Last-Second Touchdown Sends Third-Ranked Gilmer Past Rival Gladewater In Instant Classic
LONGVIEW -- The game was hyped all week. The stands were full an hour prior to kickoff. The standing-room only crowd of more than 12,000 was left to wonder if Friday's much-anticipated showdown between rivals Gilmer and Gladewater would live up to the billing.
It certainly did.
Kris Boyd's 23-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining capped an eight-play, 82-yard drive and sent the third-ranked Gilmer Buckeyes to a heart-stopping 41-35 victory over No. 8 Gladewater in their Class 4A Division II Region II semifinal at Lobo Stadium.
The win advanced Gilmer (13-0) to the regional championship where it will face the winner of Saturday's game between Atlanta (11-1) and Tatum (7-5). Kickoff is set for next Friday night back at Lobo Stadium.
However, it's hard to imagine the atmosphere will compare to Friday's electric scene. Fans began arriving eight hours prior to kickoff, while the stadium was filled to capacity as both teams went through pre-game warmups.
"You had two proud communities and East Texas wanted to see it," said Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor. "You kinda saw this match coming the whole year. It was literally a matchup of two different styles. We could've played each other 100 times, and we would've won 50 and they would've won 50. That was a great team we beat tonight."
The game-winning drive was preceded by a fourth-down stand with 1:09 to play. A 26-yard gain on a hook-and-lateral and a 19-yard completion from McLane Carter to Quinn Fluellen gave Gilmer a first down at the 23. But instead of dialing up a pass attempt toward the end zone, Carter handed the ball off to Boyd on a draw play, and the Buckeyes' senior standout found daylight and hit paydirt.
"They (Gladewater) just were playing so much coverage," Traylor said. "We had no timeouts left, but it's never a bad idea to get the ball to Kris Boyd. If we wouldn't have made it we we're going to (spike it), take one more shot to the end zone and then try a field goal. When they work I'm smart, and when they don't work I'm a moron."
It was the fifth touchdown of the night for Boyd, who finished with 89 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to go with five receptions for 119 yards and another score.
"I had to do something for my team here," said Boyd, who will be taking an official recruiting visit to Florida State on Saturday. "Even if it wasn't scoring all the touchdowns. If it was blocking, I was going to get the job done. We just had to win."
Gladewater appeared to be on the doorstep of ending a 12-game losing streak to its arch-rival when senior tailback James Reese gained 21 yards on third-and-11 with three minutes remaining. Reese fell to the ground on his own at the Gilmer 27 in an effort to keep the clock rolling.
But on fourth-and-2, Gladewater's Daylon Mack was stopped inches short of the first down, giving the Buckeyes life.
"We always have that feeling that we can get it done," said Gilmer senior quarterback McLane Carter, who completed 14 of 25 passes for 270 yards and a touchdown. "We prepare for those situations in practice every day. I'm not saying it's the same atmosphere, but we kinda had a little preparation for it."
Gladewater (11-2) dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 34:13 of the game's 48 minutes. Two of the Bears' five scoring drives combined for 33 plays and chewed a cumulative 18:59 off the clock.
Meanwhile, Gilmer's six scoring drives consisted of only 42 plays and lasted a total of 10:01.
"What an unbelievable battle between two great communities, and we're very blessed to win the ballgame," Traylor said. "We've pulled off some miraculous things here before, but this is one of the ones at the top."
Gladewater attempted just three passes on the night, but finished with 389 total yards -- 378 on the ground. Reese led the way with 155 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Justice Centers picked up 75 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and Mack had 18 carries for 64 yards and scored twice.
"First we had no answer for the quarterback, then we had no answer for the pitch and then we had no answer for Daylon," Traylor said. "So, other than those three things we did great."
With the game tied at 21-21 to begin the second half, Gladewater went ahead on a 26-yard touchdown by Reese on fourth-and-5 with 6:58 remaining in the third. But Gilmer answered on the ensuing series with Blake Lynch racing 21 yards to the end zone. However, the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving Gladewater up, 28-27, with 4:43 showing on the third-quarter clock.
