By Phillip Williams
MESQUITE–To those who aver the aged adage that “the third time is the charm,” the Gilmer Buckeyes reply the rejoinder, “Give me a second.”
The Buckeyes detonated the dam for 33 second-quarter points en route to flabbergasting the Fairfield Eagles, 56-35, in an area class 4A Division II dustup Friday night at Memorial Stadium–a vanquishing that, in a sense, was even more one-sided than the final tally indicates.
‘Twas a bizarre battle in that Gilmer actually trailed 7-6 at first quarter’s end, led 39-14 at twirling time and totted up 17 more straight points before the Eagles fired three largely-meaningless fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Buckeye reserve forces.
The win propels Gilmer (9-4) into a regional (third-round) playoff with the Waco Connally Cadets (12-0), which inflicted a 54-14 playoff pratfall Friday night on Spring Hill–a team the Buckeyes only defeated 42-34 in a district disputation. Strangely enough, however, the Cadets only beat Fairfield in regular season play, 40-35.
(This story will be updated to give time and place of the Gilmer-Waco Connally tilt).
As was the case last year against Gilmer, turnovers bedeviled Fairfield (7-5) Friday night–or more specifically, Eagles quarterback Justin Abram, who committed all five of his team’s giveaways as the Buckeyes’ “Black Flag Defense” confiscated four fumbles and purloined a pass.
Gilmer opened the tallying on Davion Smith’s 53-yard whiz down the right side with 9:00 left in the first period before a bad snap on the apparent PAT kick try forced holder Brandon Tennison to fling an incompletion on an attempt for two points.
Fairfield erected its only lead all night when, immediately after Buckeye runner Darrell Bush disgorged a fumble to the Eagles at the Gilmer 33, Abram zipped a scoring sling to a wide-open Damarcus Hayes. Tyler Haynes airlifted the first of five straight PATs with 1:58 left in the first chapter.
Then the fateful second quarter.
First, Bush atoned for ceding the ball by hauling it six yards for a TD, and for an encore, ran for two points on the “swinging gate” trick play with 11:55 left to the band break.
Then Bush rumbled 18 yards up the middle for another score with 9:00 left to intermission before Jose Hernandez launched the first of four PAT kicks, making it 21-7.
Fairfield fought back as Haynes directed a 52-yard TD toss to a wide-open DeQuann McWilliams with 7:53 left in the period. But, after narrowing Gilmer’s lead to 21-14, the Eagles were shot from the sky.
First, Hernandez punched a 23-yard field goal with 5:02 left before an interception by Marshae Spraglin set up the Buckeyes’ next TD–backup quarterback Brandon Tennison’s short toss to Jaydon Griffin, who turned it into an 86-yard scoring strike before Bush ran over another two-point conversion with 2:55 left to the break.
On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Abram’s fumble at his 7 soon resulted in more Gilmer glory as Tennison trooped three yards to tally with 2:06 left to the half.
The Buckeye bombing continued in the third quarter as another Abram bobble soon led to Tennison’s one-yard TD tromp, despite fumbling the snap, with 9:30 left in the third. Then Hernandez bammed another field goal, a 32-yarder, with 22 seconds left in the period, before Gilmer’s final TD, which came on Smith’s 13-yard bop on the final quarter’s opening play.
To its credit, Fairfield showed pride by then ingesting three TDs in a hopeless cause. Jar-Mychael Hudson hoofed three yards with 10:40 left and hastened 67 yards with 6:30 remaining before Abram wheeled 44 yards for the last TD with 1:05 to go.
By Phillip Williams