CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Region II Championship

Atlanta Rabbits (12-1)

vs.

No. 3 Gilmer Buckeyes (13-0)

7 p.m. Friday
Lobo Stadium, Longview

 

Coaches
  • Atlanta: Matt McClure
  • Gilmer: Jeff Traylor

 

Road to regional final

Atlanta

 

Gilmer

 

Next week
  • Winner faces Sweetwater-Celina winner, 4A Division II state semifinal

 

Playmakers

Atlanta

  • QB Chase Musgrove, Sr., 5-11, 175 (128 of 185, 2,313 yards, 25 TDs, 1 INT; 195 carries, 1,291 yards, 28 TDs)
  • RB Dequan Allen, Sr., 6-0, 185 (162 carries, 1,222 yards, 12 TDs)
  • WR Eddrick King, Sr., 6-1, 210 (28 catches, 482 yards, 5 TDs)
  • ATH Jeremy Smith, Jr. (32 catches, 857 yards, 9 TDs)
  • DE Tristan Allen, Soph., 6-3, 200 (16 tackles for loss,  9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles)
  • DT Keyuntea Hayes, Jr., 6-0, 218 (48 tackles, 35 for loss, 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles)
  • LB Cameron Schulz, Sr., 6-3, 200 (80 tackles, 16 for loss, 2 forced fumbles)
  • ATH Tyrell Phillips, Jr. (88 carries, 651 yards, 6 TDs; 79 tackles, 15 for loss)

 

Gilmer

  • ATH Kris Boyd, Sr., 6-0, 181 (73 carries, 820 yards, 19 TDs; 26 catches, 617 yards, 7 TDs; 33 tackles, INT, PBU, fumble recovery)
  • ATH Blake Lynch, Sr., 6-3, 195 (13 of 17, 289 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 55 carries, 725 yards, 13 TDs; 39 catches, 784 yards, 13 TDs; 35 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 PBUs, forced fumble, 3 recoveries; committed to Baylor)
  • RB/LB Demarco Boyd, Jr., 6-0, 205 (26 carries, 249 yards, 6 TDs; 8 catches, 90 yards, TD; 82 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 7 QB pressures, 4 forced fumbles, recovery, INT, PBU)
  • QB McLane Carter, Sr., 6-3, 180 (177 of 239, 3,192 yards, 37 TDs, 1 INT; 7 carries, 44 yards)
  • WR Chase Tate, Sr., 5-6, 150 (39 catches, 635 yards, 5 TDs; 33 carries, 440 yards, 4 TDs)
  • LB Kelton Collier, Soph., 5-10, 185 (104 tackles, 3 INTs, PBU, 3 fumble recoveries)
  • WR/DB Nick Smith, Sr., 5-11, 160 (36 catches, 736 yards, 8 TDs; 28 tackles, 3 sacks, INT, PBU, forced fumble, recovery)
  • WR/DB Quinn Fluellen, Sr., 6-2, 170 (36 catches, 517 yards, 5 TDs; 19 tackles, INT, PBU)

 

Just the facts
  • Gilmer and Atlanta have met 46 times overall and three times in the playoffs in a series that dates back to 1925. Atlanta leads the series, 26-20, but Gilmer has won the last eight meetings.
  • Atlanta's last win over Gilmer occurred in the 2003 3A Division II state quarterfinal round.
  • Prior to 2013, the second under coach Matt McClure, Atlanta did not achieve a winning record after capturing the '03 state title.
  • Atlanta is averaging 45.3 points per game, while allowing 21.4.
  • The cumulative record of Atlanta's opponents this season is 73-65 (.529).
  • Under 15th-year head coach Jeff Traylor, Gilmer has amassed a 37-11 playoff record. The Buckeyes are 4-3 all-time in the quarterfinal round.
  • Gilmer is averaging 60.3 points and 543.3 yards per game -- 242.8 rushing and 300.5 passing.
  • The cumulative record of Gilmer's opponents this season is 70-76 (.479).

 

Atlanta's Dequan Allen pushes away from Liberty-Eylau's Demario Manley during the Rabbits' 56-27 win Sept. 26 in Atlanta. (Evan Lewis, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Atlanta rushing attack vs. Gilmer defensive front. Even though the Gilmer Buckeyes survived last week, Gladewater might have presented the outline for a blueprint on how to beat them. And it involves running the ball. Last Friday night, Gladewater held a 20-minute advantage in time of possession and came within a few inches and nine seconds from ousting Gilmer from the playoffs. Gilmer's offense, normally one of the most productive in all of East Texas, is enjoying one of its finest seasons in the 15-year Jeff Traylor era. Not only does Gilmer own a robust average of 60 points per game, it averages well over 500 yards a week. As Gladewater proved last week, the best defense against the Buckeyes' potent offensive attack is to bleed the clock with a physical ground game. While Atlanta's offense, a spread attack, is much more diverse than Gladewater's, the Rabbits are more the capable of dominating on the ground. Senior quarterback Chase Musgrove and senior running back Dequan Allen are each over 1,000 rushing yards for the season, while Tyrell Phillips is inching toward 700 himself. And receivers Eddrick King and Jeremy Smith have been used in the running game as well, typically on sweeps.

Atlanta's Chase Musgrove rushes the ball upfield during the Rabbits' 55-21 win over Tatum in their Class 4A Division II regional semifinal playoff Nov. 29 in Longview. (Jim Frake, ETSN.fm)

For most of last Friday night, Gilmer's defense has no answer for Gladewater's powerful running game. The Bears only attempted three passes, yet only trailed for a little more than six minutes total -- 6:01 of the opening quarter and the final nine seconds of the contest. Gladewater employed heavy sets throughout, using a fullback for roughly 90 percent of its plays, which is a stark contrast to what Gilmer will encounter with Atlanta from a formation standpoint. Gladewater relied on its size advantage up front, and pounded away at the Buckeyes' front line with 330-pound DT/FB hybrid Daylon Mack and 220-pound pure fullback Justice Centers, then used the slashing ability of tailback James Reese for big gainers. By its very nature, the spread is designed to showcase an offense's athleticism at the skill positions by putting them in space against a defense with the hope of creating mismatches. However, Gilmer's strength defensively is its speed and athleticism, which could negate some of Atlanta's big-play capability. What Gilmer's defense must guard against is allowing the Rabbits' offense to dictate the game's tempo by getting stops on first down and then getting off the field on third or fourth.

Gilmer quarterback McLane Carter attempts a pass during the Buckeyes' home win over Canton on Oct. 17. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Don't be surprised if: We see a game that's defined by big plays and trips to the end zone. Two of East Texas' most productive quarterbacks will be on display in this one. Musgrove has put up more than 3,600 yards of total offense and accounted for 53 touchdowns in 13 games, while Gilmer quarterback McLane Carter's numbers are bordering on ridiculous. Carter enters the state-quarterfinal round with nearly 3,200 passing yards and 37 touchdowns to go with just one interception in 239 attempts, while completing 74 percent of his passes. Both defenses certainly possess their strengths, but there just appears to be too much firepower on Atlanta and Gilmer's offense for this game not to involve a fair amount of points. The Rabbits have been held to less than 34 just twice all season -- a 28-24 defeat of Henderson and 36-14 loss to Gladewater -- and Gilmer's lowest single-game point total this season is 41 points. Turnovers, like always, could be a deciding factor, but don't expect them to come from either of the two quarterbacks. Musgrove and Carter have a combined two interceptions in 424 passing attempts, which is all the more reason to expect a big-time performance from each offense this week.