepared as they work in their respective jobs.
Unlike the menus at some neighboring press boxes, the students prepare a different menu each week. In the opinion of their principal, Gary Whitwell, they offer the best press box food in northeast Texas.
The first week, the class prepared deli ham and cheese sandwiches served inside potato rolls. Hot broccoli dip and chips, pickles, and assorted cookies baked from scratch accompanied the ham sandwiches.
The second week, the recipe for Taco Soup found in the HUMdinger of a Cook Book of the Historic Upshur Museum was the principal item. Cornbread muffins with cheese, cream cheese roll-ups with picante dip, and Earthquake Cake filled out the menu.
Next, the students prepared meatballs in sauce with homemade French bread loaf with cheese and a Texas chocolate sheet cake.
In the photograph accompanying this article, the students gather around the large pot where they are cooking chili. Rice, Fritos, cheese and jalapenos where furnished for the individuals to use as desired to prepare the perfect bowl of chili.
Strawberry and banana breads and blueberry muffins completed the fourth dinner.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
GILMER FOOD PRODUCTION students C.J. Kyle, left, and Hannah Henderson stir the chili pot, while Wes Wynne, Mrs. Kathy Langford, Dominique Buchanan, Dunterius Goodman and Sting Saldado hold the various breads and muffins prepared for the enjoyment of the press box workers Friday night.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Gilmer 55, Spring Hill 7

