By Phillip Williams
GILMER–Afforded a second chance at airlifting a wargame-winning field goal due to a roughing-the-kicker penalty, Brayden Pate pinged a 26-yarder at contest’s end as the Gilmer Buckeyes liquidated the Lindale Eagles, 59-56, in a flabbergasting finish to an Ode to Offense Friday night at Jeff Traylor Stadium.
Pate, who’d made all eight of his PAT kicks on the evening, had misfired on a 33-yard attempt, a play which began with four seconds remaining in the game and which brought an eruption of exultation from the Lindale side of the field. The elation was short-lived, however, when the penalty negated the errant kick, and Pate’s second try hit the bullseye instead of the contest spilling into overtime.
Gilmer, which led much of the night only to have the Eagles continually come back to tie the score, had seemed sunk like the Titanic when Lindale logged its biggest lead, 49-35, with 7:26 left. Although the visitors would produce seven more points, pratfalls late in the land war led to their undoing.
The teams’ offenses scored virtually at will after starting slowly, tallying only seven points apiece in the first quarter before beginning to exhaust the scoreboard operator by toting up 21 points each in the second period.
Lindale’s offense staged a fruitful fight, leaning on a landlubbing game that centered around quarterback Clint Thurman and runner Wyatt Parker, and somewhat shredded the Gilmer defense like a wood chipper. Thurman hoofed for four TDs, heaved for another, and Parker notched three.
Other factors in the visitors’ favor would probably, more often that not, lead to victory. Viz: The Eagle defense filched three takeaways, all of which eventually led to touchdowns, while the offense dispensed only one turnover.
In addition, Gilmer had at least two touchdowns nullified by penalties.
The Buckeyes’ offense, however, led by rapid runner Will Henderson and quarterback Cadon Tennison, proved prolific. Furthermore, the lone Lindale turnover–combined with Gilmer recovering a late onside kick and the devastating roughing-the-kicker penalty–proved fatal factors for the Eagles.
Tennison, meantime, launched four TD passes–two to Ta’Erik Tate and one to Henderson–while Henderson legged out a trio of other TDs.
Lindale fired the opening scoring salvo. On the second play after its offense surrendered the pigskin on downs at the Gilmer 29, Eagle defender Jackson Parker purloined a pass from Tennison at the 39.
It took eight plays, but Lindale loped into Beulah Land when Wyatt Parker streamed six yards up the middle. Kicker Seth Baggett then bopped the first of his eight successful PATs with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
Gilmer’s rapid response team, though, tied it on its ensuing possession. On the third play after a penalty voided a Buckeye TD, Henderson screamed 52 yards down the left sideline to TD Territory with 1:55 remaining in the first.
Gilmer then grasped the lead on the second quarter’s second play, Tennison’s long-distance 43-yard scoring sling to Geramiah Noble with 11:46 left.
Pesky Lindale, though, rebounded when Thurman thundered 57 yards down the left side to Glory Land with 10:06 left to the musical break. The PAT marked the first of five times the visitors tied the game after falling seven points behind.
Gilmer snatched the wheel away again when Henderson hustled five yards to score with 6:12 left in the scintillating second period. Lindale, however, counter-punched on Thurman’s 2-yard TD with 2:17 remaining in the quarter.
With it tied 21-all, Tennison heaved an 18-yard TD throw to Henderson with 1:36 left to Band Time, only to see Lindale surge back once again on Wyatt Parker’s 3-yard scoring hop with 37 seconds left.
The PAT left it knotted 28-28 at Twirling Time.
Gilmer again seized the lead as Henderson hustled 19 yards to tally with 10:44 left in the third, only to see Thurman wheel a yard to score with 4:52 to go in the quarter.
Suddenly, Lady Luck seemed to side with the Eagles as, soon after Henderson disgorged them a fumble at the Gilmer 34, Thurman dispatched a 7-yard TD toss to Carson Plunkett with 1:37 left in the third.
Now Lindale led, 42-35, for the first time since the first quarter. And when Thurman rumbled 36 yards around the right side for a TD with 7:26 left, it appeared the outcome was virtually sealed.
After all, Gilmer’s defense seemed incapable of snuffing the Eagles’ offensive blitzkrieg, and the Buckeyes were now two TDs behind. And had anyone known Lindale was going to score one more, it would have seemed that the Buckeye cause was as hopeless as a cockroach confronted by a squadron of exterminators.
Someone, however, forgot to inform the home team that it was knocked out.
And the last enthralling 6:47 of the game would feature a stupefying total of five scores–four TDs and the field goal.
After Thurman’s tally, Gilmer sped 75 yards on its next possession to hit the jackpot on Tennison’s 13-yard airmail package to Tate with 6:47 left. And then came probably the first of the game’s major turning points–the Buckeyes’ mid-air recovery of an onside kick at the Lindale 40.
On the fourth play afterward, little-used Gilmer runner Daydrion Jimmerson trooped a yard into the end zone with 6:20 left. The PAT tied it 49-all.
Then another key turning point. On its next possession, the Eagle offense finally faltered when Gilmer batted down Thurman’s fourth-down pass from the Buckeye 46 with 2:33 to go.
On the very next play, Tennison pitched another bomb, this one to Tate, for a 54-yard TD with 2:24 left. The PAT added to the astounding Gilmer comeback, putting the hosts up 56-49.
Then came a tumultuous turn of events for the grand finale.
Lindale took the kickoff, had three incompletions from its 28, and on fourth down, completed a pass that would have gleaned a first down–only to have the receiver bequeath a fumble to the Buckeyes at their 39 with 1:52 left.
On the third play afterward, incredibly, Henderson returned the favor at the Gilmer 45 with 1:35 left. And Lindale motored right into TD land in four plays as Parker hied four yards with 34 seconds left.
Gilmer took the kickoff and managed, in four plays (three completions and a spiked incompletion), to zip to the Lindale 14 before came the apparent missed kick, the killer penalty for the visitors, and Pate’s clinching three-pointer.
The outcome left Gilmer’s record at 2-2, Lindale’s at 1-3, and again verified a maxim long ago attributed to Yogi Berra: It ain’t over till it’s over.