MESQUITE -- Gilmer is returning to a familiar destination after knocking out a familiar foe.

The seventh-ranked Buckeyes punched their ticket to the state semifinals by blowing past playoff rival Celina, 43-17, for the Class 4A Division II, Region III championship on a rainy Friday night at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.

Gilmer (13-1) advanced to the final four for the seventh time since 2004, and will face Sweetwater (12-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday from Baylor's McLane Stadium. The winner will play for the championship at noon, Dec. 16, inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The Buckeyes took out their frustration on Celina (11-3), which scored 21 points off turnovers in knocking Gilmer out of the 2015 playoffs with a 49-44 semifinal victory.

Gilmer did not commit a turnover Friday, and forced the Bobcats into a couple of giveaways.

"That’s a huge factor in any game, and certainly a big game like this," said Gilmer coach Matt Turner. "We’re just excited about the way these guys are focused and keep getting better. At this time of year, if you can keep getting better, that can make you a little special.”

Aaron "Poppy" Brown, Gilmer's junior quarterback, passed for 344 yards and four touchdowns to up his school-record season total to 4,658 yards.

Gilmer senior receiver and Oklahoma State commit LaMarcus Morton caught four passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. His 63-yard reception set up the Buckeyes' first score of the night, and his scoring plays of 32 and 45 yards helped Gilmer to a 29-10 halftime lead.

“We’ve got playmakers all over the field, but LaMarcus is one of a kind. I can just give him the ball, and I know he’s gonna go make a play," Brown said.

All of the game's scoring took scoring took place in the second and third quarters, as both offenses were sluggish at the outset.

"They got after us and we misfired on a couple things, but they made it where you misfired," Turner said of Celina's defense in the first quarter. "They created some pressure and made some plays. Our O-line kinda got their bearings and got a sense of where they were at and adjusted a little bit. When they did, we settled in and protected well.”

Celina struck first when Ismael Ortiz plunged into the end zone from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter. The score capped a 15-play, 67-yard drive by the Bobcats that spanned 6:49.

After collecting just 10 yards of offense in the game's first 12 minutes, the second quarter began with a bang for Gilmer. On first down from the 35, Brown hit Morton on a receiver screen, and Morton found daylight and raced all the way to the Celina 2-yard line.

“Whenever we went to empty, our quarterback saw the corners (backing off) and they were in Cover 3," Morton said. "The play was gonna work perfectly either way. When I caught the ball I just saw open field, and I started running.”

That set up Kelton Collier's 2-yard scoring run two plays later, which tied the game at 7-7.

“It was just a lot of energy with that play," Turner said of the Morton reception. "He caught the screen and it was there, but the run after was pretty impressive against a very good defense. It kinda gave us a little jumpstart.”

Gilmer forced a Celina three-and-out, and after completions of 23 and 22 yards to Qua Heath and Red Jones, respectively, Collier ripped off a highlight reel 27-yard touchdown run to give the Buckeyes a 14-7 lead.

Collier got into the secondary, then spun through two would-be Celina tacklers, before powering his way into the end zone.

“The deal with Kelton is that’s just the way Kelton practices," Turner said. "We see those kinda things out of Kelton all the time. It was an unbelievable run, and I couldn’t be more excited for Kelton because he’s worked extremely hard.”

Collier finished as Gilmer's leading rusher with 71 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

Celina went three-and-out on its next possession, and Gilmer swelled the lead to two scores when Brown hit Morton in the middle of the field for a 32-yard touchdown. Kameryn Cuevas ran in the two-point conversion for a 22-7 Buckeyes lead with 6:04 until halftime.

The Bobcats' next drive was ended on Morgan Lusty's interception near midfled, but Gilmer was unable to capitalize.

However the Buckeyes drove 60 yards in six plays, and pushed their lead to 29-7 when Brown hooked up with Morton for a 45-yard touchdown on a post route.

“They were in Cover 3 again whenever we went empty," Morton said. "Poppy had another option, to throw it to Red Jones. But it was my speed that carried me past the corner and past the safety.”

Celina's Eduardo Paulino kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the half to cut the deficit to 29-10, but Brown fired a pair of third-quarter touchdowns passes -- a 38-yarder to Cuevas and a 29-yard strike to Heath -- to put the game out of reach.

“We were pretty focused," Morton said. "We had a good week of practice this whole week, and were seeking vengeance. Last year we were up at halftime and they came back on us. This time we weren’t gonna let that happen.”

Celina quarterback Connor Pingleton ran for a team-best 107 yards and threw for 159 yards with a touchdown on 13-of-29 passing.

[Stats courtesy,]


No. 7 Gilmer 43, Celina 17

Class 4A Division II
Region II Championship
At Mesquite Memorial Stadium

Celina           0    10      7      0    --    17
Gilmer           0    29    14      0    --    43

Second Quarter
CEL--Ismael Ortiz 1 run (Eduardo Paulino kick), 11:56.
GIL--Kelton Collier 2 run (Adan Ibarra kick), 11:01.
GIL--Collier 27 run (Ibarra kick), 7:43.
GIL--LaMarcus Morton 32 pass from Aaron "Poppy" Brown (Kameryn Cuevas run), 6:04.
GIL--Morton 45 pass from Brown (Ibarra kick), :57.
CEL--FG Paulino 33, :00.
Third Quarter
GIL--Cuevas 38 pass from Brown (Ibarra kick), 6:37.
CEL--Ortiz 3 pass from Conner Pingleton (Paulino kick), 3:03.
GIL--Qua Heath 29 pass from Brown (Ibarra kick), :28.

                                   CEL               GIL
First Downs                     21                20
Total Yards                     323             486
Rushes-Yards           46-164        26-142
Passing Yards                159             344
Comp.-Att.-Int.        13-29-1       15-31-0
Fumbles-Lost                  2-1             0-0
Penalties-Yards              4-50           8-65

RUSHING--Celina, Conner Pingleton 22-107, John Franklin 15-33, Ismael Ortiz 7-16, Christian Rivas 1-8, Major Martin 1-0. Gilmer, Kelton Collier 9-71, Aaron "Poppy" Brown 10-36, Micah McMillian 1-13, Kameryn Cuevas 3-11, LaMarcus Morton 1-7, Rashaad Ward 2-4.
PASSING--Celina, Pingleton 13-29-1--159. Gilmer, Brown 15-31-0--344.
RECEIVING--Celina, Ortiz 5-82, Rivas 5-50, Franklin 1-22, Martin 2-5. Gilmer, Morton 4-174, Collier, 4-55, Qua Heath 3-56, Red Jones 2-21, Cuevas 1-38, Dimitri Fort 1-0.