Gilmer Takes High-Flying Offense to Mesquite vs. Melissa
CLASS 4A DIVISION II
Region II Area Playoff
No. 7 Gilmer Buckeyes (10-1)
Melissa Cardinals (8-3)
7:30 p.m. Friday
E.H. Hanby Stadium, Mesquite
- Gilmer: Matt Turner
- Melissa: Seth Stinton
- Gilmer: def. Diboll, 50-28
- Melissa: def. Dallas Lincoln, 36-14
- Winner faces Jasper or Aubrey, Class 4A Division II, Region II semifinal
- WR LaMarcus Morton, Sr., 6-1, 185 (49 catches, 983 yards, 10 TDs; committed to Oklahoma State)
- S Kollin Hurt, Sr., 6-3, 185 (101 tackles, 2 for loss, 3 INTs, 4 PBUs; committed to Louisiana Tech)
- QB Aaron "Poppy" Brown, Jr., 5-9, 180 (271 of 401, 3,757 yards, 37 TDs, 10 INTs; 59 carries, 228 yards, 6 TDs)
- RB/LB Kelton Collier, Sr., 6-0, 218 (65 carries, 533 yards, 11 TDs; 20 catches, 227 yards, 1 TD; 64 tackles, 13 for loss, 5 sacks)
- RB/CB Kameryn Cuevas, Sr., 6-0, 165 (61 carries, 382 yards, 4 TDs; 12 catches, 95 yards, 2 TDs; 48 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 INT, 2 PBUs)
- LB Jeremy Kelly, Sr., 6-0, 180 (104 tackles, 19 for loss, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 recoveries, 2 INTs, 1 PBU)
- WR Red Jones, Jr., 5-11, 150 (48 catches, 733 yards, 8 TDs; 22 carries, 131 yards, 3 TDs)
- DT Wilson Nugent, Soph., 6-3, 190 (53 tackles, 17 for loss, 6 sacks, 2 PBUs)
- QB Tate Whittington, Jr., 6-2, 190 (2,066 passing yards, 27 TDs)
- RB Kaedric Cobbs, Fr., 5-8, 190 (122 carries, 1,153 yards, 15 TDs)
- HB/LB Gunner Murphy, Sr., 6-2, 225 (37 catches, 608 yards, 8 TDs; 76 tackles)
- LB Payton Wallace, Jr., 5-10, 170 (58 tackles)
- RB Ja'Bray Young, Fr., 5-8, 170 (76 carries, 786 yards, 7 TDs)
- WR Cole McCraw, Jr., 6-0, 180 (36 catches, 516 yards, 1 TD)
- CB Marvin Jordan, Jr., 5-11, 190 (3 INTs)
- WR Kennedy Lewis, Soph., 6-3, 175 (10 catches, 309 yards, 5 TDs)
Just the facts
- Gilmer is 12-0 in second-round playoff games since 2003.
- The Buckeyes outscored Melissa a combined 123-0 the previous two seasons during district play.
- Gilmer's offense is averaging 49.2 points and 536.7 yards per game -- 189.4 rushing and 347.3 passing. The Buckeyes average 68 offensive plays per game.
- Nine Gilmer players have rushed for at least one touchdown, while nine have also caught at least one scoring pass.
- Melissa has advanced beyond the third round of the playoffs just once since its 2011 state championship season.
- The Cardinals did not defeat a team with a winning record during the regular season.
- Melissa averages 36.8 points and 470.4 yards per game -- 282.3 rushing and 188.1 passing.
- The Cardinals' freshman running back tandem of Kaedric Cobbs and Ja'Bray Young have combined for 1,939 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Key matchup: Gilmer passing attack vs. Melissa secondary. It's been a breakout season for Buckeyes junior quarterback Aaron "Poppy" Brown, and it began in Week 1 when he set a school record with 577 passing yards. If Gilmer were to reach its sixth state championship game since 2004 this season, Brown would be on pace for 5,465 yards and 54 touchdown passes, which should shatter the school's single-season marks. And like most Gilmer quarterbacks before him, Brown has spread the production around, as nine players have at least 10 catches and one touchdown. LaMarcus Morton, an Oklahoma State pledge, leads the team in receptions, yards, and TD's, and is nearing 1,000 yards on the season. But the foursome of Red Jones, Qua Heath, Desmond Jones, and Dimitri Fort have combined for 139 receptions, 1,894 yards, and 22 touchdowns. Trying to keep up with Gilmer's no-huddle spread offense, which substitutes with regularity, can make for long nights on opposing defenses.
Melissa must find a way to disrupt Brown's rhythm in order to have a chance. If there is one chink in the Gilmer quarterback's armor, it's the occasional turnover bug. Brown has thrown at least one interception in eight of his team's 11 games this season, including three in the second half of a narrow 35-28 district win over Gladewater on Oct. 14. Gilmer's offense hasn't been slowed down every often, but when it has, quarterback play has been a key. In the Buckeyes' only loss this season -- 55-37 at Carthage -- Brown passed for 361 yards but needed a season-high 61 attempts. Gilmer was held to a season low 31 points against Pleasant Grove on Oct. 7, and for the only time all year, Brown's completion percentage dipped below 55 percent. Containing Gilmer's offense is a must for Melissa, and the best way to accomplish that is to rein in the Buckeyes' passing attack.
Don't be surprised if: Melissa puts its two freshmen running backs to work. Following a 1-9 finish in 2015, the Cardinals had nowhere to go but up, and thankfully for coach Seth Stinton, two pieces of a talented eighth-grade class arrived on campus. Kaedric Cobbs and Ja'Bray Young have ignited a seven-win upswing thus far by combining for almost 2,000 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns through 11 weeks. And those two may hold the key for Melissa's chances Friday night. The Cardinals would like nothing more than to limit the number of Gilmer possessions by consuming as much time as possible on offense. Gilmer averages almost eight yards per play and 68 plays per game, so the fewer snaps the Buckeyes get on offense, the better Melissa's chances of pulling off an upset become.