By Phillip Williams
GILMER–’Twas a night when the Spring Hill Panthers were amBushed as Gilmer Buckeyes running back Darrell Bush trod for three touchdowns, his squad survived a late Panther insurgency which nearly rescinded a 22-point deficit despite turnover troubles, and thus Gilmer stultified Spring Hill, 42-34, in the teams’ District 6-4A Division II inaugural Friday.
Besides Bush’s bounding, Gilmer (5-2) triumped somewhat on the strength of its “Black Flag Defense” claiming four takeaways–including three passes purloined off Spring Hill quarterback Gage White, the first of which was a “pick-six” and all of which somewhat negated White’s three TD tosses.
The Buckeyes meantime ceded only one turnover, and the contest was marred by several 15-yard penalties against both squads and the ejection of one Panther player for what the referee simply termed “language.”
The aformentioned pick-six came on Spring Hill’s opening play from scrimmage when Marshae Spraglin filched the aerial and returned it 42 yards with 9:34 left in the opening period. Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of six successful PATs.
Another Gilmer gusher came on the Buckeyes’ subsequent offensive possession as backup Brandon Tennison sprinted 16 yards on a quarterback draw for a TD with 5:26 still left in the first verse.
Spring Hill (3-4) momentarily climbed off the canvas on Davaunte Powers’ 2-yard scoring hike, and Ashton Thomas’ PAT kick, with 46 seconds left in the quarter, only to behold a quick counter-punch as Gilmer runner D.J. Shead whizzed 46 yards, simply outrunning the pursuing Panthers for a TD with seven seconds left in the period.
This scoring cloudburst then ceased until the frantic final minute of the first half. Bush bounded 19 yards for his first tally with 57 seconds left, and Gilmer was up 28-7. But the Panthers hit sort of a “Hail Mary” pass on the half’s final play from scrimmage when White slipped from a defender and airmailed an improbable 25-yard TD to Jay Rockwell in the Gilmer end zone. Thomas’ kick sliced the hosts’ margin to 28-14 at twirling time, and a 15-yard Gilmer penalty on the PAT was assessed against the Buckeyes before they kicked off to open the second half–giving the visitors psychological ample ammunition for a comeback.
Spring Hill, however, went 3-and-out before revving up the motor on its next possession as White flung a 27-yard TD to Rockwell. But Thomas’ PAT attempt was low and short with 5:22 left in the third quarter. Furthermore, Gilmer wasn’t long in responding with its own TD as Bush hoofed six yards with 3:14 remaining in the period.
And it appeared the Panthers were deceased and interred when Bush steamed 10 yards to another TD and the PAT made it 42-20 with 10:10 left.
Spring Hill, however, was not quite ready to be pronounced DOA, thanks to two Big Bangs. First, Powers rumbled 31 yards to score with 7:18 left, and the scoreboard operator clicked another second off the clock when White ran over a 2-point conversion.
Then White lofted perhaps the evening’s biggest wow at Jeff Traylor Stadium–an 86-yard scoring sling to Zach Henry with 3:32 left before Thomas’ kick failed.
But an onside kick was unsuccessful and Spring Hill’s offense would get no more opportunities since the Buckeyes ingested 27 yards on four rushing plays before running out the clock with quarterback Mason Hurt’s two kneeldowns.
Before the game, Panther partisans hung a number of banners, one of which read “nobody…ghs” (standing for Gilmer High School) and depicted a drawing of a clown’s face. Another sign gibed “gilmer WHO?”