Gilmer Powers Its Way Past Center In Regional Round, 36-21
TYLER -- Center called its first timeout of the second half to establish momentum. The second to become a realistic threat. Its third in an attempt sustain a tying drive against East Texas' most dominant program since the start of the 2014 season.
Gilmer gave up touchdowns immediately following the Roughriders' first two timeouts in fourth-and-goal situations, but the defense held firm on fourth-and-9 from its own 39-yard line with 3:28 to play. That allowed Gilmer to reach the end zone a final time for a 36-21 victory Friday in the Class 4A Division II regional round at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler.
"It was hard to do," Buckeyes head coach Matt Turner said. "They're so good. It wasn't like they snuck up on us. We watched the video and it didn't take long to see how talented all those guys are. Coach (Barry) Bowman has done a great job with those guys. We're excited because we understand we beat a very good football team tonight."
Center (10-3) owned a match up trump card all night in the form of junior receiver Octvaius Evans, who holds early offers from Louisiana Tech and Texas Tech. Gilmer (13-0) mostly countered with a manned up cornerback and a safety shaded toward Evans' side as backup support.
The problem, however, was it takes a good pass to get Evans incorporated into the game. The Buckeyes defensive front had Roughriders quarterback Kyle Parks running early and often en route to a 29-7 Gilmer lead through three quarters.
Parks' rushing numbers ping-ponged through the game toward 52 net yards on 23 carries. The Buckeyes recorded three sacks and three tackles for loss against Parks for a total of minus-40 yards in addition to multiple quarterback pressures.
In fact, it was a quarterback pressure that helped Gilmer put an end to a Center rally from 22 points down to just eight points inside the game's four-minute mark.
Parks evaded the first wave of pressure by rolling out of the pocket to the right side on the critical fourth-and-9 play. But a linebacker charged in from covering an intermediate passing lane and some of the initial wave recovered back into pursuit.
Center's signal caller heaved one at the last second toward Ty Wagoner beyond the sticks. The ball sailed several feet above Wagoner's head out of bounds.
Gilmer running back Cambron Granville set up a 2-yard Demarco Boyd touchdown with 1:06 to play on three carries for 62 yards to close the Roughriders' season.
Granville finished his individual night with two touchdowns and 96 yards on 16 rushing attempts despite taking a stinger on the first play of the second half and missing about three minutes. He also played a role defensively at linebacker.
"Cambron is a captain, a senior," Turner said. "It means a lot to him. A lot of the plays being made, obviously including him, you'll see it's a senior captain or someone like that. They're laying it on the line. It's a big deal for those guys."
The Buckeyes' victory extended their winning streak to an East Texas-best 29 games. The streak dates back to the first game of the 2014 season and includes last year's Class 4A Division II state championship.
If Gilmer makes a second straight appearance in the title game, Friday marked the halfway point of its playoff run.
Up next is the same Atlanta program the Buckeyes had to beat last season in the regional championship game. Atlanta topped Lorena, 42-0, elsewhere Friday.
Parks, Evans and company made a solid case their team would be worthy of the fourth round. They could have folded, facing a 29-7 hole following a 2-yard Granville run and Boyd's two-point conversion run out of the swinging gate formation with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter.
Instead, Joe Carraway returned Gilmer's kickoff 40 yards to set up a nine-play, 45-yard scoring drive. Out of Center's first timeout of the half to discuss the upcoming play, Parks connected with Marco Gutierrez from six yards away on fourth-and-goal the second play of the fourth quarter for a 29-14 deficit.
The Buckeyes punted on their fifth play of the ensuing drive.
Parks drove the team 66 yards in four minutes. Evans made his final two receptions for 30 yards, including a third-and-13 conversion, to finish with 101 yards on nine catches. The team hit a road block running the wildcat on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line and called its second timeout, but Parks responded with an 8-yard strike to Carraway to make it a 29-21 game with a little more than half a quarter to play.
Center's defense held Gilmer to a subsequent three-and-out to set up a potentially game-tying drive if it could get a two-point conversion after a touchdown. The team got neither.
"From now on out, it's going to be a grind every game," Buckeyes quarterback Zac Spears said. "We're going to have to come in, execute and score. All the teams are good at this level."
Spears helped get the ball rolling early.
He completed two passes for 25 yards and scrambled for five more yards as part of a 10-play, 48-yard opening drive capped with an 11-yard run from Granville and Juan Esquivel's extra point.
Center followed it up with a punt, its second of six in the game, and Spears completed a 40-yard drive with a 6-yard throw to Kelton Collier.
The Roughriders made it a 14-7 game with DaCorey McGee's 3-yard run midway through the second quarter.
Gilmer found the high ground for any kind of Center comeback attempt in the third quarter with a Boyd 3-yard run and Granville's second score plus Boyd's two-point run.
Atlanta has the explosiveness of Center, but it does it mostly on the ground. Running back Tyrell Phillips eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards this season in his team's win against Lorena and athlete Jeremy Smith is well past 1,000 yards.
The Buckeyes and Atlanta share a mutual interest in having Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium host their playoff game next Friday. Something official should be announced today.
"I just know they're talented," Turner said. "They're going to get after us. We'll have to get ready to play 48 minutes again like we did tonight."
Gilmer 36, Center 21
Class 4A Division II Regional Playoff Game
TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
Center 0 7 0 14 -- 21
Gilmer 14 0 15 7 -- 36
GIL--Cambron Granville 11 run (Juan Esquivel kick), 8:36
GIL--Kelton Collier 6 pass from Zac Spears (Esquivel kick), 3:44
CEN--DaCorey McGee 3 run (Arnol Escobedo kick), 7:44
GIL--Demarco Boyd 3 run (Esquivel kick), 5:17
GIL--Granville 2 run (Boyd run), 2:15
CEN--Marco Guiterrez 6 pass from Kyle Parks (Escobedo kick), 11:50
CEN--Joe Carraway 8 pass from Parks (Escobedo kick), 6:39
GIL--Boyd 2 run (Esquivel kick), 1:06
First Downs 16 17
Total Yards 250 324
Rushes-Yards 39-84 35-186
Passing Yards 166 138
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-29-0 13-27-1
Punts-Avg. 6-27.0 4-22.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-32 9-55
RUSHING--Center, Kyle Parks 23-52, DaCorey McGee 9-35, Jadus Johnson 5-3, JaCarlos Hall 2-(-6). Gilmer, Cambron Granville 14-96, Devin Smith 3-33, Kelton Collier 6-26, Demarco Boyd 6-13, Desmond Jones 3-12, Zac Spears 1-5, Trendon Brooks 1-4, Red Jones 1(-3).
PASSING--Center, Parks 13-29-0--166. Gilmer, Spears 13-27-1--138
RECEIVING--Center, Octavius Evans 9-101, Jaterious Evans 2-45, Johnson 2-20. Gilmer, LaMarcus Morton 4-74, Kollin Hurt 1-15, Ryen Lawhord 1-12, Collier 2-12, Boyd 1-11, Zod Heath 1-10, Dimitri Fort 1-7, Desmond Jones 1-0, Granville 1-(-3).