TYLER -- If Gilmer junior quarterback Aaron "Poppy" Brown was nervous about making his varsity debut Thursday night, it didn't show.

Brown began his Buckeyes career with a record-setting performance in sixth-ranked Gilmer's wild 61-55 season-opening win over No. 9 Liberty-Eylau at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

The new Gilmer signal-caller passed for 569 yards and six touchdowns, while running for another. The yardage total broke the school record of 456 set by G.J. Kinne in 2006.

“It was great. My teammates kept pushing me even when we got down," said Brown, who was 35-of-45, completing passes to 11 different receivers. "I just want to thank my teammates. They helped me a lot.”

While Brown may have had the biggest impact, he was hardly alone.

Gilmer senior receiver LaMarcus Morton, an Oklahoma State commit, caught 10 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Kelton Collier added eight receptions for 154 yards and a score.

“Of course Pop played well, and everybody around him played well," said Gilmer coach Matt Turner. "The receivers made plays, our running backs made plays and blocked. Pop did his part of it, and that’s what he can do. He can get the ball to people, and he’s a competitive kid, and so are the guys around him.”

Gilmer (1-0) erased a 13-point deficit in the first half to grab a 28-20 lead at the break, then eventually took a two-touchdown advantage in the second half before holding off the Leopards' (0-1) late-game charge.

“That was a heckuva team we played here tonight, very talented and well-coached," Turner said of Liberty-Eylau. "It was just a great team win.”

Liberty-Eylau did most of its damage on the ground, piling up 385 rushing yards. Kevin Florence ran for a game-high 171 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, while Kameron Levingston added 119 yards and two scores.

The passing game sputtered, however, especially in the first half. L-E's quarterbacking duo of Decorian Phillips and Isaiah Cross threw three first-half interceptions, which allowed Gilmer to stay close.

Dimitri Fort, Louisiana Tech commit Kollin Hurt, and Jeremy Kelly were responsible for Gilmer's three interceptions.

“It’s always about turnovers," Turner said. "If you can get turnovers, that can turn the tide. There were some crucial turnovers that we got, and that gave us the ball a couple extra possessions and got us a little momentum. The defense, on a night when we gave up some points, we still made some critical plays that made the difference.”

Liberty-Eylau twice tied Gilmer in the second half, before the Buckeyes opened up the two-touchdown bulge.

Florence's 31-yard scoring run with 8:51 to play in the third tied the game, 35-35, but Gilmer scored on consecutive possessions to enter the fourth with a 48-35 lead. Junior running back Rashaad Ward scored from 2 yards out, then Morton dove in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown catch.

“I’m a senior and it’s my last opening game," Morton said. "We wanted to make the game fun for the underclassmen. At the beginning we were struggling a little bit. When they got ahead it was time to kick in. Whenever we’re down we’re not going to go away.”

After Florence ripped off a 39-yard scoring run, Brown hooked up with Morton again -- this time for a 36-yard touchdown pass, giving Gilmer a 54-42 lead with 8:36 remaining.

“I’m comfortable with him, and all the other receivers are comfortable with him too in practice," Morton said of Brown. "He came out here and did his thing. He spread the ball around a lot tonight, and that’s what we’re known for. If he can keep doing that continually, then I think we’ll be alright.”

Phillips' 25-yard touchdown pass to LaDerrick Gray cut Liberty-Eylau's deficit to 61-55 with 4:29 to play, but Gilmer was able to milk the rest of the clock and preserve the season-opening victory.

“(Liberty-Eylau) made some plays on us, and I’m proud of my team because we just kept battling," Brown said.

Both teams' seasons resume next Friday night. Gilmer plays host to Center in a rematch of last year's Class 4A Division II third-round playoff game, while Liberty-Eylau entertains Carthage.


No. 6 Gilmer 61, No. 9 Liberty-Eylau 55

At CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium, Tyler

Liberty-Eylau       14      6    15    20    --    55
Gilmer                   7    21    20    13    --    61

First Quarter
GIL--Poppy Brown 18 run (Adan Ibarra kick), 10:13.
LE--Kameron Levingston 1 run (Steven Goben kick), 4:06.
LE--DeAndre Hoof 10 run (Goben kick), 1:24.
Second Quarter
LE--Kevin Florence 1 run (kick failed), 4:02.
GIL--Kelton Collier 74 pass from Brown (kick failed), 3:16.
GIL--Red Jones 25 pass from Brown (kick failed), 1:34.
GIL--Desmond Jones 3 pass from Brown (Rashaad Ward run), :04.
Third Quarter
LE--Levingston 9 run (Isaiah Cross pass from Decorian Phillips), 11:01.
GIL--LaMarcus Morton 74 pass from Brown (Ibarra kick), 9:55.
LE--Florence 31 run (Goben kick), 8:51.
GIL--Ward 2 run (pass failed), 7:10.
GIL--Morton 15 pass from Brown (Ibarra kick), 2:35.
Fourth Quarter
LE--Florence 39 run (Goben kick), 9:16.
GIL--Morton 36 pass from Brown (kick failed), 8:36.
LE--Phillips 14 run (kick failed), 8:12.
GIL--Red Jones 11 run (Ibarra kick), 6:33.
LE--LaDerrick Gray 25 pass from Phillips (Goben kick), 4:29.

                                       LE              GIL
First Downs                      21               29
Total Yards                      481             642
Rushes-Yards            49-385          35-75
Passing Yards                   96             569
Comp.-Att.-Int.           5-14-3      35-45-0
Punts-Avg.                  4-38.5        6-31.7
Fumbles-Lost                   0-0             1-0
Penalties-Yards               5-39         11-85

RUSHING--Liberty-Eylau, Kevin Florence, 18-171, Kameron Levingston 19-119, Decorian Phillips 5-68, Isaiah Cross 6-17, DeAndre Hoof 1-10. Gilmer, Rashaad Ward 17-57, Kelton Collier 6-12, Desmond Jones 1-11, Red Jones 1-11, Trendon Brooks 1-8, Poppy Brown 9-(-24).
PASSING--Liberty-Eylau, Phillips 5-7-1--96, Cross 0-7-2--0. Gilmer, Brown 35-45-0--567.
RECEIVING--Liberty-Eylau, Cross 3-27, Aaron Bruce 1-44, LaDerrick Gray 1-25. Gilmer, LaMarcus Morton 10-259, Collier 8-154, Red Jones 4-49, Qua Heath 3-42, Kollin Hurt 2-20, Desmond Jones 2-18, Ward 2-1, Ryen Lawhorn 1-9, Nathan Mize 1-7, Dimitri Fort 1-6, Jordan Johnson 1-4.