By Phillip Williams
Quarterback Brandon Tennison heaved four touchdowns and hoofed for another as the Gilmer Buckeyes stultified the Spring Hill Panthers, 59-13, in the teams’ opening district dustup Friday night at Jeff Traylor Stadium in Gilmer.
Gilmer (5-1) faces Pittsburg in another district duel of District 8-4A Division II squads at Pittsburg at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
While the hosts’ “Black Flag Defense” largely planted the Panthers (3-3) throughout Friday eve, the Buckeye offense took awhile to accelerate Friday night, not activating the scoreboard until 48 seconds remained in the first quarter. As it turned out, however, the end result brought to mind the old joke about the first car to ever appear in a town more than 100 years ago.
An elderly man was asked about the newfangled machine. “What do you think, Pops?” He replied, “They’ll never get it started.”
When it did start, he was asked, “What do you think now, Pops?” He replied, “They’ll never get it stopped.”
As it turned out, the slow-starting Gilmer offense indeed proved almost beyond stilling once it completed its first scoring surge, whisking to a 28-6 lead at twirling time and toting up 31 more points afterward. Gilmer tallied right up until 1:53 left in the wargame.
The initial TD came on Tennison’s 8-yard swoop around left end. Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of three straight PATs (backup kicker Dominic Chavez would clang the other four, although Hernandez returned to notch a second-half field goal.)
Gilmer’s next six-pack of points came when Davion Smith wheeled three yards with 8:01 left until intermission.
The Panthers momentarily sniffed the smelling salts, scoring on a bizarre play when QB Brennan Ferguson, running from the Gilmer 6-yard-line, fumbled into the end zone, where teammate Devaunte Powers pounced on the pigskin.
The Buckeyes, however, blocked Jose De La Cruz’s PAT try with 1:47 left to the break, making it 14-6, and just when it appeared SH was crawling back into the contest, Gilmer would erupt for two TDs, both on Tennison tosses to Dylan Fluellen, in the relatively little time left before Music Time.
First, Tennison uncorked a 47-yarder with 1:05 left. Then, on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Dylan’s brother, Rohan Fluellen, purloined Ferguson’s fling and returned it 38 yards to the Panther 20.
A 15-yard penalty for offensive pass interference voided a Gilmer TD on the next play, but only delayed the inevitable. On the third play afterward, a 26-yard airmail produced points with but nine seconds left to the break.
Conditions would worsen for the visitors afterward. Immediately after the Buckeyes pilfered another Ferguson pass–Cody Guidry returned this one 28 yards to the Spring Hill 10–Tennison launched the first of two TD passes to Rohan Fluellen with 10:14 left in the third chapter.
That pair connected again, from 37 yards, with 4:38 left in the quarter. Then a strange play on the ensuing kickoff would set up Hernandez’s 22-yard field goal with 3:13 still left in the period.
The Panthers, evidently thinking the ball would roll into the end zone for a touchback, let the Buckeyes recover at the Spring Hill 2. But a 5-yard penalty against Gilmer, followed by three running plays which only gained a collective two yards, preceded the three-pointer.
Still, the Buckeye touchdown parade continued as backup runner Jared Ward bopped three yards with 6:35 left in the contest.
To its credit, Spring Hill rebounded a tad, tallying on backup QB Jax Stovall’s 34-yard zip to Curtis Crowe, and De La Cruz clanged the PAT with 3:55 left. However, Gilmer answered with its last trip to Beulah Land, Ward’s 20-yarder.