By Phillip Williams
GILMER–The unvanquished Gilmer Buckeyes, finding themselves in a flabbergasting 21-point freefall at twirling time against an upstart underdog, staged a stupefying second-half surge to lash the Lindale Eagles, 56-49, in a dramatic Parade of Points at Jeff Traylor Stadium Friday night.
Gilmer, facing a 35-14 shortcoming at intermission, abruptly erupted for 35 points before the visitors could tally again. Then the outcome was in doubt until less than two minutes remained.
Gilmer quarterback Brandon Tennison heaved for four TDs (three to Dylan Fluellen) and hoofed for another, while runner Davion Smith toted up three TDs–all of which helped the hosts surmount a flummoxing four first-half TDs by Lindale runner Jordan Jenkins.
The Gilmer defense meantime merited laurels for setting up a trio of Buckeye touchdowns in the second half with takeaways, which came after interceptions off Tennison had opened the speedway for two of Lindale’s first-half tallies.
It was only the second time in 50 years that the Buckeyes have overcome a lead this large to win a game. That had last occurred in 1995 against Daingerfield, which forfeited a 21-0 advantage to lose 22-21.
With the triumph in its first home wargame this season, Gilmer is 4-0 under new Head Coach Alan Metzel. Lindale drooped to 2-2.
The Touchdown Tsunami began with each team scoring on their respective opening offensives.
Gilmer took the kickoff and soon tallied on Tennison’s 6-yard throw to Fluellen. Then, feigning a kick on the PAT, the Buckeyes procured two points on a pass play by the same duo with 8:18 left in the first chapter.
Lindale answered with quarterback Sam Peterson’s 4-yard scoring sling to Daniel Franke, and Peterson’s pass to Jacob Seekford for the tying conversion with 6:26 remaining in the quarter.
Jenkins screamed 62 yards to Beulah Land with 3:56 left in the period, but kicker Landon Love’s PAT failed, leaving it 14-8 before Eagle defender Daniel Benitez soon purloined a pass by Tennison. On the very next play, Jenkins whooshed 34 yards to TD turf, and Love airlifted the first of five straight successful PATs, making the count 21-8 with 3:07 still left in the opening period.
On Gilmer’s next possession, Lindale’s Corey Sanders filched another Tennison throw and returned it 23 yards to the Buckeye 3-yard-line. After a 1-yard penalty against Gilmer, Jenkins bopped two yards for yet another score with 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes momentarily rallied, gallantly counter-punching on Smith’s 2-yard hop, but kicker Jose Hernandez missed the PAT after his team was penalized before the boot. Lindale now led 28-14 with 10:25 left to intermission before Jenkins whistled three yards for his final TD with 1:14 left to Music Time–a score set up when Lindale gained 24 yards to the Gilmer 36 on a pass off a fake punt.
With the crowd (size of which was limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic) in likely disbelief that the favored team was well behind at the break, the Buckeyes charged out for the second half and soon launched a titanic turnabout.
It began with a fumble which Peterson just seemed to bobble out of his hands to defender Brycen Jimmerson at the Buckeye 41–a play which appeared to be the turning point in the eventual outcome.
On the fourth play afterward, Smith swooped six yards for six points and Hernandez punched the first of two straight successful PATs with 9:56 left in the third.
After an Eagle punt, Gilmer roared into Glory Land again on Tennison’s 34-yard long-distance airmail package to receiver Mason Hurt, who had started at quarterback much of the last two seasons. With 8:04 left in the third, Lindale’s lead was suddenly reduced to seven and yet another Eagle error on the ensuing kickoff proved catastrophic for the visitors.
Lindale disgorged a fumble to Buckeye KeKe Johnson at the Eagle 47. On the eighth play afterward, Smith steamed two yards for another TD, but Gilmer remained behind 35-34 when the hosts fumbled on a try for two points with 5:02 left in the third.
It didn’t matter as Gilmer’s defense soon claimed yet another takeaway with Rohan Fluellen swiping a Peterson pass and returning it to the Buckeye 23. This eventually led to Tennison sending a 9-yard TD toss to Rohan’s brother, Dylan, with 11:26 left in the fray and Hernandez’s PAT put Gilmer up 41-35.
Then Tennison flung Dylan Fluellen a 16-yard score and Cody Guidry trod for two points with 8:52 left before Lindale’s offense finally revived. Peterson zinged a 7-yard TD to Jaymond Jackson with 5:07 left, only to see Tennison pull a show-stopper on Gilmer’s next possession.
Facing 4th-and-4 at the Lindale 41, the shifty Buckeye field general abruptly whizzed down the left sideline to TD territory with 3:24 left.
Still, the Eagles would not send up the white flag to Gilmer’s “Black Flag Defense,” rallying again on Peterson’s 24-yard pass to Jackson with 1:52 left.
An onside kick, however, failed and the Buckeyes ran out the clock after a minor controversy. With 17 seconds left, officials granted Lindale a time out, bringing protests from some Gilmer fans that the Eagles had already used up all their time outs. As it turned out, Tennison then simply took a knee, as he had on the prior play.
Gilmer hosts defending state champion Carthage, which has played (and won) only one game this season, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs, who beat Kilgore, reportedly had several opponents cancel games due to COVID-19.