From the Tyler Morning Telegraph
From the Longview News-Journal

Gilmer hosts Spring Hill in final home game

The Gilmer Buckeyes (8-0, 3-0) will close out their 2006 home schedule Friday night at Buckeye Stadium when they host the Spring Hill Panthers (5-3, 3-0) in a showdown of District 15-3A’s top two teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Buckeyes will try to extend their district win streak to 28 games and their home win streak to 20 games with a victory over the Panthers. Gilmer is also attempting to win its sixth consecutive district championship without a loss.
The winning streaks alone are reason enough for Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor to expect a big game from his Buckeyes, who are ranked either at or near the top in statewide 3A polls. “I don’t think these kids want to be the ones who stop that,” said Traylor, who has guided his alma mater to an amazing 69-13 record in his 7th season as head coach.
That motivation has been lacking at times over the past three games, as Gilmer started district play against teams with a combined record of 3-21. Despite winning all three games by an average score of 58-9, Traylor insists that his team hasn’t played well since their 49-12 win over Atlanta four weeks ago. Traylor hopes his team is ready for a big step up the competition ladder. “They are the kind of team that just scares me to death,” said Traylor, about Spring Hill.
Why would the Panthers scare Traylor? “They’ll be tougher than the teams we played; they’ll be better conditioned, and they’ll be stronger,” said Traylor, who credits Spring Hill head coach Robert Bero for his concern. “That’s Coach Bero; that’s what he does; all of his teams are that way.”
Few coaches command the respect that Bero does. With a career record of 102-46-3, Bero settled at Spring Hill in 2000, after leading the Longview Lobos to 93 wins in 12 seasons, along with a berth in the Class 5A state championship game in 1997. Bero worked as the Panthers offensive coordinator for five seasons, before assuming the head coaching duties in 2005. “They are very well coached,” stated Traylor. “Robert Bero was a great coach at Longview ; he’s a great coach at Spring Hill. I think he does as good a job at coaching as anyone we play against.”
Bero isn’t the only reason that Traylor and the Buckeyes respect Spring Hill. “They’ve got a great program,” Traylor said. “They’ve won a lot of big ball games. They’ve played deep in the playoffs. They’ve got players playing division one football.” Traylor could just as easily be describing his own team with that statement; as the Buckeyes and Panthers have the most wins of any 3A teams in East Texas since the 2000 season. Gilmer is 68-13 in that time frame, while Spring Hill is 58-22.
It’s only fitting that these two teams should meet with the district lead on the line. “They’re 3-0 and we’re 3-0,” said Traylor. “Whoever wins Friday is guaranteed a piece of the championship. He’s (Bero) telling his kids right now; if they can beat us they win the district championship. They have nothing to lose; those are teams that are scary.”
Bero agrees with Traylor about the importance of Friday’s game. “We’re both 3-0 and I think the winner will be the district champions without a doubt,” said Bero, who is 9-9 at Spring Hill. “It ought to be a good football game between two good football programs.”
The Panthers enter Friday’s game with the Buckeyes as 33 point underdogs according to one internet rating service. But that doesn’t bother Bero, or his team. “There’s enough hype out there about Gilmer, and justifiably so; but we’re not going to play the hype. We’re going to go over there and play the Gilmer Buckeyes,” stated Bero.
Traylor says don’t let Spring Hill’s three loses fool you. “If their tailbacks hadn’t gotten hurt, I believe with all my heart that they are 8-0,” said Traylor. “If Shankle, Fudge, and Garcia had stayed healthy, Spring Hill wouldn’t have lost a game.”
Bero said that he doesn’t worry about what could have happened without injuries to his best running backs. “Those are things that happen. We don’t usually talk about our injuries. We’re going to show up Friday, and I think our kids are going to give a great effort. I’ll be very upset with our football team if we didn’t go over there and play extremely hard for 48 minutes; and I think we will.”
Traylor echoes Bero’s sentiments regarding injuries. “We’re very beat up,” Traylor said. “We’re as unhealthy as we’ve ever been this time of year. Healthy teams don’t win championships; tough teams do. We’ll play with who we’ve got; and we’ll just try to get it done with who we have left.”
While Spring Hill is expected to be without the services of Demikel Shankle and Jake Fudge, Gilmer’s best player, Curtis Brown will try to play in his final home game after missing the past three games with an ankle injury. The Buckeyes offense didn’t miss a beat while Brown was gone, averaging 528 yards and 59 points in his absence, but how can they not improve with the return of a player that accumulated 877 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns, in just slightly over four games?
“I don’t think you’re ever going to stop Gilmer,” said Bero. “There are too many quality players, and with that offense that they run, there’s a lot of space on the field, and when you put great athletes in space, they’re going to make plays. We just hope to try to eliminate some of the big plays for Gilmer.” Bero said there is only one way to do that. “I think number one, you’ve got to keep their offense off the field, and that’s a whole lot easier said than done,” stated Bero. “What we’ve got to be able to do is control the ball; control the clock’ and keep their offense, as much as possible, on the sidelines.”
So far that strategy has failed other teams; as the Buckeyes lead the state with a 56 points per game average, despite only averaging about 18 minutes of possession time per game. “It’s kind of a catch-22,” commented Bero. “You want to sit there and kind of ball control, and control the clock, but you have to be able to put points on the board when you do that. It’s not just a matter of being on the field and making first downs; you’ve got to be able to control the clock and put points on the board.” But, Bero cautions; “Don’t get in a scoring battle with them because I don’t think you’re going to win a scoring battle with them.”
Bero credits an unlikely source for his concern. “Everybody wants to talk about Kinne and the offense; and they are extremely talented and very good. But I think the one thing that is overlooked at Gilmer a lot of times is that they play pretty darn good defense.”
Traylor agrees that the Buckeyes’ defense will be an important factor. “If we play like we did Friday (against Mineola ) on defense; we’ll really struggle to beat Spring Hill,” commented Traylor, who added, “Their quarterback Chris Lee started as a sophomore; he can throw the ball. Their fullback Travis Vickery started as a sophomore against us in 2004; he’s still back there. Max Garcia is a good athlete at tailback. Their offensive line; all of them are good. They all started last year. Their receivers, Jacob LeTourneau and Robby Garcia, are good players. They get in a million formations and they run a few plays. They do a really good job with their offense.”
The Panthers do a good enough job to average 339 yards and 28 points per game. That will challenge Gilmer’s Black Flag defense, which is allowing 230 yards and 15 points per game. Spring Hill’s challenge is more daunting; contain a Buckeyes’ offense with a defense that has allowed 293 yards and 21 points per game. But Traylor is quick to point out. “They’ve always given us fits defensively,” said Traylor, who has a 2-1 record against the Panthers, but only managed a scoring average of 23 points.
Traylor said his team welcomes the challenge. “It’s our last home game; it’s the last time the seniors will play here. I think we’ll play really hard Friday. I just believe our kids are ready to play.”
Did you know?
Gilmer holds an 8-2 all-time advantage over Spring Hill. The two teams first met in 1950, with the Buckeyes winning 7-6. The two teams didn’t meet again for over 30 years, until Coach Traylor’s junior season in 1984, when Gilmer beat Spring Hill 37-0. The Panthers gave Traylor his second-worst loss of his career in 2000 with a 41-21 defeat. The last time these two teams met was in the 2004 Area round of the Class 3A playoffs at Lobo Stadium. The Buckeyes won 28-11, on their way to a perfect 16-0 season and the team’s first state championship.
Scout Team
Players of the Week

Offense: Kurt Potter
Defense: Chase Carroll

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
GILMER’S WES WYNNE breaks through the line to drop Cory Jones in the Mineola backfield last Friday night. The defense hopes to continue its string of strong performances here against Spring Hill Friday night, Nov. 3.

