By Phillip Williams
GILMER–The nearly-unvanquished Gilmer Buckeyes struggled to dispatch the winless Pittsburg Pirates to Davy Jones’ Locker on Friday night in procuring a workmanlike 26-13 triumph in a District 8-4A wargame at Jeff Traylor Stadium.
Gilmer quarterback Brandon Tennison and runner Ashton Haynes scurried for one TD apiece, and also hooked up on a scoring sling as the Buckeyes survived a late Pirate surge after leading 26-7. Gilmer is now 6-1, 2-0 in district dustups, while Pittsburg descended to 0-7 and 0-2, but gave the Buckeyes far more of a fight than they had last year, when Gilmer led 41-0 at intermission en route to winning 41-6.
The Pirates also had the distinction of being only the second team this year to limit Gilmer to fewer than 42 points.
Pittsburg’s landlubbing offense, which passes sparingly, and Gilmer’s normally-volcanic offense both totted up significant yardage in a game that featured no punts, but both teams were beset by turnovers. While the Buckeyes also had two TDs negated by penalties, they were abetted by kicker Jose Hernandez airlifting two field goals, and Gilmer never trailed after taking an early 3-0 lead.
Curiously, Pittsburg, trailing 26-7 after Hernandez boomed a 20-yard field goal with 8:06 left, did not switch from its time-consuming rushing game to a hurry-up offense on either of its final two possessions, although the visitors still had a sliver of a chance to stage a major upset.
Pittsburg took until 3:06 remaining to procure its second and final TD, lofting but one pass in the 69-yard scoring offensive which culminated in quarterback Brayden Bolton’s 2-yard sneak before a run for two points fizzled.
After an onside kick failed, the Buckeyes left the gate open for a potential stunning late comeback as Tennison immediately disgorged away a fumble at the Gilmer 29 with 2:57 left. Again strangely taking their time, the Pirates could not turn the Buckeye bobble into points, though. Four plays later–two rushes, an incompletion by backup QB Christian Layton, and his fourth-down completion for a 4-yard loss–Gilmer regained the pigskin at its 33 with 1:36 left and ran out the clock.
The Buckeyes had bounded to their early lead on Hernandez’s 26-yarder with 5:15 left in the opening chapter–a tally set up when the visitors dispensed away a fumble at the Pirate 46 on the contest’s opening offensive.
Gilmer next scored when Haynes screamed 18 yards around the left side with 11:43 left in the second period. After a 5-yard penalty on the PAT, Hernandez’s kick failed–but he would make his next two conversions.
Ironically, the aerial-averse Pirates reaped their first TD on a 17-yard heave from Bolton to Tyliq Isome with 3:33 left to the break and Erick Hernandez boomed the PAT, making it 9-7.
The Buckeyes suffered a blow when Rohan Fluellen’s stupefying 90-yard return of the ensuing kickoff was voided by a penalty. But Gilmer scored anyway on the possession as Tennison flung a short toss to Haynes, who turned it into a 39-yard TD with 1:44 left in the half and the hosts went up 16-7 at twirling time.
After a wild first half of the third quarter–when the teams combined for three turnovers–Tennison whizzed four yards for Gilmer’s final touchdown with 3:59 left in the quarter.
Gilmer meets district adversary Liberty-Eylau in Texarkana at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Honorary captains for Gilmer at Friday’s game were Jason and Debbie Barber, whose 19-year-old son, former Buckeye player Carson Barber, was killed in a pickup crash earlier this year after he graduated from Gilmer High a year earlier.