By Phillip Williams
MESQUITE–The fact that a full moon hovered over E.H. Hanby Stadium afore Friday night’s playoff party between the Gilmer Buckeyes and Caddo Mills Foxes was a portent that this tussle would be a mesmerizing meetup.
‘Twas not a false foreshadowing.
Surmounting a stupefying 237 yards in penalties with the firepower of five TD tosses by quarterback Brandon Tennison, Gilmer finally cold-cocked Caddo Mills, 68-31, in a Class 4A Division II area wargame which consumed a marathon three hours and 18 minutes.
It is a sign of Gilmer’s overpowering offensive tonnage that the Buckeyes (11-1) still managed to win by 37 points a game in which they (a) not only drew a benumbing 21 penalties for yardage totaling more than twice the entire length of the football field, but (b) also yielded 31 points–including four TD throws by Fox quarterback Jason Thomason.
The Buckeyes also set up Caddo Mills’ first two touchdowns with turnovers, but even that additional drawback wasn’t enough to chain the victors’ tornadic attack.
Thus did Gilmer climb another rung of the ladder in Playoff Paradise to now meet Van at 2 p.m. Friday in Tyler. The Foxes, meanwhile, bade the season adieu at 8-4.
Between the bewildering bevy of penalties against both teams (Caddo Mills drew 10)–none of which, remarkably, appeared to be controversial–and the pinball-like amount of scoring, the contest which started at approximately 7 p.m. appeared headed for a conclusion at sunrise. Gilmer, which never trailed, toted up a 43-24 lead at twirling time after a half which required an hour and 40 minutes.
Flags flew constantly as the Buckeyes incurred 15 infractions for 159 yards before intermission.
The Foxes were not guiltless themselves, inciting the officials’ wrath for 90 yards in fines on the night, including six violations for 44 yards in the first half. If the refs got paid by the penalty in this flag fest, they probably earned enough to vacation in the Bahamas next week.
Not to be forgotten in the emphasis on penalties and the game’s dragged-out length, however, is the Buckeyes’ ode to offense.
Ashton Haynes procured four TDs–three by land and one by reception. Parker Gilow snared two scoring slings and a reception for a 2-point conversion while Jay Rockwell caught Tennison’s two other TD throws.
Caddo Mills receiver Jaden Lenamond ponied up three TDs as the Foxes’ running game was almost totally stifled all night.
Gilmer took the opening kickoff and soon scored on Tennison’s 29-yard dispatch to Gilow. Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of his six successful PATs with 10:37 left in the inaugural quarter. (The Buckeyes acquired 2-point conversions on Michael Colbert’s run after their fifth touchdown, and on the Tennison to Gilow pass after the team’s seventh TD. In addition, backup kicker Weston Mayhan clanged the final PAT.)
For awhile, Caddo Mills hung in contention as a Gilmer fumble eventually led to the Foxes’ first score. Thomas sent a 42-yard TD to Lenamond with 4:30 remaining in the first period, and Jonah Rupe footed the first of his four successful PATs.
Gilmer regained the lead on Haynes’ 20-yard hop with 3:50 left in the period, only to have Tennison soon have a pass purloined, which eventually led to the Foxes’ next tally. It came on Thomason’s 11-yard zip to Lenamond with 1:21 still left in the opening verse, and the PAT made it 14-14.
Tennison, however, unleashed a 12-yard TD to Gilow with only four seconds left in the quarter, putting Gilmer ahead to stay. And though nobody would score again until more than seven minutes had elapsed in the second period, the teams would combine for a show-stopping 32 points in the half’s final five minutes.
First, Tennison uncorked a 14-yard six-point sling to Rockwell with 4:56 left to the break. Thomason counter-attacked with a 6-yard scoring pass to Jett Saldivar with 2:44 left, but Haynes wheeled 13 yards to Beulah Land with 2:17 to go. After Tennison sent up a 54-yard TD to Haynes with 1:13 remaining, the half ended on Rupe’s 39-yard field goal–set up by three consecutive 15-yard Gilmer penalties.
After Gilmer blocked Rupe’s 37-yard field goal try in the third quarter, Tennison’s nuclear arm produced another 19-yard tally to Rockwell, and the 2-point conversion made it 51-24 with 5:08 to go in that period. But on the first play after the kickoff, the Foxes raided the hen house one final time as Thomas dropped a 78-yard bomb into the hands of Lenamond with 4:49 left in the period.
Gilmer’s final scores were Haynes’ 4-yard trip with 2:41 left in the third, Hernandez’s 21-yard field goal with 4:11 remaining in the game, and a final flourish as defender Rohan Fluellen pilfered a pass from Thomason and returned it 73 yards to score with 2:24 left.
The 68 points was the Buckeyes’ second-highest single-game point total this year, below only the 71 they scored the prior week against Mexia. Caddo Mills’ 31 points constituted the second-most points the Buckeyes yielded this season, surpassed only by Lindale in a 49-35 Gilmer win.