Buckeyes take sting out of 'Jackets

The Gilmer Buckeyes exploded for a season-high 628 total yards en route to a 62-12 victory over the Mineola Yellowjackets Friday night in Mineola. The Buckeyes’ sported a balanced offense that gained 319 yards passing and 309 yards rushing to garner the team’s 27th consecutive district win. With the win, Gilmer improves their season record to 8-0, and their district record to 3-0. Mineola falls to 2-6 on the season, and 1-2 in district play.
The Buckeyes’ 62 points marked the fourth time this season that the Buckeyes have eclipsed the 60-point plateau, and left quite an impression on Mineola head coach Steve Wells. “That team right there is one of the best 3A teams that I’ve seen,” said Wells. “I think they have a legitimate shot to win it all.”
Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor was quick to downplay Wells’ remarks. “We were okay,” said Traylor, who improved his career record to 69-13 with the 50-point win. “I was proud that so many kids were productive on offense. We had a lot of kids touch the ball; and we had a lot of kids have success when they touched the ball.”
Nine Buckeyes were on the receiving end of passes from quarterbacks G.J. Kinne and Stump Godfrey; while six Buckeyes ran the football for Gilmer. Junior running back Justin Johnson was especially impressive with 166 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only nine carries. Johnson also caught one pass for 36 yards. “I can say that I’m back to 100 percent now,” claimed Johnson, who has been nursing an ankle injury most of the season. Johnson’s performance certainly pleased his head coach. “He’s getting healthy,” Traylor said. “He’s starting to get in shape, and he’s starting to look like a running back again. I’m excited for him, and I was glad to see that”
Sophomore Devane Clark led the Buckeyes’ receivers with three catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. “I was excited for Devane Clark; he really had a big break-out game. That’s a kid that didn’t even play football. This is his first year to ever play football, and I was very proud of him,” stated Traylor of the Buckeyes’ basketball guard. “Devane has been out there, but we just hadn’t been throwing it to him because he didn’t really know what he was doing because this is his first year to play football. But he’s a very smart kid, and he works hard.”
Kinne had his usual impressive game, going 12-of-22 for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He was replaced in the third quarter by freshman Godfrey, who went 4-of-6 for 67 yards, and had a touchdown rushing.
The Yellowjackets were overmatched from the start, as the Buckeyes’ Kezie Camp intercepted a Richie Brandon pass on the game’s seventh play, giving the Gilmer offense the football at their 14-yard line. The Buckeyes’ traveled the 86 yards in seven plays, with Kinne scoring the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard dive with 7:12 left in the first quarter. Matt Burgin kicked the first of his seven extra points on the night.
Following a Mineola 3-and-out on their next possession, the Buckeyes needed only four plays to score again, as Johnson ran untouched up the middle 25 yards for the second score, giving Gilmer a 14-0 lead with 4:33 to play in the first. “The line did an excellent job again tonight,” stated Johnson, whose assessment was confirmed by Traylor. “On the offensive line; Daniel Jenkins, Dakota Hagler and Dexture Carr all played real well,” stated Traylor.
The Yellowjackets fumbled the ball on their first play of the next possession. Evin Wilson recovered the fumble for the Buckeyes at the 50-yard line, but Gilmer’s drive stalled at the Mineola 26-yard line, forcing a rare Buckeyes’ punt by Jake Manning.
Mineola responded by almost scoring a touchdown. On 3rd down-and-5 from their 19-yard line, Mineola running back Cory Jones took the hand-off and went around the left side untouched down the sideline. Despite no Gilmer defenders near enough to force him out, Jones started weaving, and accidentally stepped out of bounds at the Buckeyes’ 25-yard line. Mineola would advance the ball to the Gilmer 9-yard line before turning the ball over on downs, when the Yellowjackets halfback pass sailed out of the end zone on fourth down.
It took the Buckeyes five plays and 1:42 off the clock to score their third touchdown of the night, this time on a 54-yard Kinne pass to Clark, giving Gilmer a 21-0 lead with 7:38 to play in the half.
Mineola ’s woes continued on their next possession, when the Buckeyes’ Camp recovered a Yellowjackets’ fumble at the Mineola 23-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Johnson took the handoff, bulled over a defender at the line of scrimmage and raced the 23 yards for a touchdown, giving Gilmer a 28-0 lead with 6:35 remaining until halftime.
