CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Region II Championship

Celina Bobcats (11-2)

vs.

No. 7 Gilmer Buckeyes (12-1)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Mesquite Memorial Stadium

 

Coaches

  • Celina: Bill Elliott
  • Gilmer: Matt Turner

 

Last week

 

Next week

  • Winner faces Seminole or Sweetwater, Class 4A Division II semifinal

 

Playmakers

Celina

  • QB Conner Pingleton, Sr., 6-0, 180 (99 of 158, 1,415 yards, 20 TDs, 11 INTs; 86 carries, 318 yards, 4 TDs)
  • RB John Franklin, Sr., 6-0, 190 (168 carries, 1,398 yards, 17 TDs; 33 catches, 609 yards, 9 TDs)
  • RB Ismael Ortiz, Jr., 5-6, 150 (90 carries, 720 yards, 10 TDs; 21 catches, 231 yards, 3 TDs)
  • OL Luke Melton. Sr., 6-3, 310
  • OL Hayden Reed, Sr., 6-4, 305
  • LB Hayden Shortes, Sr., 5-11, 185
  • FB Ryan Nebeker, Soph., 5-11, 160 (42 caries, 402 yards, 5 TDs; 4 catches, 27 yards)
  • SB Christian Rivas, Sr., 5-9, 185 (32 catches, 400 yards, 4 TDs; 18 carries, 111 yards, 2 TDs)

 

Gilmer

  • QB Aaron "Poppy" Brown, Jr., 5-9, 180 (312 of 463, 4,314 yards, 42 TDs, 10 INTs; 67 carries, 282 yards, 6 TDs)
  • WR/DB LaMarcus Morton, Sr., 6-1, 185 (59 catches, 1,118 yards, 12 TDs; 29 tackles, 5 PBUs; committed to Oklahoma State)
  • WR Red Jones, Jr., 5-11, 150 (54 catches, 816 yards, 9 TDs; 25 carries, 140 yards, 3 TDs)
  • RB/LB Kelton Collier, Sr., 6-0, 218 (91 carries, 799 yards, 15 TDs; 23 catches, 248 yards, 1 TD; 76 tackles, 21 for loss, 8 sacks, 6 QB pressures)
  • LB Jeremy Kelly, Sr., 6-0, 180 (124 tackles, 19 for loss, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 recoveries, 2 INTs, 1 PBU)
  • S Kollin Hurt, Sr., 6-3, 185 (125 tackles, 2 for loss, 3 INTs, 5 PBUs; committed to Louisiana Tech)
  • RB/DB Kameryn Cuevas, Sr., 6-0, 165 (71 carries, 461 yards, 7 TDs; 13 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs; 61 tackles, 11 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBUs)
  • WR/DB Qua Heath, Jr., 6-1, 160 (48 catches, 641 yards, 7 TDs; 15 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 INTs, 3 PBUs)

 

Just the facts

  • This is the third consecutive meeting in the playoffs between Celina and Gilmer. The Buckeyes won their 2014 state semifinal matchup, 67-14, while Celina won last year's semifinal, 49-44.
  • Celina and Gilmer have combined for 15 state title game appearances and 10 championships since 1995.
  • Gilmer is averaging 49.7 points and 538 yards per game -- 201.3 rushing and 336.7 passing.
  • Buckeyes quarterback Aaron "Poppy" Brown has set the Gilmer school record for passing yards in a single season.
  • Gilmer is allowing 18.3 points per game in the playoffs after surrendering 31.0 during the regular season.
  • Celina is averaging 47.8 points and 401.4 yards per game -- 254.7 rushing and 146.7 passing.
  • The Bobcats and Gilmer share three common opponents -- Melissa, Gladewater, and Pleasant Grove. Celina won those games by an aggregate score of 107-67, while Gilmer won all three, 121-44.
  • In last season's game, Celina and Gilmer combined for eight turnovers. Celina had two interception returns for touchdowns.

 

Celina running back John Franklin cruises into the end zone for the Bobcats' first touchdown against Pleasant Grove on Nov. 25 in Mesquite. (ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Celina rushing attack vs. Gilmer defensive front. In the last two meetings between these two teams, in the 2014 and 2015 state semifinals, Gilmer's offense totaled 111 points. And with a 2016 offense putting up close to 50 points and more than 530 yards per game, it seems likely that the Buckeyes will get their fair share of points Friday night. The real question is: Can Celina score enough? The answer lies with the Bobcats' running game, which is spear-headed by multi-purpose back John Franklin and Ismael Ortiz, who enter this week's game against Gilmer with a combined 2,118 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground. In three playoffs win over Emory Rains, Gladewater, and Pleasant Grove, the duo has teamed for 520 yards and seven touchdowns rushing. It is important for Celina to establish a running game for two reasons. First, it must control time of possession and keep Gilmer's explosive offense off the field for as long as possible. And lastly, Bobcats senior quarterback Conner Pingleton has experienced inconsistency as a passer this year. While his efficiency numbers are strong, Pingleton has been turnover-prone, tossing 11 interceptions in 158 passing attempts on the year.

Gilmer LB Jeremy Kelly. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Considered a weakness for much of the regular season, the Gilmer run defense has begun to come into its own of late. Gashed by the likes of Liberty-Eylau, Carthage, Nacogdoches, and Gladewater early, the Buckeyes have tightened up at the line of scrimmage, especially in the playoffs. In last week's win over Jasper, which had 58 running plays opposed to eight passing attempts, Gilmer's front held up fairly well. Jasper still put up 310 rushing yards, but needed nearly 60 carries to do it, turned the ball over twice, scored just 21 points, and failed to prevent the Buckeyes from eclipsing the 50-point plateau for the eighth time this season. The week before against Celina's district mate Melissa, Gilmer put forth its best defensive effort of the year. The Cardinals mustered just one touchdown -- a 69-yard scoring run against second-team defenders in the fourth quarter. Aside from that play, Melissa managed only 86 yards of total offense, 47 of which was rushing. Operating under the assumption that Gilmer will produce points close to its average rate, the only chances Celina have at winning is by either outlasting Gilmer in a shootout or limiting the number of Buckeyes possessions by controlling the tempo with its ground game.

Gilmer WR LaMarcus Morton. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Don't be surprised if: Tensions are especially high for both teams. This is the third consecutive year these two proud programs have collided deep in the playoffs, and both Celina and Gilmer must feel that they have unfinished business that needs immediate attention. For Celina, it's a chance to get back to the state championship game after an injury to starting quarterback Conner Pingleton in the early stages of last year's title game against West Orange-Stark took away any realistic hope of the school's ninth state championship. Not only does Gilmer remember last season's painful semifinal loss to Celina, the Buckeyes are returning to the scene of the crime -- Mesquite Memorial Stadium. Gilmer outgained the Bobcats by almost 140 yards that night, but a trio of costly turnovers, including a pair of pick-sixes, doomed the Buckeyes. While two of the last year's prime participants -- Celina's Jarren Alexander and Gilmer's Demarco Boyd -- have since graduated, there are plenty of players on both sidelines with fresh memories of last season's epic playoff battle.