The Gilmer Buckeyes had their share of problems with the Carthage Bulldogs last season.
No matter what they did in the 66-14 setback, things just didn’t go right.
But it’s a new year and Carthage Coach Scott Surratt doesn’t expect things to be the same when the two teams meet Friday in Bulldog Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. between the visiting Buckeyes (2-1) and the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (3-0).
The Buckeyes are coming off a 37-20 loss to Paris, but “better” is the word Surratt uses when he talks about them.
“They’re big up front and they’re better than they were a year ago,” Surratt said. “Their quarterback is better with a year of experience and they have some running backs who are better.
“Their defense runs to the ball better. They are just a better overall football team.”
Gilmer is averaging a little better than 420 yards of offense a game with 234 rushing and 187 passing.
Quarterback Mason Hurt is 44-77-2 for 562 yards and five touchdowns.
Darrell Bush is the leading rusher with 224 yards, but the Buckeyes have several other backs with more than 100 yards on the ground.
Dylan Fluellen and Eddie Ray are the top receivers. Both have caught 10 passes and have two touchdowns. Fluellen has caught 194 yards worth of passes and Ray has 151 yards.
Top linemen for the Buckeyes are Devon King and Blake Olivares.
“They struggled a little early with Paris last week, but I expect them to be ready for us,” Surratt said.
Defensively, Surratt has liked what he’s seen from linebackers Malik Williams and Grant Couture and defensive lineman Casey Irons and Matthew Burton.
“Their front seven is pretty strong and those are their best players,” he said. “The have two good linebackers — one inside and one outside.”
Couture leads the team in tackles with 36, while Burton has 19 and Irons has 12.
“We’re in a great place right now,” Surratt said of his Bulldogs. “We’re healthy and the mistakes we’re making are ones we’re able to correct. We just have to focus on stuff.
“The defense is giving up less than a touchdown a game, we’re running to the ball and we’re doing a good job getting off blocks. But we have to keep working.”
Opponents are averaging just a little more than 120 yards a game and the biggest part of that yardage has come on two long touchdown passes of more than 60 yards.
Rayvon Ingram, who was this week’s defensive player of the week, leads the team in tackles with 25, while Cole Whitlock and Kylon Lister both have 17; Quan Brown and Kip Lewis both have 16; Jai Brazier has 15; and Quinton Owens and D.J. Hicks both have 14.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are averaging 464 yards a game with 178 rushing and 286 passing.
Mason Courtney is the leading rusher with 212 yards and Jaden Thomas has 139 as the Bulldogs have been working more on the passing game.
Quarterback Kai Horton is 50-78-1 for 754 yards and 13 touchdowns with back-to-back 5-touchdown games. Kelvontay Dixon is the leading receiver with 12 for 213 yards and seven touchdowns.