By Phillip Williams
TEXARKANA–Gilmer Buckeyes quarterback Mason Hurt heaved four touchdown tosses while Gilmer’s “Black Flag Defense” dealt its second shutout of the season as playoff-bound Gilmer lacerated the winless Liberty-Eylau Leopards, 44-0, in the teams’ District 6-4A Division II regular season closeout on a cold Friday night at Harris Field.
Officials ran the clock much of the second half after the Buckeyes bounded to a 30-0 lead at twirling time, and the game concluded in an uncharacteristically short two hours, two minutes.
Gilmer (7-3, 3-1), which finished second in district to Pleasant Grove, now faces the Farmersville Farmers (2-8) in playoff paradise’s first round at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tyler’s Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, while L-E heads for basketball season after going 0-10, 0-4.
On Friday, the Buckeyes tallied TDs on their first three possessions to lead 21-0 at first quarter’s conclusion. Ironically, the Leopards claimed the game’s only turnover when Tyler Parks purloined a pass from Hurt in the second quarter and returned it to the Gilmer 48, but the L-E offense, led by quarterback Ian Jones, was mired throughout the night and never got closer to scoring than the visitors’ 41.
Gilmer’s initial knockdown punch came when Hurt rolled right, then cut back across to the field to his left before air mailing a 24-yard scoring sling to Jaydon Griffin on a fourth-down play with 9:17 left in the opening chapter. Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of his six PATs.
On yet another fourth-down gamble, runner Darrell Bush whizzed six yards to Beulah Land with 3:21 left in the first.
After L-E’s third punt of the quarter, the Buckeyes’ Point Parade continued as Hurt soon hurled a 13-yard TD to ace receiver Dylan Fluellen with 39 seconds still left in the period. Another second was clicked off the clock on the PAT.
The scoring barrage then quietened until late in the second quarter. Gilmer punted the hosts into a hole at the L-E 5 before the Leopards ended up back at the 3, and Buckeye Davion Smith then blocked a punt out of the end zone for a safety wtih 59 seconds left to the Band Break.
This turned into a double disaster for the hosts as Gilmer returned the ensuing free kick (a punt) to the L-E 40 and, greatly abetted by a 15-yard pass interference penalty, hit the jackpot on the second play afterward on Hurt’s 25-yard TD fling to Fluellen with 29 seconds remaining in the half.
The Buckeyes became energized in the second half to fight their way to two more scores. Hurt dispatched a 20-yard TD to Eddie Ray with 3:33 left in the third. And, after an L-E penalty negated Hernandez kicking wide left, his next try succeeded with 3:06 left in the quarter since the clock ran part of the time during the midst of all this.
Right after the ensuing kickoff, L-E appeared to have averted a shutout, and given its relatively modest number of supporters in the bleachers, reason to cheer when a back raced 75 yards for an apparent TD. But a penalty voided it.
Gilmer totted up its final touchdown on Smith’s six-yard bound with about 6:02 left in the contest (because the clock was running, the exact time was difficult to obtain). The PAT came with about 5:24 left