By Phillip Williams
COMMERCE–A trio of purloined passes in the fourth quarter, including one which resulted in a touchdown, wrote finis to a stirring second-half resurgence by the Gilmer Buckeyes as they abrogated the Aubrey Chaparrals, 34-21, in a Class 4A Division II regional semi-finals rumble on Friday.
The triumph dispatches Gilmer (10-3) into a regional finals fray against perennial superpower Carthage (13-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Tyler’s Rose Stadium.
Carthage, which has not been put to the sword in roughly two calendar years and has ingested innumerable state championships, has been the Buckeyes’ Achilles heel in recent seasons, having cold-cocked them in both the regular season and state championship encounters in 2020, and identical 28-7 scores in the teams’ last two wargames.
But, to use a phrase from the late Gladewater Coach Jack V. Murphy, the Bulldogs were likely “rafter high” for their own playoff party with equally unvanquished Pleasant Grove, which Carthage won 34-31 in the last minute Friday.
It is not duck soup to get on an emotional Mount Everest two straight weeks, which might work to the advantage of Gilmer, a 16-point underdog against the Bulldogs.
As for Friday’s action against Aubrey, the Buckeyes saw their 10-0 lead at first quarter’s end evaporate when the Chaparrals overtook them by 21-17 at Twirling Time.
After that, though, the Buckeyes ticked off 17 unanswered points as Aubrey, a team far more accustomed to landlubbing than throwing, suffered the stunning series of interceptions in a stupefyingly short time.
As one observer noted, the Chaparrals did all their damage with the impressive, but insufficient 21-point blitzkrieg in the second quarter. Gilmer, though, scored seven itself in that period.
Gilmer quarterback Cadon Tennison hoofed for one TD and heaved for another while teammate Brayden Pate kicked the Chaparrals in their keisters by airlifting two field goals and four PATs, missing nary a try for points.
After each team punted on its opening possession, Tennison started the scoring with an absolute show-stopper, a 76-yard scream down the left sideline in which he somehow evaded being tackled with 8:33 left in the first quadrant.
Pate followed up with a 34-yard field goal with only 57 seconds remaining in the opening chapter.
But Aubrey got its glory in the next quarter.
First, quarterback Jaedon Bogar, who played most of the game although another quarterback who played a bit (Brock Temple) had reportedly been the starter this season, flung an odd 21-yard scoring sling to the left to Tyler Brown with 10:02 left to Band Time.
It was odd because a seemingly confused Gilmer defender near Brown simply stood still as the Aubrey receiver ran into TD turf. Spencer Berger then banged the first of his three PATs.
The Buckeyes bounded back on Tennison’s 19-yard TD throw to Brendan Webb with 6:07 left, but, behind 17-7, and just when it appeared this might turn into a Buckeye Blowout, the Chaparrals commendably proceeded to seize the wheel.
Runner Emerson Cagle concluded a 50-yard offensive by whipping nine yards for a TD with 2:57 to go.
After Gilmer went 3-and-out and punted, Aubrey then plodded 80 yards in 10 plays to tally–greately abetted by a 15-yard Gilmer penalty which more than negated a 2-yard penalty earlier against the Chaparrals.
The score was again a Bogar-to-Brown missile, and like the first, was 21 yards with 15 seconds left to intermission.
Now ahead for the only time at 21-17, nobody knew that the Chaparrals’ scoring was through. A blazing sun that was present at the 4 p.m. kickoff finally set during the game, seemingly an omen of what happened to Aubrey in the second half.
On the Buckeyes’ second possession of the second half, Gilmer star runner Will Henderson hustled seven yards around right end for a TD with 7:02 left in the third. Thus ended a 38-yard, 5-play surge to the end zone.
Up only 24-21 going into the fourth quarter, Gilmer tallied again on Pate’s 26-yard field goal with 7:44 left in the contest. And soon afterward is when Aubrey’s aerial agony surfaced just as it appeared the Chaps might be getting back into the game.
They returned the kickoff after Pate’s field goal to the Gilmer 45 and reached the 20 before two losses threw them back to the Buckeye 26. And then Temple, who quarterbacked little of the game, threw for a touchdown.
Only it was not in the way he intended.
Gilmer’s Aron Bell filched the pass and whistled 89 yards for the TD with 4:56 left. After the PAT, Aubrey found itself down 34-21 with only 4:56 left.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Bogar suffered a similar fate to Temple when he chunked a throw into the waiting hands of Gilmer’s Ta’Erik Tate, who returned it to the Chaps’ 36.
Gilmer ended up punting, but Aubrey wasn’t through with its interception-itis. The Chaps reached their 32, only to have Bogar fire another mishap to Gilmer’s Geremiah Noble, whose mother was murdered only 20 days earlier. Noble snagged it at the Gilmer 41 with 1:16 left.
Decades ago, there was a TV show called “The High Chaparral,” a tribute, perhaps, to the bird of that name. On Friday evening, the Aubrey team felt like The Low Chaparrals.