By Phillip Williams
Mother Nature poured it on Friday night, and so did the Gilmer Buckeyes.
In a damp duel delayed twice by lightning–before the kickoff and during the first quarter–unvanquished Gilmer running backs’ superior speed stupefied the Spring Hill Panthers, 54-0, in a District 7-4A Division 2 downpour at Gilmer’s Jeff Traylor Stadium.
The playoff-bound Buckeyes led 34-0 at twirling time and, after the halftime was shortened by about half the usual amount of minutes since neither band performed, piled on three more second-half touchdowns in a one-sided daffy dogfight which featured the following:
–The kickoff, set for 7:30, was delayed 41 minutes with a sparse, umbrella-sprouting crowd in attendance.
–Since it was “Senior Night,” seniors in the Gilmer High band played the National Anthem from somewhere in the stadium. That was the only live music played all night as the Spring Hill band apparently never entered the arena.
–With 1:23 left in the first quarter, and Gilmer up 7-0, the game was again delayed 41 minutes.
–Halftime, normally about 30 minutes, was sliced to 14 and largely consisted of introducing the senior members of the Gilmer team. It was nearly 10 p.m. when the break came, which is about the time games normally end.
–In the third quarter, a Panther drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and, before another play was run, drew a second such penalty, resulting in his ejection and costing his offense 30 yards in field position.
–Officials let the clock run, to a limited extent, in the second half, including taking time off it on one or more PATs.
–Nearby lightning struck again in the final two minutes or so, but the officials let the nearly-over 2-hour, 41-minute fray go to its conclusion.
As for the contest itself, several touchdowns came as much as anything from Gilmer runners’ fleet feet simply outfleeing the Panther defenders on long or fairly long-distance hoofs. Gilmer’s defense meantime confiscated several takeaways from Spring Hill, which never got very close to scoring despite some limited success in the running game.
Thus came the Buckeyes’ first shutout this season in a contest that ended shortly after 10:50 p.m.
All but one Buckeye tally came by land; the other was a pass, and four different players scored one or more TDs apiece. The wet conditions–officials did not wipe the ball with a towel between plays as some officiating crews do–likely played a part in the game’s turnovers.
After the teams exchanged interceptions in the first quarter, Gilmer’s Geremiah Noble recovered a fumbled Panther pitchout, leading to the first Buckeye bombshell. Following an incomplete pass, the hosts finally reached Beulah Land on incredibly swift Will Henderson’s 47-yard shot to the right with 3:57 left in the first quarter.
Jose Govea airlifted the first of four straight successful PATs.
In the second quarter, after the second delay, the Buckeye offense started really making tracks by detonating the dam for 27 points.
First, Henderson outsped Spring Hill 36 yards to tally with 11:17 left to the break. Then, on a delayed handoff, Ke’Vion Brinkley roared 25 yards up the middle for the next six-pointer with 7:32 left in the second period.
Ashton Haynes screamed 33 yards up the middle for the next Buckeye blast with 2:59 still left in the quarter. Then Buckeye defender Tyson Wilson purloined a Panther pass at his 5 and returned it to his 48, setting up Gilmer’s last score of the half.
It came on the second play afterward when quarterback Cadon Tennison uncorked a 33-yard scoring sling to Noble with but 20 seconds left in the quarter. Govea’s PAT try hit the left upright.
Gilmer’s Point Parade was not over, despite the 34-0 lead. Although the Buckeyes fumbled away the second-half kickoff, they held the Panthers on downs at the Gilmer 36.
The hosts drew a 15-yard penalty, which didn’t faze them as Haynes promptly outran the pack 79 yards to tally with 9:16 left in the third. The holder for the PAT try dropped the snap, preventing a kick.
The Panthers’ biggest burst of the night came on their next possession when quarterback Zane Mason tore off 43 yards to the Gilmer 29 on a keeper. But after Spring Hill reached the 26 came the aforementioned two straight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties which ruined that offensive, as Gilmer’s Brendan Webb promptly filched a pass and returned it to the visitors’ 19.
Gilmer lost eight yards on the next play, only to immediately find Glory Land on Tennison’s 27-yard run with 5:10 left in the third. Govea pounded the PAT with 5:06 left in the quarter.
The Panthers continued to falter as the Buckeyes blocked a punt and took possession at the Spring Hill 27. Soon after a penalty negated a TD, the Buckeyes notched one anyway when Brinkley bopped 3 yards with about 11:14 left.
Backup kicker Omero Orona notched the PAT before Gilmer had another TD nullified by penalty, sparing the visitors further damage as they fell to 1-8.
Coach Alan Metzel’s Buckeyes (8-0) could claim undisputed possession of the district blue ribbon by pelting Pittsburg in Pittsburg in the regular season finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday. A triumph would also give Gilmer its first undefeated regular season under Metzel, who has taken the Buckeyes to state championship tilts in his first two seasons as head coach.
In the meantime, when lightning struck Friday night, it only hit the Panthers.