By Phillip Williams
TYLER–Gilmer Buckeyes kicker Brayden Pate sealed his foes’ fate by airlifting a game-winning 34-yard field goal with only three seconds left as Gilmer stupefied the Sunnyvale Raiders, 41-38, in a wampus cat of a wargame in a Class 4A Division 2 area playoff Thursday night.
Gilmer (9-3) now commences hostilities with victor of the Van-Aubrey rumble which was to be played the next night (Friday, Nov. 17). Sunnyvale, which has never conquered Gilmer, completed its campaign with a 9-3 mark.
Pate’s wham near game’s end came after a pulse-rousing contest in which Sunnyvale obliterated both the 17-3 lead Gilmer had achieved in the second quarter, and the 38-24 lead the Buckeyes notched in the second half.
It was the third Buckeye bout decided by a field goal in the last 10 seconds this season (Gilmer won two of them), and a continuation of such conclusions may force the Buckeye coaching staff to cobble a cadre of cardiologists on the sidelines.
On Thursday, Gilmer runner Will Henderson, uncharacteristically contained most of the night, suddenly sprang two long-distance TD runs in the third quarter, which had much to do with the outcome.
Sunnyvale remained in the ring largely because of part-time QB Nelson Peterson Jr., the brother of former NFL great running back Adrian Peterson. But he didn’t play the whole game as his team alternates between two quarterbacks.
The Raiders also hassled Gilmer with stunningly long punts, but were victimized by repeated incompletions of long-distance passes. Pate, meantime, played a major role in the Buckeye victory with two field goals and making all PATs.
Gilmer punched up a 10-0 lead at first quarter’s end, partly by taking the opening kickoff and striding downfield to notch Pate’s 26-yard field goal with 8:14 left in the first quarter. After Sunnyvale went 3-and-out and punted, the Buckeyes plodded 79 yards to tally on Aron Bell’s 1-yard hop up the middle.
Pate added the first of his five successful PATs with exactly four minutes left in the opening chapter.
The Raiders revived somewhat when Gabe Pendyala slammed a 26-yard field goal with 11:10 left in the second period, only to see Gilmer QB Cadon Tennison heave a 19-yard scoring sling to Ta’Erik Tate with 1:46 left to Music Time.
The resistant Raiders, down 17-3, would slice that margin, though, on a highlight-reel play. Peterson whistled 24 yards, evading a Gilmer defender near the goal line with a move worthy of his brother, to score with just 16 seconds remaining till the break.
Pendyala launched the first of his five successful PATs, making it 17-10 at Twirling Time.
Then, in the opening two minutes of the second half, the Raiders momentarily kicked the earth out from beneath the Buckeyes.
Sunnyvale took the kickoff and screamed 70 yards in just four plays to score–all of them dashes by Peterson, who whooshed 38 yards to Beulah Land with 10:25 left in the third. The PAT finished voiding Gilmer’s onetime 14-point lead.
And to worsen things for Gilmer, a Buckeye fumbled away the ensuing kickoff at his team’s 33, resulting in Peterson immediately chunking a bomb of a TD to Joshua Mcdill with 10:09 still left in the quarter. The PAT meant that Sunnyvale had gone from trailing 17-3 to leading 24-17, and the transfer of momentum left the Buckeyes seemingly teetering on the cusp of catastrophe.
That proved illusory.
After awhile, Gilmer pieced together a 97-yard offensive to TD territory in six plays as Henderson, who had been somewhat bottled up all night, suddenly whizzed 61 yards to the score with exactly three minutes left in the third.
At this point, Sunnyvale’s other quarterback, Jackson Smith, temporarily re-entered the game and his team went 3-and-out. The Raiders punted to the Gilmer 36 and, after Tennison threw incomplete, Henderson flabbergasted the Raiders again with a 64-yard sudden sprint to the end zone.
That came with 1:15 left in the third, giving Gilmer the lead back at 31-24. Afterward, the last five and a half minutes of the game proved fixating.
Gilmer’s Dhrvay Smith whipped 12 yards for a TD with 5:26 left in the combat, and now it was Sunnyvale who seemed to be hanging over the cliff.
But Peterson achieved another TD by, of all things, fumbling into the Gilmer end zone from two yards out with 2:29 remaining.
And when Henderson soon dispensed a fumble at the Sunnyvale 43, Peterson shortly afterward uncorked a 7-yard TD to Charlie Christopher with 1:36 still left in the game.
The Buckeyes proceeded, though, to chew up virtually all the remaining time by inching from their 29 to the Raider 17 in 11 plays before Pate hit the jackpot.
The ensuing kickoff took up two of the last three seconds, and a complete pass, followed by a lateral pass, ended the game nowhere near the Gilmer goal line.
Thus did the sun set on Sunnyvale’s season.