Buckeyes pull off shocker – upsets Carthage Bulldogs

By Phillip Williams

TYLER–To paraphrase the ancient poem, there is no joy in Carthage. The invincible Carthage Bulldogs finally struck out Friday night, courtesy of a team they have routinely put to the sword for years, the Gilmer Buckeyes, in one of the greatest upsets in East Texas Playoff Paradise football history.

Gilmer’s Brayden Pate airlifted a 36-yard field goal –his fourth of the game–before the Bulldogs suffered a fatal game-ending fumble, as Gilmer conquered Carthage, 47-44, in overtime at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

What a fabulous feat was this in this breathtaking bout? Consider the following:

–Defending state champ Carthage entered the arena at 13-0, having won 29 straight games and a bookoodle of state titles, having not lost to Gilmer since 2015, and having berated the Buckeyes by a flabbergasting 70-14 finish in the 2020 state championship tilt.

–One online rating service delved into its tea leaves and foresaw an 18-point triumph of the Bulldogs in the Class 4A Division II Region II regional final. Word has it that the supposed seer who forecast this has been put on a leave of permanent absence.

–Gilmer, which registered a 10-3 record afore Friday’s fury (compared, remember, to Carthage’s 13-0), was so debilitated on defense in the year’s first six games that the Buckeyes surrendered between 56 and 71 points to four foes (yet won two of those games). And in contrast to Carthage, which had shut out four of its adversaries, Gilmer had held nary an enemy to zero.

Thus, it seemed that the Buckeyes’ chances of biting the Bulldogs were about as overwhelming as those of someone getting frostbite in East Texas in the month of August.

Yet, Coach Alan Metzel’s charges pulled off the seemingly next-to-impossible mountain-moving in an Ode to Offense which saw the lead change hands seven times. Gilmer now battles Glen Rose in the semi-finals at 7 p.m. Friday in Prosper.

With all the touchdowns being tallied, it was easy to overlook kicker Pate’s critical role. He clanged all five PAT kicks and all his field goal attempts successfully, likely the first time in Gilmer football history that a Buckeye booter has boomed four successful field goals.

Still, Carthage staged a late comeback to tie it 44-44 with but 23 seconds left in regulation, sending Gilmer into only the fourth overtime game in school history and the first in at least nine years.

It was a scorefest from the start as Carthage took the opening kickoff and rolled 69 yards to Beulah Land on Kelwin Edwards’ 13-yard streak up the middle. Leo Medrano launched the first of his six successful PATs with 8:03 left in quarter one.

Gilmer promptly counter-attacked on its opening offensive, plodding 67 yards to score on super-speedy runner Will Henderson’s four-yard whiz with 3:26 left in the inaugural period.

In the second quarter, Gilmer quarterback Cade Tennison unleashed a 40-yard scoring sling to Brendan Webb with 11:12 left, only to see Carthage field general Jett Surratt, son of head Coach Scott Surratt, dispatch a 70-yard TD throw to Bradan Manning. 

Then Carthage’s Carson Crawford ran over a 2-point conversion, putting his team up 15-14 with 10:55 remaining to intermission.

Gilmer, however, got its bomber in the air again as, soon after the Buckeyes recovered a Bulldog fumble on a punt, Tennison sent a 12-yard TD to Ta’Erik Tate with 7:23 still to go to the Band Break. The PAT sent the Buckeyes ahead 21-15.

But pesky Carthage returned fire on Edwards’ 5-yard hop up the middle with 5:02 still left in quarter two. Still, Gilmer would re-seize the steering wheel on Pate’s half-ending 23-yard footing the ball, meaning the Buckeyes led 24-22 at Twirling Time.

Then, early in the third quarter, a Buckeye bobble led to Carthage confiscating the lead again . Henderson fumbled away a backwards pass (lateral) at the Bulldog 48 and, abetted by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty, Carthage reached TD territory when Mikel Fields wheeled 26 yards around right end on an end-around.

That came with 9:04 left in the third and the PAT sent Carthage up 29-24. During the Carthage possession, an animated and uncharacteristically irate Metzel had given an official two earfuls on a play when the coach believed a Bulldog had disgorged a fumble to Gilmer, but the officials ruled otherwise.

Gilmer, assisted by two 15-yard penalties, climbed off the canvas enough to get Pate’s 31-yard field goal with 6:44 left in the quarter, only to see the ‘Dogs open up their biggest lead of the night after Carthage’s Cole Martin purloined a pass from Tennision at the Bulldog 40.

Before long, Surratt uncorked a fourth-down, 11-yard TD pass to Manning and the PAT made it 36-27 in Carthage’s favor with only 31 seconds left in the third. Gilmer appeared to be sinking like the Titanic.

But it wasn’t.

The Great Upset was coming to pass.

In a hike to a Gilmer TD marked by penalties against both squads, Tennison finally flung a 23-yard TD pass to Henderson  with 9:55 left in regulation.

Carthage punted 51 yards on a play where it pretended to line up to go for it on fourth down, and the Buckeyes promptly inched down the turnpike enough for Pate to whip up another 29-yard field goal with 4:56 left in regulation, sending Gilmer back up 37-36.

But what may well have eventually turned the game came a few plays later when Henderson filched a Surrratt sling at the Gilmer 28, returning it to the 41. 

Converting on fourth down at one point, Gilmer again invaded the Bulldog end zone on Tennison’s 25-yard sprint with 1:49 left, and the PAT made it 44-36.

Carthage gallantly would tear downfield to tie it up before overtime, trodding 75 yards in only seven plays to ring the bell on Surratt’s 3-yard heave to Fields before the Bulldog quarterback passed to Cade Ross for the tying two-point conversion.

Gilmer returned the kickoff to its 27 before Tennison lost six yards to end regulation. Then the dramatic denouement.

Starting out from the Carthage 25 under overtime rules, the Buckeyes could only reach the 19 before Pate put up what would prove the game-deciding kick.

Carthage, starting from the Gilmer 25, then inexplicably crumbled as Surratt fumbled, but recovered for a 1-yard gain. But on the next play came the lethal blow as he again fumbled, this time to Buckeye defender Trey Lee to end it.

Some 2,000 years ago, a man named Marcus Porcius Cato issued a fanatical cry in the Roman senate that the then-city of “Carthage must be destroyed.” Soon after, Roman legions sacked that Punic capital and demolished it to the ground.

Friday night, the Buckeyes finally accomplished the mission in modern times. Carthage at last was destroyed.



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