By Phillip Williams
LINDALE–Where there’s a Will Henderson, there’s a way.
Gilmer Buckeyes rapid runner Will Henderson profoundly proved the point, using his stupefying speed for two long-distance TDs while his defensive teammates snuffed an eleventh-hour threat, thus permitting unvanquished Gilmer to lacerate the Lindale Eagles, 31-23, in a breath-holder Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
The outcome remained in question until only seven seconds left, when a fourth-down Lindale pass from the Buckeye 14 went awry. Lindale had swooped to the Gilmer 3 in its last offensive, only to lose yardage on the next two plays before the final errant throw.
With the help of Ashton Haynes’ two TDs, one via a pass reception, Gilmer (4-0) thus survived its sternest test thus far this season before enjoying the unusual occurrence of two consecutive open dates–the first time in modern history the Buckeyes have a nine-game regular season instead of 10. State-ranked Gilmer opens district dustups Oct. 7 at Pleasant Grove.
As for Friday night, despite the Lindale hometown crowd greatly outnumbering the relatively few hundred Buckeye backers, Gilmer took a 3-0 lead and never trailed, although the hosts held the Buckeyes to a 16-16 standoff at twirling time.
Neither team dispensed a turnover all night in a tilt where the spectators certainly got their money’s worth, and although the Eagles fell to 2-2 for the season, they proved a worthy adversary for the highly-ranked Buckeyes, whose previous triumphs ranged from 14-43 points and who were held to their lowest point total this season.
Which only goes to show what a two-fisted outfit the Buckeyes are on offense since they still scored 31.
Gilmer took the opening kickoff and rolled from its 36 to the Lindale 12 before Jose Govea airlifted a 29-yard field goal with 8:21 left in the first period.
Deciding that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, the Eagles would tie it with a field goal of their own after punting on their first possession. Gilmer punted on its second offensive, and Lindale had an eventful time in getting to its three-pointer.
The Eagles went on offense at the Buckeye 42, and made a fourth-down conversion at one point during the 10 plays they ran before scoring. They reached the Gilmer 17, but drew a damaging 5-yard penalty for delay of game and had an incompletion before Seth Baggett boomed a 39-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
The visitors promptly launched a successful counter-offensive, taking the kickoff and plodding 70 yards in 12 plays to reach Beulah Land on quarterback Cadon Tennison’s 2-yard, fourth-down airmail package to Haynes with 9:22 left to intermission. Govea upped the PAT.
The pesky Eagles, though, countered the Buckeyes’ counter-offensive by immediately tromping 73 yards in seven plays to tally, abetted by a 5-yard Gilmer penalty. Runner Devin Daniels bopped the final yard before Baggett’s PAT kick hit the left upright, leaving Gilmer up 10-9.
It was nearing showtime for Henderson.
Lindale’s kickoff strayed out of bounds for a penalty, giving Gilmer possession at the Buckeye 34. Henderson promptly ingested 16 yards and, on the second play afterward, screamed 44 yards up the middle, simply outrunning the Eagles to TD Town.
Govea, however, kicked wide on the PAT try, making it 16-9 with 5:16 left to Music Time. Lindale, meantime, was about to climb off the canvas again, taking the kickoff and whizzing 60 yards in just six plays to tally on a Big Bang–a 27-yard sling from quarterback Clint Thurman to Christian Widemon.
Baggett banged the tying PAT with 2:48 left to Band Time.
Lindale accepted the second-half kickoff and soon punted to the Buckeye 30. An immediate Big Bopper–though it didn’t produce points–occurred when Tennison hurled a 66-yarder to Ta’Erik Tate. On the next play, Haynes hastened the last four yards to TD Territory and then, for an encore, ran over a 2-point conversion on the “swinging gate,” making it 24-16.
This came with 9:04 left in the third. And once again, Lindale would stage a comeback, although it had to blunt a Buckeye threat first.
After another Eagle punt, Gilmer reached the Lindale 20, but was handicapped by a pass which actually lost seven yards and eventually ended up ceding the ball on downs when Tennison was hog-tied on a two-yard loss to the 24.
From there, the Eagles opened their Last Hurrah scoring-wise, hitting the jackpot on a Wow on the ninth play. Thurman uncorked a 36-yard TD throw to Marcus Field, who was more wide-open than West Texas spaces.
Curiously, although two points behind, the Eagles settled for a one-point PAT kick by Baggett with 1:04 left in the third.
Neither team could tally for awhile; Gilmer was halted on downs at the Eagle 34 with 8:24 left, but Lindale eventually punted to the Buckeye 28. Gilmer then was penalized to the 18.
No problem, said Messr. Henderson, who promptly shot down the left sideline 82 yards, once again simply outspeeding his foes for a TD with 5:24 left in the contest.
Govea whomped the game’s final point after Henderson ran so fast that an Indy 500 race car couldn’t have caught up with him.
Lindale, though, still had time to tie this thing and wasn’t going down easily although the Eagles surrendered the pigskin on downs on their next offensive at the Gilmer 44 with 4:12 left.
Gilmer went three-and-out, punted 45 yards to the hosts’ 15-yard-line, and Lindale began its last, almost successful thrust. On the fourth play afterward, facing fourth down, Thurman heaved a 20-yard completion to his team’s 36 to retain possession.
On the third play after that, Thurman found Field for 46 yards to the Gilmer 9 and when the next play, a run, took the Eagles to the 3, visions of overtime probably danced in the Lindale supporters’ heads.
But that’s when the Eagles got shot out of the sky, somewhat of their own doing.
Thurman fumbled and although he recovered, this lost six critical yards to the 9 with 29 seconds left. On the next play, he lost five more yards and, on fourth down, threw a pass too wide toward the left side of the end zone to quell the threat with only seven seconds left.
Gilmer took a knee, ran out the clock, and undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief at having barely clipped the Eagles’ wings.
ALL UP TO HERE OKJ