Gilmer Seniors The Rock Behind Buckeyes’ Talented Crop Of Underclassmen
GILMER -- It's hard to put into words what being a senior in the Gilmer football program is all about.
But Buckeyes senior receiver and defensive back Trey Washington does a pretty good job of explaining.
“We encourage (the underclassmen), because a lot of people we have out here come from broken families or don’t have families," he said. "They don’t have a lot, so football in Gilmer is one of the only things that they have. You want them to excel at it as best they can. For them to do that, you have to encourage them, and you have to get them going when they don’t want to go.”
Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor said it's impossible to understate the significance of a strong senior presence.
“We base everything on our senior leadership, that’s what our whole program’s founded on," he said. "To senior captains, to senior meetings, mottos, to setting practice schedules, to making team rules. Our seniors are tremendously involved. A lot of that is buy-in by our underclassmen, but our seniors have done a great job of leading those underclassmen.”
Gilmer's younger players grab a lot of the headlines, mainly because of their roles on the team.
Junior quarterback Tanner Barr has thrown for more than 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns and is second on the team with 745 yards on the ground. Sophomore running backs Kris Boyd and Jamel Jackson have combined for more than 1,600 yards and 25 TDs. Chase Tate, a sophomore, has 667 total yards of offense.
And one of the anchors on Gilmer's defense, linebacker Josh Walker, is a junior who's already committed to Texas A&M.
“It feels good whenever we see them out there doing well because we know we’re doing our part as seniors to lead them and help mature them into the players they’re capable of being," said senior receiver and safety Dylan Bowman. "It’s a really great, rewarding feeling.”
Those youngsters helped a five-man group of three-year starters avenge two straight playoff losses to Argyle with a 42-21 win last Friday night.
“That was the definitely the biggest game of the seniors’ lives," senior linebacker Adam Witcher said. "All of the seniors in the past that we were really close to, it meant the world to them to see us come back and beat them.”
But it wasn't all sophomores and juniors the other night. Senior nose guard Xavier Fluellen came up big as well, finishing with 12 tackles (five for loss).
“Basically I was just telling myself that what’s happened these last two years is not going to happen again," Fluellen said. "I’m going to push myself to the fullest and the best I can.”
The victory over Argyle sent Gilmer into the Class 3A Division II Region II championship game against district rival Henderson, a rematch from the Buckeyes' hard-fought 28-26 win on Oct. 13.
“I expect us to come out and play a lot more disciplined and more physical football than what we played last time," senior offensive lineman Brady English said. "I know that they’re going to come out and play and it’s going to be a war. It’s going to come down to the very end.”
Even though Gilmer came away the win the last time, the Buckeyes still feel they have unfinished business.
In the previous encounter, Henderson appeared to the tie the game at 28-28 with less than two minutes to play, but its two-point conversion was nullified by an illegal procedure penalty. It was the third time an infraction had taken points off the board for the Lions.
“We do have something to prove," Washington said. "A lot of people around here say that we didn’t deserve the win and that Henderson should’ve won. But we don’t let things like that get to us. We just come out here and practice and play Buckeye football. This Friday, hopefully we come out focused for the entire four quarters. Hopefully the scoreboard will show that.”