By Phillip Williams
LONGVIEW–Gilmer Buckeyes running back Will Henderson hoofed for a trio of touchdowns in the second quarter alone, while his defensive teammates confiscated two takeaways to bolster his Big Bangs , as Gilmer stultified the Spring Hill Panthers, 59-13, in a District 7-4A Division II dustup Friday night at Panther Stadium
The Panthers popped onto their playground carrying a perfect 3-0 mark in district disputations (4-4 overall), while Gilmer had comparable histories of 5-3 overall, 2-1 against loop foes. The Buckeyes, however, paralyzed the Panthers with a flurry of long-distance scores although, as one press box observer noted, Spring Hill’s offense hogged the pigskin far more time on the night than the visitors’.
But Henderson drew and quartered the hosts with three TD trips of anywhere from 40-93 yards within a 3:57 span in the second period. And two of them were set up by takeaways as Gilmers defense, which had given up staggering amounts of points in the season’s first six games, has lately turned from blundering to plundering.
The Buckeyes toted up a 38-7 lead at Twirling Time and the landlubbing Panthers, who heaved some throws during the first two quarters, didn’t uncork a single aerial after the bands performed. Officials began running the clock non-stop after Gilmer achieved its final TD with 7:49 left in the affray.
Gilmer took the opening kickoff and trod downfield to produce proficient kicker Brayden Pate’s 24-yard field goal with 10:09 left in the first quadrant. (He’d go on to airlift eight straight successful PATs, missing nary a one).
Spring Hill immediately counter-attacked, converting a feigned punt at one point to ingest 75 yards on its offensive and see runner Trevor Allen hop 15 yards to his right for a TD with 4:24 left in the inaugural period.
Alejandro Jacquez banged the PAT, giving his team its only lead of the night, 7-3.
Alas for the hosts, Gilmer backup quarterback Jaden Edmond, who entered the arena in relief of starter Cadon Tennison, launched a 63-yard TD bomb to Ta’Erik Tate as time expired in the first quarter.
The second period turned traumatic for the Panthers as Henderson detonated their defense. He first whipped 40 yards to Beulah Land with 10:19 left. Then, soon after teammate Brendan Webb purloined a Panther pass at the Buckeye 49, Henderson hot-footed 43 yards to Beulah Land with 8:13 still left to music time.
Spring Hill rallied briefly, trooping deep into Buckeye territory before another Panther pratfall. Runner Julius Hawkins disgorged a fumble to Gilmer’s Trillyon Butler at the 7, and on the next play, Henderson shot up the middle 93 yards so swiftly that Superman wouldn’t have caught him.
That came with 6:22 left to intermission and the Buckeye Bombardment for the quarter was still unfinished. Edmond zipped a 34-yard scoring sling to Webb with 54 seconds remaining.
Though it would score again, things continued going into the gutter for Spring Hill afterward as Tennison returned to the game to toss a short 6-yard TD to Webb with 8:00 left in the third.
The hosts finally mounted another scoring surge as Hawkins swooped four yards to tally with 2:32 left in the period before Jacquez’s PAT kick failed.
This only roused the Buckeyes to score twice more. First, runner Dhrvay Smith screamed 14 yards to his left with 11.2 seconds left in the third before reserve runner Will Grosz garnered the last TD with 7:49 left in the contest.
Thus, Gilmer, which ends regular season against Pittsburg in Gilmer at 7:30 p.m. Friday, copped its sixth win in its last seven forays after uncharacteristically starting the year 0-2. And on this night, the Buckeyes found a Spring in their steps, and a Hill that was far from too high to climb.