By Phillip Williams
Although the East Texas Yamboree carnival, with its array of dutifully discombobulating attractions, was blocks away from Gilmer’s Jeff Traylor Stadium Friday night, the resurgent Gilmer Buckeyes saw to it that the North Lamar Panthers still got taken for a repugnant ride.
Runner Will Henderson hummed for three TDs, fellow runner Dhrvay Smith tallied two, and while the Panthers posted points early and late, the Buckeyes did all the immense amount of scoring in between as Gilmer negated North Lamar, 49-12, in a District 7-4A Division II dustup.
The Buckeyes (5-3, 2-1) also seem to have tansformed their defense, which was charred for a horrid 253 points in their first six outings. The 12 points yielded Friday (when the defense commendably confiscated two fumbles and an interception), and the 12 surrendered a week earlier against Liberty-Eylau, marked the lowest point totals against Gilmer this season.
More good news for the Buckeyes surfaced when starting quarterback Cadon Tennison, who suffered a concussion in a game two weeks earlier, saw significant action Friday although backup Jaden Edmond started and probably played most of the fray. Both threw a TD pass before third-stringer Jordan Escalante even got into the wargame in the fourth quarter.
Landlubbing North Lamar, which pitches very few passes, came into the arena at 5-2, 2-0, Friday night and momentarily mortified the favored Buckeyes at the outset. The Panthers took the opening kickoff and promptly inched 75 yards in 11 rushing plays to tally when quarterback Blake Hildreth swooped seven yards.
Kicker Dallas Foster’s PAT try was wide, but the Panthers had consumed more than half the first quarter with their opening offensive as only 5:27 remained.
Undaunted, Gilmer promptly counter-attacked with a scoring salvo of its own. The Buckeyes stoked themselves with a lengthy kickoff return to the visitors’ 43 and, abetted by a 5-yard penalty, reached Beulah Land in only six plays on Henderson’s fourth-down, 5-yard flight to the left.
Brayden Pate airlifted the first of his five successful PATs (he missed after the second Gilmer TD, and his team ran over a 2-point conversion after the third). Pate’s first boomer put Gilmer up 7-6 with 3:34 left in the inaugural quarter.
The hosts would then draw and quarter North Lamar with three TDs in less than two minutes.
After a Panther punt, the Buckeyes revved up their offense to hit the jackpot when Henderson hustled one yard with 10:30 left to Twirling Time. Pate’s kick failed although the visitors were penalized before he attempted it.
But the kicking game then turned Gilmer’s way on an oddball play.
The Buckeyes kicked off and the rolling ball appeared to be headed out of bounds to Gilmer’s left, so a nearby North Lamar player let it go, only to have Gilmer’s Daydrion Jimmerson suddenly swoop in and snatch it.
Smith immediately scurried 11 yards for a TD, and Aron Bell procured the 2-point conversion on the “swinging gate” with 10:24 left to Band Time.
This turn of events started the Panthers on the path to disintegration. On the second play after the ensuing kickoff, Hildreth fumbled to Gilmer’s Trey Lee at the North Lamar 31.
Henderson soon hastened nine yards to another score with 8:42 still left in the second period.
And with only 26 seconds remaining till intermission, Edmond chunked an 11-yard scoring sling to Brendan Webb, so Gilmer led 35-6 at intermission.
The onslaught continued in the third quarter as Smith bounded six yards to glory with 7:34 left before Tennison unleashed a 39-yard long-distance TD to Ta’Erik Tate with 2:05 left.
Tate had set up his TD by purloining a pass from Hildreth and returning it 20 yards to the hosts’ 23-yard-line, snuffing a Panther threat that had reached the Gilmer 15.
North Lamar commendably continued battling and was rewarded with a TD when Hildreth uncorked a lengthy 38-yard heave to Anthony Gordon with only 26 seconds left in the affray. A run for two points failed.
Far too little, far too late. This was a night when the Panthers wouldn’t be tickled pink.