It took Pittsburg a minute to get going in Friday's showdown with Gilmer, but the floodgates soon opened and the Buckeyes had a real problem as far as finishing their District 7-4A Division II schedule as the unbeaten league champions.

Fortunately for Gilmer, it had senior linebacker Jeremy Kelly. He recorded three takeaways in a 51-35 win that was only a 38-35 contest midway through the fourth quarter and a 28-24 deficit at halftime.

If Kelly had not hauled in an interception and dived on two Pittsburg fumbles, it could have been the Pirates that became the first road team to win at Jeff Traylor Stadium since 2010.

Kelly is the + Dairy Queen Defensive Player of the Week. In addition to three takeaways, he recorded 12 tackles and finished the regular season with a team-best 96 takedowns.

Gilmer's win completed a successful five-game run through one of the toughest districts state wide in Class 4A Division II. Four of the other five teams in the league were playoff caliber squads in Atlanta, Gladewater, Pittsburg and Pleasant Grove.

Each of those teams at least made it to the postseason last year. Two advanced at least one round. Atlanta went four rounds before running into Gilmer.

The Buckeyes have been rewarded for their top finish of those teams with what is theoretically the easiest road to a third consecutive Region II championship. At least in comparison to the other three teams that made it out of the league -- Pleasant Grove, Gladewater and Pittsburg in descending order.

Gilmer will face Diboll, the fourth and final qualifier out of District 8-4A Division II, Thursday at Tatum High School in the first round of the playoffs.

Diboll struggled to one league win in its five-team district, but you know it will be at its absolute best against a team one year removed from a state semifinals appearance and two years from the state championship.

Kelly and the rest of the Buckeyes defense need more big games to get back to the promised land. Pittsburg could circle back in the third round of the playoffs. Queen Defensive Players of the Week