ARLINGTON — Although the outcome was not what Gilmer wanted Friday afternoon, first-year coach Alan Metzel has established a foundation for the continued success of the Buckeye football program.
While Gilmer fell to fellow East Texas squad Carthage, 70-14, in the Class 4A Division II state title game at AT&T Stadium, the Buckeyes certainly have a bright future.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome today, I am certainly proud of our team,” Metzel said.
While the Buckeyes graduate 25 seniors, 34 underclassmen are the squad, including sophomore wide receiver Rohan Fluellen and junior quarterback Brandon Tennison, who hooked for the two Gilmer scores.
The only other loss for the 14-2 Buckeyes was a 42-14 decision to Carthage back on Sept. 25 in Gilmer.
The Buckeyes, a 17-point underdog, came out on fire, shocking the Bulldogs with 14 quick points, the first time Carthage had trailed by more than a TD all season.
Gilmer began the game with an onside kick by Dominic Chavez. While Carthage’s Vincient Cabada recovered the attempt, the Buckeyes showed they were prepared to throw everything at the Bulldogs, along with the kitchen sink
“We knew we could not play conventionally — Carthage is a very talented team, not only at the skill positions, but they are big along the line,” Metzel said. “We had to push the envelope.”
The Buckeyes halted the Bulldogs on four downs on the initial drive when defensive lineman Triston McKeehan dropped running back Mason Courtney for a 1-yard loss.
Three plays later the Bulldogs were behind for the first time this season as Tennison tossed a 52-yard TD pass to Fluellen. Jose Hernandez added the PAT.
The Buckeyes were not through as Hernandez tried an onside kick and the junior recovered his own boot at the Carthage 48.
Six players later, Fluellen was in the end zone again, this time at the end of a cross-the-field pass from Tennison for 18 yards. Hernandez booted the extra point and the Buckeyes were ahead 14-0.
The stadium was like the ride just up the road at Six Flags, shockwaves were filtering through the stadium.
Though the Buckeyes kept playing hard, the Bulldogs came roaring back for their eighth state championship. Carthage was appearing in its ninth final, while Gilmer was playing in its seventh state championship game, having won three times.
With Metzel having a successful first season, he wants to keep the Gilmer train on the tracks, following the successful tenures of Jeff Traylor and Matt Turner.
FOOTBALL NOTES: An East Texas crew were the officials for the contest — REF: Wes Hall, UMP: Vince Williams, LINE: Jeremy Gunnels, LJ: Kelly Talent, BJ: Jermahl Battee, FJ: Stephen O’Neal, SJ: John Teague, and CJ: Kurt Kitchings.