LONGVIEW -- Gilmer's string of consecutive wins is getting up there.

The Buckeyes picked up victory No. 21 Saturday at Longview's Lobo Stadium, but they had to earn it. Carthage gave the defending Class 4A Division II state champion everything it wanted before succumbing, 18-15.

It was the closest any team has been to Gilmer in the unbeaten span. That includes the 2014 state championship game and a five-point win against an otherwise dominant Liberty-Eylau team in Week 1 this season.

"The streak means a lot to the program," senior quarterback Zac Spears, a first-year starter, said. "It's just what we're about. We go out and play hard. We play tough. And we just play Gilmer football."

Gilmer quarterback Zac Spears completed 23 of 35 passes for 183 yards in the Buckeyes' 21st straight victory. He broke scoring with an 8-yard throw to Demarco Boyd. (Ruel Filipe, ETSN.fm)

With the win, Spears and company tied the Buckeyes teams of 2004 and 2005 for the program's best unbeaten streak. The 2005 team fell in its sixth game to Daingerfield after a 16-0 finish in 2004 and a 5-0 start that season.

Gilmer (5-0) won Saturday's game on the foot of Juan Esquivel. He nailed a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter to break what had been a 15-15 tie at halftime.

The Bulldogs (3-2) had three possessions following Esquivel's kick. Those ended on a fumble lost in Buckeyes' territory and two punts behind the 50-yard line.

Even then, things were looking decent for the upset. The Bulldogs surrendered their final possession with 4:01 left in the final quarter and all three timeouts in hand.

Kelton Collier picked up a first down on three running plays to force the Bulldogs to begin burning timeouts and then continued on to set up 4th-and-3 from the Bulldogs' 36-yard line. Demarco Boyd shut the door on a 7-yard run inside of 1:40 to play.

"It means a lot," Boyd said. "Now we're at a spot where we can rest with an open date this week. We've got to turn it on now for district, but I think we've sent a little alert to the state."

Carthage's Jarod Blissett hands the ball off to Ravodney Hardy for a 5-yard gain. Blissett completed 20 of 39 passes for 202 yards and a score while Hardy caught for 42 yards and rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries. (Ruel Filipe, ETSN.fm)

Carthage never led in the game. Yet it matched the Buckeyes stride-for-stride with one exception.

The Bulldogs' kicker hooked a 29-yard field goal attempt wide left earlier in the third quarter. If it was good, Carthage would have taken an 18-15 lead.

Boyd opened scoring with an 8-yard catch from Spears 15 minutes into the game. Collier ran in a two-point conversion.

Ravodney Hardy picked up 64 yards of Carthage's followup, 72-yard drive. Quarterback Jarod Blissett reached the end on a sneak and Rafael Hernandez hit the point after to cut Gilmer's lead to 8-7 with 3:47 left in the half.

The Buckeyes drove 56 yards through the course of the next three minutes. Cambron Granville hit pay dirt from a yard out and the team opted to kick a point after the touchdown.

Carthage put together a seven-play, 60-yard drive in the final 50 seconds of the second quarter. Blissett capped it with a 6-yard throw to Roderic Calloway.

Jarod McLin tied the game by running in a fake point after attempt.

The two sides' defenses, which dominated the first quarter, picked up play through the second half.

Gilmer receiver Zod Heath gets brought down by Ahmad Brown (48) and Mekhi Colbert (12) after a 7-yard gain early in the second quarter. Heath's dive moved the chains and set up the game's first score seven plays later. (Ruel Filipe, ETSN.fm)

Carthage forced three turnovers on downs, four punts and the intermediate-range field goal in total while also recording the game's lone interception. The unit also broke up two passes and recorded two tackles for loss.

Jordan Romero got the interception. It killed a drive approaching midfield halfway through the third quarter.

Gilmer countered with two turnovers on downs, five forced punts, the Bulldogs' missed field goal and fell on game's only fumble lost. Kollin Hurt led the way with three passes broken up of the team's six and also had a tackle for no gain.

Dustin Brown recovered the fumble on a bad exchange between Blissett and a sweeping Jakeldric Jackson. That stopped Carthage's best threat -- a 1st-and-10 at the Gilmer 35-yard line -- of its three possessions after going down by three points.

"They're a pretty prolific scorer," Buckeyes head coach Matt Turner said. "It's hard to keep them out of the end zone because they do such a good job offensively and even defensively. Their kids played incredible tonight. You don't normally think 18-15 with Gilmer and Carthage, but it was tonight."

Saturday was still a strong showing for the Bulldogs, who were 1-4 at this point last season following a 58-21 beat down against the same Buckeyes. Their two losses have come by a combined four points. The other defeat was in overtime against Hallsville from Class 5A in Week 1.

Carthage will enjoy its open date this week and begins District 9-4A Division I competition Oct. 9 at Henderson.

Gilmer also will be idle this week. It starts its District 5-4A Division II schedule Oct. 9 at home against a 1-4 Melissa team.

"We've learned a lot from our non-district schedule," Spears said. "We've played some very tough teams. It's just, for me, getting used to the speed of the game. I feel like I'm there. I feel like our team is just going to keep growing and keep getting better."

Gilmer's Demarco Boyd, a Texas commitment, barrels down on Carthage quarterback Jarod Blissett on a blitz in the first quarter. His pressure forced an incomplete pass and turnover on downs. (Ruel Filipe, ETSN.fm)

 

No. 2 Gilmer 18, Carthage 15
At Lobo Stadium, Longview

Gilmer                0    15      3      0    --    18
Carthage            0    15      0      0    --    15

Second Quarter
GIL--Demarco Boyd 8 pass from Zach Spears (Collier run), 8:33
CAR--Jarod Blissett 1 run (Rafael Hernandez kick), 3:47
GIL--Cambron Granville 1 run (Juan Esquivel kick), :50
CAR--Roderic Calloway 11 pass from Blissett (Jarrod McLin run), :03
Third Quarter
GIL--Esquivel 22 field goal, 1:05

                                                    GIL              CAR
First Downs                                  15                16
Total Yards                                  287              272
Rushes-Yards                         36-104             24-64
Passing Yards                             183              208
Comp.-Att.-Int.                          23-35-1         20-39-0
Punts-Avg.                               4-37.5          5-37.6
Fumbles-Lost                               1-0               2-1
Penalties-Yards                          6-45             4-35

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Gilmer, Kelton Collier 19-57, Demarco Boyd 5-24, Cambron Granville 4-13, Devin Smith 3-11, Zac Spears 3-10, Trendon Brooks 1-0, Unlisted Player 2-(-10). Carthage, Ravodney Hardy 11-55, Dee Hearn 2-7, Hunter Townsend 4-6, Jakeldric Jackson 2-3, Jarod Blissett 5(-7).
PASSING--Gilmer, Spears 23-35-1--183. Carthage, Blissett 20-39-0--208.
RECEIVING--Gilmer, Collier 5-66, Zod Heath 5-49, Demarco Boyd 5-31, Dimitri Fort 1-11, Granville 1-9, Preston Smith 1-9, C.J. Grimmett 1-7, Unlisted Player 1-6, Erik Bowen 1-5, Cameron Bowman 1(-5), Ryen Lawhorn 1-(-5). Carthage, Jackson 7-57, Marquise Guinn 2-52, Hardy 4-42, Hearn 1-21, Jarod McLin 3-18, Townsend 3-12, Calloway 1-6.