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Gilmer’s Young But Deep Offense Leads Buckeyes into State Semifinals

Gilmer coach Jeff Taylor leads his Buckeyes onto the field before their bi-district playoff against Canton on Nov. 15 in Tyler. (Christopher Vinn,

The Gilmer Buckeyes enter this week’s Class 3A Division II state semifinal riding a 12-game winning streak.

While there have been several blowouts along the way, Gilmer has had a history of falling behind early in games. But one way or another, the Buckeyes have ultimately solved the problem just in time.

Case in point: Gilmer trailed Henderson 31-14 late in the second quarter last week. The Buckeyes scored two quick touchdowns right before the half to get within three, then scored the second half’s first two touchdowns to take control.

A week earlier against Argyle, the Buckeyes lost a fumble on their first snap of the game, which led to 7-0 deficit less than a minute into it. Gilmer responded by scoring six of the game’s next eight touchdowns to pull away.

“It’s just a thing where the kids fight to the finish,” Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor said. “We know the game’s very long, we don’t overreact. Our kids believe, we try not to look at the scoreboard too much and just keep playing.”

When the season began, there were several question marks about the Gilmer offense, which graduated the majority of its starters, including quarterback Luke Turner and receiver Darion Pollard (both at Rice).

Traylor was turning the offense over to junior Tanner Barr, who recorded 11 interceptions as a safety last year. While he never got any snaps at QB last year, Traylor said the in-game experience benefitted Barr.

“It hurt missing all those reps, but he had two senior quarterbacks playing in front of him,” he said. “But it’s helped him, just that experience of competing against high-caliber athletes on the big stage.”

Barr is one of several underclassmen on the Gilmer offense, which also consists of sophomore running backs Kris Boyd and Jamel Jackson, junior running back Josh Walker and sophomore speedster Chase Tate at receiver.

Through 14 weeks, it’s hard to call anyone inexperienced.

“They’ve all played so much,” Traylor said. “We’ve played 14 games and two scrimmages.”

Gilmer averages 39 points per game, despite the youth. Part of the reason for that is the multitude of weapons at Traylor’s disposal. Ten different receivers have caught a touchdown, and seven different Buckeyes have rushed for at least one TD.

“It’s just a program belief,” Traylor said. “We try to suit out a bunch of kids and try to give them all a job as best we can. It makes for better morale and a better locker room. It’s helped us develop a lot of players.”

Gilmer (13-1) meets Graham (13-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield. The winner will face either Navasota (14-0) or Bellville in the 3A D-I state championship game set for 4 p.m. Friday (Dec. 21) from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

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