Gilmer headed to State Championship game

By Phillip Williams

PROSPER–‘Twas a night when Glen Rose wilted, and the Gilmer Buckeyes procured a pass to the state championship conflagration–a feat that only weeks earlier seemed as probable as polar bears perishing from frostbite.

Gilmer’s faster-than-Superman running back Will Henderson footed four touchdowns while his team took advantage of some critical turnovers as Gilmer gored the Glen Rose Tigers, 79-42, in a Score-A-Thon of a Class 4A Division 2 semi-finals rumble Friday night.

The outcome of the fast-and-furious scoring binge booked the Buckeyes–a team which started the season 0-2, was 3-3 afterward, and was pelted for more than 60 points each by three foes–into Gilmer’s third state championship tilt in four seasons under Coach Alan Metzel.

The Buckeyes (12-3) behold unvanquished Bellville (15-0) at 3 p.m.  Friday in AT&T Stadium in Arlington. (The game will be televised). It is Gilmer’s ninth landing in a state title tilt, and the Buckeyes have won three, but lost the last two (in 2020 and 2021.)

For those who espy only the teams’ records–and quickly conclude that Bellville can start planning a victory celebration–let it be recalled that Gilmer staged a stupefying upset of undefeated defending state champ Carthage less than a fortnight ago, abruptly ending that team’s 29-game triumph streak and No. 1 ranking.

And one press box observer at Children’s Health Stadium Friday night made the observation that the only thing that can stop Gilmer’s bulldozer of an offense is Gilmer itself. The Buckeyes haven’t been held to less than 23 points in a game this year, scored fewer than 30-something only twice, and tallied more than 50 points in each of eight outings.

The only time they trailed Friday night was a short-lived 7-6 advantage which the Tigers took in the first quarter. That morphed into  a 45-21 Buckeye lead at twirling time, and Glen Rose (which came in at 10-4) found itself bludgeoned by 66-21 before it could score more.

After the Tigers took the opening kickoff and punted (something Gilmer didn’t do until the fourth quarter), Gilmer swooped downfield to tally on Aron Bell’s 2-yard bop with 9:34 left in the opening chapter. Usually-reliable kicker Brayden Pate’s PAT kick failed, but he would make all seven he attempted afterward, and a field goal.

Glen Rose soon counter-attacked with Camden Raymond’s 12-yard TD trip, and Jorge Mendoza airlifted the first of his six successful PATs with 5:54 left in the first.

The lead vanished with a sudden show-stopper by Gilmer.

Geramiah Noble, whose mother was murdered only weeks earlier, returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to Beulah Land. Bell ran for two points on the “swinging gate” to put Gilmer up 14-7 with 5:38 to go in the period, beginning a blitzkrieg of Buckeye point production.

In short order, Brendan Webb hoofed 10 yards to the right to Glory Land with 52 seconds still left in the first. Henderson screamed 75 yards to tally with 11:30 left to intermission. Then, soon after Gilmer defender Mykah Easley filched a fling by Tiger QB Canyon Evans, Henderson whipped four yards for yet another TD with 8:31 to the break.

And the earth continued falling from beneath Glen Rose on the ensuing kickoff as a Tiger tried to lateral backwards to a teammate, only to see Gilmer’s Kolby Webb recover a fumble on the play. 

Immediately, Buckeye QB Cade Tennison heaved a 22-yard TD to Webb with 8:21 still remaining before Music Time.

Suddenly down 42-7, Glen Rose revived for a while as Evans sent a 12-yard scoring sling to Josiah Groeneweg with 7:03 left in the period before Raymond ripped a yard for another TD with 2:50 left in the half. Henderson had disgorged a fumble on a pass reception to the Tigers to set up the second tally.

But Pate boomed a 21-yard field goal on the half’s last play, and Gilmer would open up another overwhelming Ode to Offense in the third quarter.

After returning the kickoff to its 43, the Buckeyes immediately flummoxed Glen Rose as Henderson hastened 57 yards with 11:43 left in the third. Teammate Dhrvay Smith followed with a 1-yard TD with 8:07 left before Tennison threw a 13-yard tally to Ta’Erik Tate with 4:37 remaining.

Down 66-21, Glen Rose gallantly continued contesting a lost cause by toting up 21 straight points on three TD tosses by Evans. 

He dispatched a 7-yard TD toss to Adrian Sanchez with 2:04 left in the quarter, and, after Gilmer’s first punt was blocked, fired a 3-yard TD to Raymond with 10:23 left in the game.

Gilmer answered the last successful Glen Rose cannonade, a 6-yard airmail to Raymond Mendoza with 5:15 remaining. Henderson promptly wheeled 51 yards to score witih 5:04 left before Smith notched the last TD, a 26-yard roll with 4:04 left.

The final score came right after Gilmer’s Devin McDonald swiped a Tiger throw. Backup kicker Miguel Casteneda’s PAT kick try failed, leaving the Buckeyes short of the 80-point mark. 

Glen Rose was at least spared that.

But on this night, it was the Gilmer Buckeyes who came out smelling like a rose.

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