Gilmer advances in playoffs

By Phillip Williams

MESQUITE–To paraphrase an old underwear commercial, the dilemma for the Gainesville Leopards here Friday night was that they couldn’t get their hands on Haynes.    

Gilmer Buckeyes running back Ashton Haynes hoofed for four TDs as unvanquished Gilmer gashed Gainesville, 60-20, in a Class 4A Division II area playoff at Memorial Stadium which was actually a tight tilt for awhile.

Gainesville took the opening kickoff, promptly rolled downfield to a 7-0 lead, fell behind 14-7, and tied it 14-14 before the earth swallowed up the Leopards so abruptly that Gilmer led 43-14 at Twirling Time.

Haynes did all his scoring by then as the Buckeyes were unfazed by the surprise absence of starting quarterback Cadon Tennison, who was injured against Rusk the prior week. Star receiver Rohan Fluellen, who probably hadn’t taken a snap all year as quarterback, proved worthy of waiting in the wings as he chunked two TDs to Ta’Erik Tate before giving way fairly late in the fray to backup QB Jaden Edmond.

Gainesville managed to remain viable largely due to its ability to move the football at times, and because of several Gilmer penalties. But the Leopard defense proved virtually debilitated against the Buckeye offense, which posted the team’s highest single-game point total in its 11 outings, and Gainesville was also plagued by dispensing three costly fumbles–turnovers which Gilmer Coach Alan Metzel on Saturday called “pivotal.”

The Leopards, who’d upset Sunnyvale the prior week, encountered the checkered flag with a 5-7 mark. Gilmer now vaults into what some observers are saying will effectively determine the state champion when it confronts its nemesis, equally unconquered Carthage, at 6 p.m. Friday at Longview’s Lobo Stadium.

In his three years as Gilmer head coach, Metzel is 39-1 against other teams, but 0-3 against Carthage, which bloodied the Buckeyes, 70-14, in the 2020 state championship combat. None of those three losses were close.

If the Buckeyes perform as they did against Gainesville, though, they might finally bind the Bulldogs on a tight leash.

For awhile Friday night, however, it looked as though Gilmer was an endangered species as the Leopards took the opening kickoff and promptly steamed 77 yards in only five plays, tallying on a 6-yard hop by the head coach’s son, QB Cade Searcy. 

Romeo Cancino conked the first of his two PATs with 9:20 left in the first period.

Gilmer, however, was in rapid response mode, taking the ensuing kickoff and itself piecing together an 8-play, 49-yard TD trek. Fluellen floated an 11-yard scoring sling to Tate, and Jose Govea airlifted the first of his seven successful PATs with 6:30 left in the first chapter.

Gilmer then returned a 28-yard Leopard punt 18 yards to the Gainesville 17, and on the next play, Haynes swooped to the left into Beulah Land with 4:32 left in the opening quarter.

Gainesville was then moving offensively when it fumbled away to Buckeye Geramiah Noble at the Gilmer 43. Gilmer, however, went 3-and-out, punted, and the Leopards launched an elongated 86-yard, 10-play TD offensive, which was greatly abetted by two 15-yard penalties against the Buckeyes.

Searcy, who was out part of that possession when he was injured, returned to the arena to zoom a 29-yard TD throw to Jesse Luna with 10:16 left to intermission, and the PAT tied it.

That is when the Buckeyes turned into a tornadic force, unleashing a 29-point barrage before the bands performed.

After Fluellen soon ran 54 yards to the Leopard 3, Haynes swept to the left into Glory Land again with 8:40 left to the break. Gilmer then ran the “swinging gate” trick play with Aron Bell trooping for a two-point conversion.

On the first play after the kickoff, the Leopards botched a handoff and Buckeye Alec Sims recovered at the Gainesville 36. On the fourth play afterward, Haynes hastened five yards up the middle for yet another TD with 7:33 left to Drill Team Time.

Gainesville gallantly fought back, moving to the Buckeye 13, only to see Cancino miss a 30-yard field goal with 3:59 still left in the half. That cleared the highway for another Gilmer touchdown trip, as Haynes ingested the last six yards with 1:01 to go.

And just when it appeared things couldn’t worsen for the Leopards, they did.

Searcy, who ran well much of the night and had just gained 9 yards to his 41 right after the kickoff, went way backwards,  fumbled at his 20, and Buckeye Seth Jordan returned it to the 12. Fluellen soon flung another six-point sling to Tate–a 7-yarder which a defender tipped into the receiver’s hands–with only five seconds remaining in the half.

Nor did the end of the half signal the end of the Buckeye battering ram, although their foes would score again.

Gilmer accepted the second-half kickoff, and immediately toted up 33 yards on speedy Will Henderson’s dash before he whisked 21 yards on the next play to reach TD territory with 11:43 left in the third period.

Now down 50-14, the Leopards commendably kept punching, soon quilting together a 7-play, 57-yard parade which ended with Searcy shipping yet another TD to Luna, a 17-yarder with 3:53 remaining in the third.

A different kicker than Cancino, Cesar Dela Rosa, saw his PAT partly blocked. And the cheering up of the Leopard partisans soon vanished as, on the first play after the enusing kickoff, Henderson thundered 62 yards to another TD with 3:35 left in the quarter.

Govea notched a 32-yard field goal with 4:31 left in the game to conclude the scoring. 

And on this night, a team called GAINESville was at a loss to figure out how to bind the Buckeyes.


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