The Bears went to work after that with a 17-play, 68-yard drive that lasted 10:55 and ended with a Mack 6-yard touchdown run, which pushed Gladewater's lead to 35-27 with 5:48 remaining in the game.
Gilmer responded by traveling 94 yards in just 1:37, scoring on Boyd's 12-yard run. The Buckeyes' pass on the two-point try fell incomplete, and Gilmer trailed 35-33 with 4:11 to play. And when Gladewater recovered the ensuing onside kick, it appeared all might be lost for Gilmer.
"It's what goes unnoticed too much about my teams -- their unbelievable ability to never quit," Traylor said. "They've never given the fans a bad night, they've never not shown up in 15 years. All everybody talks about is our talent and our offense, but there's a lot of heart, a lot of hard work and a lot of tough kids in this program that don't get near enough credit for just never quitting."
Gilmer got the scoring started when Carter connected with Boyd in the flat for an 86-yard touchdown on the game's third play from scrimmage. After each team exchanged punts, Gladewater found the end zone on quarterback Nick Canaguier's 15-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Gladewater behind, 7-6, with 4:31 to play in the first quarter.
Following a Gilmer three-and-out and 22-yard punt, Gladewater took its first lead when Centers rumbled 12 yards for a touchdown. Mack ran in the two-point conversion to put the Bears up, 14-7, with 1:50 remaining in the quarter.
Jaz Tyiska intercepted a deep pass attempt by Lynch on the Buckeyes' next series, and Gladewater marched 65 yards in 16 plays and scored on a Mack 1-yard run to go up 21-7 with 5:26 remaining in the half.
Gilmer responded with a 70-yard drive that ended with Boyd's 8-yard scoring run that cut the deficit to 21-14. And after recovering on onside kick, the Buckeyes went back to work and tied the game at 21-21 on a 1-yard run from Boyd with 44 seconds until halftime.
"Walking out here before kickoff you got a few jitters going, but we had to settle down and we had to realize what we were doing out here," Carter said. "We got down and we didn't let it get to us. We had a good talk at halftime and made some adjustments, and we came out here and played hard."
No. 3 Gilmer 41, No. 8 Gladewater 35
Class 4A Division II Region II Semifinal
Gilmer 7 14 6 14 -- 41
Gladewater 14 7 7 7 -- 35
GIL--Kris Boyd 86 pass from McLane Carter (Juan Esquivel kick), 11:32.
GLA--Nick Canaguier 15 run (kick failed), 4:31.
GLA--Justice Centers 12 run (Daylon Mack run), 1:50.
GLA--Mack 1 run (Fernando Serrano kick), 5:26.
GIL--Boyd 8 run (Esquivel kick), 4:06.
GIL--Boyd 1 run (Esquivel kick), :44.
GLA--James Reese 26 run (Serrano kick), 6:58.
GIL--Blake Lynch 21 run (run failed), 4:43.
GLA--Mack 6 run (Serrano kick), 5:48.
GIL--Boyd 12 run (pass failed), 4:11.
GIL--Boyd 23 run (Chase Tate run), :09.
First Downs 18 19
Total Yards 404 389
Rushes-Yards 25-134 62-378
Passing Yards 270 11
Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-26-1 1-3-0
Punts-Avg. 3-35.0 2-30.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-44 7-64
RUSHING--Gilmer, Kris Boyd, 12-89, Blake Lynch 7-32, Jamel Jackson 4-16, Chase Tate 1-4, McLane Carter 1-(-7). Gladewater, James Reese 19-155, Justice Centers 8-75, Daylon Mack 18-64, Nick Canaguier 5-39, Cameron Callaway 2-20, Daryl Polk 8-17, Darnell McKnight 2-8.
PASSING--Gilmer, Carter 14-25-0--270, Lynch 0-1-1--0. Gladewater, Canaguier 1-3-0--11.
RECEIVING--Gilmer, Boyd 5-119, Lynch 4-37, Quinn Fluellen 3-68, Nick Smith 2-48. Gladewater, Callaway 1-11.