Following a Mineola punt, the Buckeyes took possession of the ball at their 47-yard line, and quickly went downfield, scoring five plays later when Kinne hit junior tight end Justin Fielden from six yards out, for Fielden’s first touchdown on the season. “It was great. It surprised me; I didn’t know it was coming. It was pretty awesome,” said Fielden, who gave Gilmer a 35-0 halftime lead.
The Buckeyes added to that lead quickly, and often in the second half. Johnson got things started with a spectacular 55-yard run on the half’s first play. Three plays later, Kinne hit Lamar Harris for a 5-yard touchdown, giving the Buckeyes a 42-0 lead with only 1:02 off the clock.
The Yellowjackets first drive of the second half ended at the Mineola 47-yard line, when Ray Martin’s pass off a fake punt attempt sailed over the heads of two wide-open Mineola receivers. Four plays later, Johnson found the end zone from 19 yards out, pushing the Buckeyes lead to 49-0 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
The Yellowjackets and Buckeyes traded punts on the next two possessions, before Mineola finally got on the scoreboard when Martin busted through the Gilmer defense for a 33-yard touchdown run. The Buckeyes’ Wes Wynn blocked the extra point attempt, but the Yellojackets were on the board with 8:57 left in the 4th quarter.
Gilmer recovered the onside kick at their 41-yard line, and traveled the 59 yards in only 5 plays, capping off the drive when Godfrey faked a hand-off and followed his running back 15 yards into the end zone; untouched around the left side of the line for the 55-6 lead with 6:42 left to play. “I was proud of the way Stump Godfrey played. He came in and executed the offense well,” said Traylor.
Zach Jones added to Mineola ’s misery on the Yellowjackets’ very next play, as the sophomore picked off another Brandon pass, giving Gilmer the football at the Mneola 47-yard line. Eight plays later, Braylon Hawley carried the ball across the goal line from four yards out, ending the Buckeyes’ scoring at 62 points with 1:25 to play in the game.
Mineola returned the kickoff to their 41-yard line, where Martin rewarded the few remaining Mineola fans with a nice 59-yard touchdown run just 22 seconds following the Buckeyes’ final score. The Yellowjackets’ 2-point conversion attempt failed, making the final score 62-12.
Mineola ’s two fourth quarter touchdowns did not please Traylor. “I thought defensively, for the first time since the Daingerfield game, we took a step backwards,” said Traylor. “Granted, Mineola did have three pretty good skill kids, and most of the yards were against our [second team], but we expect them to make plays.”
Johnson added; “We actually wanted a shutout and we didn’t get that again.”
Not only did the Buckeyes defense not get the shut-out, Gilmer allowed 238 yards on the ground. The Buckeyes’ Arsenial Richardson who led the team with 9 tackles and a forced fumble, was practical in his opinion of his unit’s play. “I think we did pretty good; but we’ve still got a long way to go,” stated the senior linebacker. Despite the step back, Traylor still saw some positives from his defense. “Donte Harris had a great game; he had nine tackles. Kezie Camp had six tackles, one interception, he caused a fumble, and he recovered a fumble, so he had a break-out game,” Traylor said.
Traylor also praised his special teams’ leaders. “Jake Manning had two good punts, and he had a touchdown saving tackle,” said the Buckeyes’ Boss. “Matt Burgin kicked three kickoffs into the end zone; he’s really getting better at his kickoffs.”
Along with all of the praise, Traylor added some words of caution to his team. “We did enough to get through the game; I’m a little concerned that we’ve done that for three weeks in a row, and now we got to get our motors going Friday night.”

Gilmer Mineola
28 First downs 10
31-309 Rushes-yds 38-238
16-28-0 Passing 2-10-2
319 Passing yds 35
628 Total yds 273
6-37 Penalties-yds 2-10
0 Fumbles lost 2
22:54 Time of possession 25:06
1 2 3 4 T
Gilmer 14 21 14 13 62
Mineola 0 0 0 12 12

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
G.J. KINNE (16) picks up yardage on the ground against Mineola there last Friday night as Cody Lee (72) looks on. Gilmer’s senior QB ran for one touchdown and threw for three more as the Buckeyes (8-0; 3-0) routed the ’Jackets, 62-12.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
A CONVOY OF players from both teams follow Justin Johnson as he bursts into the end zone, scoring a first quarter touchdown. The Gilmer running back played both ways as he came back full-time from an injury earlier ths year.

Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby
KEZIE CAMP snatches an interception in the first quarter to stop an early Mineola drive and give Gilmer possesion. Turnovers plagued the Yellow jackets and gave Gilmer short fields to work from.