Gilmer extended its winning streak to 28 games with a 63-14 area-round victory over Mexia. It came a week after the defending state champions were nearly upset in the bi-district round against Pleasant Grove.

“I thought we played really well in the first round, but we gave the ball away too much and didn’t do a few of the small things we usually do. Hopefully, it woke us up a little bit. We’re fortunate to have a game like that and lived to learn from it,” head coach Matt Turner said. “I think last week we really focused on being cleaner. It brought some awareness back to the details we need to focus on to keep winning and that was nice to see.”

The Buckeyes faced a few close calls in the regular season, as well. Gilmer went through a series of changes after claiming another state championship in 2014. Former head coach Jeff Traylor moved on to the college ranks, as did star players like Blake Lynch, Kris Boyd and McLane Carter. Turner, a longtime assistant and offensive coordinator under Traylor, took a simple approach to dealing with the change.

“Our point was to not change anything. Sure, some of the people were different, but what we wanted to do and be about was going to stay the same. The system works here and we weren’t about to change that. We just went about doing what we do in the offseason and over the summer and that’s carried over to the season,” Turner said. “A lot of that is a credit to our seniors. Those guys were expected to step into the role as leaders after the last group left and that’s what they’ve done. We’ll lose 28 more seniors after this season and we’ll expect the next batch to fill those shoes, too. That’s how this works.”

One of those seniors is running back and linebacker Demarco Boyd. The Texas Longhorn commit was the Defensive MVP of the 2014 state title game and will join his older brother in Austin after his senior year.

“Demarco has done a great job as a leader. He waited his turn as an underclassman just like all the other seniors,” Turner said. “They’ve all put in the work to be leaders of this football team and that is exactly what we expect them to be. They’ve done a great job this season.”

To extend the winning streak to 28, Gilmer must beat Center in the regional semifinals.

“Center is a very athletic team with some dynamic players at the skill positions,” Turner said. “We’ll try to contain their playmakers and keep them in front of us. Offensively, we can help our defense do that by executing and staying on the field.”