By Phillip Williams
COMMERCE–Gilmer Buckeyes quarterback Brandon Tennison heaved two touchdowns and hoofed for another while teammate running back Ashton Haynes toted up two TDs as Gilmer cleavered the previously unvanquished Caddo Mills Foxes, 38-14, in a Class 4A Division II Region II final dustup Friday night on Texas A&M-Commerce’s Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium.
The triumph rocketed Gilmer (13-1) into a semi-finals matchup against Graham at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Prosper. Caddo Mills finished the trail at 12-1 after upsetting defending state champ Pleasant Grove a week earlier.
Caddo Mills’ highly-heralded quarterback, Tyler Townley, spent much of Friday night vainly trying to surmount a Gilmer defense that pursued him as if he was a fugitive from the law.
His team, which had scored anywhere from 29-70 points in its previous dozen outings, was held pointless after two first-half TDs although he had reportedly passed for 3,099 yards and 38 TDs while rushing for 1,377 yards and 21 tallies in previous outings.
Haynes began the bloodletting on a 5-yard hop, thus writing finis to a 66-yard, 8-play offensive on Gilmer’s second possession. Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of his five successful PATs with 4:10 remaining in the opening quarter.
Then, if there is such a thing as a pivotal play in a game decided by 24 points, it likely came on the ensuing kickoff. A Fox disgorged a fumble to Buckeye Landon Watson at the Caddo Mills 21.
On the third play afterward, Haynes rolled eight yards to the right to Beulah Land with 3:36 still left in the first period.
Caddo Mills momentarily rebounded, promply ingesting 74 yards in an 8-play offensive which was abetted by a 15-yard pass interference penalty against the Buckeyes. In one of his few cheery moments of the night, Townley hurled an 11-yard TD toss to Gavyn Beane with 30 seconds left in the first.
The PAT became a bit of an oddity when Caddo Mills was penalized on it and Gilmer was then penalized on the second kick try. Finally, Jonah Rupe banged the first of his two successful kicks and the wargame had suddenly turned close.
Gilmer, however, clanged downfield and Hernandez footed a 26-yard field goal with 8:41 left to twirling time.
But although down 17-7, the Foxes awhile later pared their deficit when runner Konner Pounds pounded three yards to tally with 2:54 left to intermission. That polished off a 76-yard, 5-play hike which began after Tennison was stopped on a fourth down play.
Townley’s wowing 62-yard whiz to the Gilmer 6-yard-line had highlighted the offensive. Before that point, and afterward, his team did not produce another play which procured anywhere near that amount of yardage.
And little did Caddo Mills know that the PAT which clipped the Buckeye lead to 17-14 would conclude the Foxes’ scoring for the evening as Gilmer toted up 21 unanswered points.
Seven of ’em weren’t long in coming.
The Buckeyes took the kickoff and whistled 70 yards in seven plays, producing points on Tennison’s 11-yard toss to Jaydon Griffin with 1:06 left to music time. And, up 24-14, it appeared the Buckeyes might heighten the lead even more before half’s end when Rohan Fluellen purloined a pass by Townley at the Gilmer 48 with 42 seconds left.
Tennison promptly dispatched a 32-yard pass to Fluellen’s brother, Dylan Fluellen. But Caddo Mills was spared further damage for the moment as it ended up halting the Buckeyes on downs at the Fox 21 on the half’s next-to-last play.
Still, Gilmer perhaps cinched it by taking the second-half kickoff and quilting together another touchdown travelogue.
After the kickoff resulted in a 15-yard penalty against the Buckeyes, they nonetheless steamed 79 yards in 10 plays, aided by a 5-yard Fox penalty. Tennison screamed 11 yards for the TD with 7:59 left in the third.
Neither offense made a serious threat for awhile, but the Buckeyes launched their final successful TD quest after a Caddo Mills punt. Gilmer whipped 66 yards in five plays, notching the six-pack of points on Tennison’s 23-yard heave to Mason Hurt with only 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
Playing defense, Townley would get a tad of comfort by snuffing a Gilmer threat with 6:51 left in the game when he filched Tennison’s pass and returned it to the Caddo Mills 22. The Buckeyes had reached the Fox 25 yard-line just before suffering this minor mishap–their only turnover.
Like Gilmer, Caddo Mills turned out a large aggregation of fans for the contest. But on this night, the Foxes finally got out-foxed.