Options Abound in Gilmer’s Potent Offense
GILMER -- There aren't a lot of certainties in high school football. Gilmer having a good quarterback is one of them.
Derek McKenzie. Manuel Johnson. Jamel Kennedy. G.J. Kinne. Stump Godfrey. Luke Turner. Jordan Traylor. Now Tanner Barr.
The coinciding constants that accompany those quarterbacks? Head coach Jeff Traylor and an offensive philosophy that thrives on getting as many skill players involved as possible.
This season is no different.
Gilmer (14-1), which plays Navasota (15-0) at 4 p.m. Friday in the Class 3A Division II state championship at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, has averaged 48.2 points per game in five playoff contests. The Buckeyes have scored 50 or more points in six of their last 10 contests thanks to an offense featuring a slew of playmakers.
"It's a program belief," Traylor said of getting a lot of players involved. "We just believe in spreading the ball around as much as we can. It makes for a better locker room. It makes practices more fun because it's not a one-man show ever. It's just a belief of ours and we've been fortunuate enough through the years to have a lot of great players.
"It makes them excited when they're in junior high because they know we're gonna throw and catch it. It's just a philosophical program belief of ours that's worked really well through the years."
"It's just a philosophical program belief of ours that's worked really well through the years."
-- Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor
Six Buckeyes have 200-plus rushing yards. Four of them have 600-plus. Two of those have 800-plus, including sophomore running back Kris Boyd, who leads Gilmer with 1,259 yards and 19 touchdowns on 8.2 yards per carry.
Eight Buckeyes have at least 13 receptions, 200 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Five have at least 20 catches and 300 yards. Four have at least 31 receptions. Sophomore Chase Tate leads Gilmer in receptions (56) and yardage (491), while senior Patrick Finch, senior Slade Morris, and junior Jaidon Parrish have four touchdown catches apiece.
That bevy of playmakers has helped Barr, who took over the quarterbacking duties following in the footsteps of Turner and Jordan Traylor. Barr has thrown for 2,873 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while running for 849 yards (second on the team) and five scores.
"It makes it harder on opposing defenses because they don't really know who's going to get the ball," said Walker, a junior running back who has 886 total yards and 18 touchdowns. "We have a lot of weapons we can distributre the ball to, so it makes it easier as an offense. Instead of having one person to rely on that teams can scheme around, you have many players."
Gilmer's been doing that for a while.
The 2007 team that lost in the Class 3A Division I state championship to Liberty Hill had five players with at least 18 receptions, led by Houston Tuminello's 73 and Lamar Harris' 49. That team also had three rushers with at least 617 yards: Justin Johnson (2,171), Jeremy Jackson (820), and Godfrey (617).
The 2009 Class 3A Division I state title team was even more explosively balanced. Five Buckeyes rushed for at least 318 yards, led by Godfrey's 848. Ten Buckeyes caught at least 11 passes. Twelve caught at least eight passes. Seven of them caught 18-plus passes, including Turner (42), Tristan Holt (39), Tevin Godfrey (33), and Braylon Webb (29).
Last season, six Buckeyes gained at least 265 rushing yards. Seven caught at least 13 passes, including Darrion Pollard's 84 and Traylon Webb's 41.
Another statistical parallel: eclipsing 3,000 yards apiece rushing and passing. Guess what ... the 2012 Buckeyes are about to do that, too.
Gilmer has rushed for 3,875 yards and 50 touchdowns and thrown for 2,952 yards and 28 scores. In 2011, those numbers were 3,513/45 rushing, 3,442/33 passing. In 2010, they were 3,285/53 rushing and 3,696/46 passing.
In fact, barring a poor passing performance in Friday's title game, 2012 will mark the fourth time in the last five seasons that Gilmer has eclipsed the 3,000-3,000 rushing-passing plateau. The other year (2010), Gilmer fell less than 200 yards shy in the passing category.
What's even better for Gilmer fans is how many of this year's playmakers aren't seniors.
Barr, Parrish, Walker, and DeVondrick Dixon, who has 492 total yards and four touchdowns, are juniors. Boyd, Tate, and Jamel Jackson, who has rushed for 620 yards and eight touchdowns, are sophomores. Only receivers Trey Washington (SMU commit), Patrick Finch, and Slade Morris are seniors among Gilmer's notable offensive weapons.
One veteran said Gilmer's youth hasn't mattered.
"Tanner has done as good a job as anybody has. He's a junior, but he's really a senior. He leads like a senior, and Josh as well," said senior offensive lineman Brady English. "They do a good job of keeping the skill players up and encouraging them through practices and games that we've played. They've both done a good job and it's good to have them on our team."
"(Tanner Barr) is a junior, but he's really a senior. He leads like a senior, and Josh (Walker) as well."
-- Gilmer senior offensive lineman Brady English
Gilmer hopes to keep its offense rolling against a Navasota defense that has produced eye-opening numbers in the shadow of one of the state's best offenses. Navasota, which scores 45.0 points per game, has held its first 15 opponents to 7.1 points per game. Only four teams have scored more than nine points against the Rattlers, who have yielded no more than 20 points in a game and recorded five shutouts.
The statistically comparable defenses Gilmer has faced are Kilgore and Argyle, teams that allowed 5.9 and 9.2 points per game, respectively, entering their contests vs. the Buckeyes.
Gilmer beat both, grinding out a 20-14 win against Kilgore and thumping Argyle 42-21.
Is that a sign of what's to come Friday? Who knows? But one thing is certain: like its tradition of good quarterbacks, Gilmer's ability to spread the ball to several playmakers could give the Buckeyes a shot at a championship game upset.