By Phillip Williams
LINDALE–‘Twas a tug-of-war between two teams who lost their respective state championship wargames last season, and the unvanquished Gilmer Buckeyes and Lindale Eagles staged an Ode to Offense before Gilmer finally evicted the Eagles from their aerie, 49-35, in a somewhat-suspenseful slugfest Friday night at Eagle Stadium.
Though Gilmer, led by the heaving of quarterback Brandon Tennison (three TD tosses, one rushing score) and hoofing of runner Ashton Haynes (three TDs) never relinquished the lead after bounding ahead 14-0 near first quarter’s end and 35-14 in the third period, the Buckeyes found themselves with a ferocious fray on their hands as Lindale continually rose from the canvas to stay in contention.
The Eagles, galvanized by quarterback Sam Peterson’s trio of second-half scoring slings and a disastrous Gilmer punting game, sliced the lead to 42-35 with 4:18 left. The Buckeyes, however, landed what was essentially a lethal 1-2 punch when defender Cadon Tennison purloined Peterson’s pass afterward and, on the next play, Haynes whizzed 45 yards to Beulah Land with exactly two minutes left.
In addition, while Peterson plastered his adversaries at times, he was also plagued by interceptions as his team descended to 1-3.
Gilmer (4-0), which had yielded a combined total of only 34 points to its first three foes, shot scoring salvos early in its trademark style Friday. Soon after defender Parker Gilow pilfered a pass, Brandon Tennison dispatched a 30-yard TD to Rohan Fluellen.
Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of seven successful PATs with 5:35 left in the opening quarter.
Haynes bounded 10 yards to Beulah Land with 1:21 still left in the period before a bizarre Buckeye bungle resulted in Lindale’s initial tally.
Hernandez, lined up to punt, saw the snap from center sail over his head and far behind him, at which point he disgorged a fumble to Eagle defender Christian King, who ran it in from nine yards out. Cash Womack boomed the first of his five PATs with 8:53 remaining to twirling time.
Still, it appeared the Buckeyes might be en route to the kind of top-heavy triumph they’d scored in each prior outing this season as Tennison soon unleashed a 77-yard TD to Jay Rockwell with 8:37 left to intermission before hot-footing around left end 46 yards on a fourth-down play for another tally. That came with 2:43 remaining to music time.
Down 28-7, Lindale didn’t yet know it was licked, though. And as had been the case before, Gilmer’s imperfect punting game resuscitated the hosts.
After Gilmer was halted at its own 1-yard line, a backup punter mustered only a 22-yarder which went of bounds to the right. Shortly afterward, Lindale runner Nashad Lee tripped for a TD from one yard out with 13 seconds left to intermission, and the PAT cut the visitors’ lead to 28-14 at the half.
Lindale would match the Buckeyes point-for-point afterward, but could not halt the yard-gobbling Gilmer offense sufficiently.
The Buckeyes upped their advantage to three TDs again when Tennison flung a 25-yard score to Rohan Fluellen with 9:59 left in the third period. Then Peterson suddenly caught fire like a six-alarm blaze, hurling a 56-yard tally to Jacob Seekford with 8:23 left in the quarter, and a 28-yard TD to Judson Long with time expired in the period.
Suddenly, it was 35-28 going into the final quarter and anybody’s game.
Haynes zipped three yards to TD Town with 8:44 left, only to see Peterson whip a 21-yard score to Evan Alford on a fourth-down aerial with 4:18 left. Haynes then ingested his final aforementioned six points before Fluellen snuffed what slender hopes remained for Lindale by swiping a Peterson pass and returning it to the Buckeye 24 with 1:27 remaining.
Gilmer, ranked number two in state, travels to Carthage to commence battle against that city’s top-ranked Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Should the Buckeyes need psychological incentive, they might recall that their only two losses in 2020 came to Carthage–42-14 in regular season and a horrific 70-14 shelling in the state title game after Gilmer led 14-0 in the latter contest. In Gilmer Coach Alan Metzel’s 20 games at the Buckeye helm, those are his lone downfalls.