Games of 2012, No. 7: Gilmer 20, Kilgore 14
In the preseason, ETSN.fm named Gilmer and Kilgore's Nov. 9 meeting as the No. 1 game in East Texas in the 2012 season. It lived up to the hype.
The perennial East Texas powers, sharing a district with Kilgore dropping to Class 3A, were expected to meet in the de facto "District of Doom" championship, and they did just that. The defense-heavy matchup ended in Gilmer's District 16-3A championship-clinching goal-line stand, and the Buckeyes' 20-14 win is No. 7 on our countdown of the top games of the 2012.
Setting the stage: Kilgore entered the final week of the regular season with a flawless 8-0 record, ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press 3A poll, and having allowed a jaw-dropping 47 points all season. Gilmer had only one loss, a non-district defeat to private school power Plano Prestonwood Christian, and high expectations with a district title on the line in the friendly confines of Buckeye Stadium.
First impressions: Fans expected a lot of defense and physical play, and that's exactly what they got. The first couple of possessions were very hard-hitting and set the tone for the remainder of the game. Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Gilmer found its footing for a few drives that resulted in 13 points and a six-point halftime lead.
In the moment: Gilmer stretched its lead to 20-7 on Jamel Jackson's five-yard touchdown run five minutes into the third quarter, but Kilgore answered, driving the field for Cornelius Bell's two-yard score that cut the Buckeyes' edge to 20-14 entering the fourth quarter. Kilgore quarter Cooper Coldiron helped the Bulldogs get more offensive consistency in the second half with his zone-read running ability, driving the Bulldogs 63 yards in nine plays to set up a third-and-goal at the Gilmer 3-yard line with 57 seconds left. A third-down handoff to Bell was mishandled, losing two yards and giving the Bulldogs fourth-and-goal at the Gilmer 5 with the "District of Doom" title on the line. That's when Gilmer senior safety Dylan Bowman broke up a pass in the end zone with help from junior DeVondrick Dixon to secure the win. Gilmer ran out the clock after the goal-line stand.
Last impressions: Gilmer won its 11th district championship in 12 seasons and kept its district home winning streak alive, a streak that dates to 2000. The game served as a postseason litmus test for both teams, which had successful playoff runs. Kilgore won three games in the 3A Division I Region II bracket before falling 42-32 in the state semifinals to eventual D-I champion Stephenville. Gilmer also won a Region II championship, beating "District of Doom" rival Henderson in the regional title rematch before crushing Graham 50-7 in the Division II state semifinals. The Buckeyes made their fourth state championship appearance under coach Jeff Traylor, but lost 39-3 to undefeated Navasota.