PREVIEW: Explosive Offenses Collide When Gilmer Meets Melissa
CLASS 4A DIVISION II
REGION II SEMIFINAL
Gilmer Buckeyes (10-2)
Melissa Cardinals (11-1)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Mesquite Memorial Stadium
- Gilmer: Matt Turner
- Melissa: Seth Stinton
- Gilmer: def. Caddo Mills, 63-14
- Melissa: def. Rusk, 56-34
- Winner faces either Pleasant Grove or Celina, regional championship
- QB Aaron "Poppy" Brown, Sr., 5-9, 180 (216 of 339, 3,277 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs; 120 carries, 812 yards, 17 TDs)
- RB/DB Bran Webb, Jr., 5-10, 175 (139 carries, 1,307 yards, 24 TDs; 16 catches, 264 yards, 3 TDs; 22 tackles, 2 INTs, 5 PBUs, 1 forced fumble)
- WR/DB Morgan Lusty, Sr., 5-9, 150 (48 catches, 1,002 yards, 9 TDs; 42 tackles, 3 PBUs)
- WR/DB Red Jones, Sr., 5-11, 150 (49 catches, 623 yards, 3 TDs; 13 carries, 65 yards; 17 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 PBUs)
- DL Todd Cain, Sr., 5-7, 230 (108 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks)
- LB Garry Orr, Sr., 6-1, 190 (104 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 fumble recovery)
- WR/DB Tra Fluellen, Jr. (22 catches, 250 yards, 1 TD; 6 carries, 51 yards; 50 tackles, 3 INTs, 6 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles)
- WR/DB Qua Heath, Sr., 6-2, 165 (43 catches, 712 yards, 6 TDs; 22 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 INT, 2 PBUs)
- QB Brendon Lewis, Soph., 6-3, 190 (140 of 202, 2,846 yards, 35 TDs, 8 INTs; 112 carries, 1,021 yards, 14 TDs)
- RB Ja'bray Young, Soph., 5-10, 200 (133 carries, 1,264 yards, 15 TDs)
- WR Kennedy Lewis, Jr., 6-4, 195 (48 catches, 1,021 yards, 10 TDs)
- WR Tate Whittington, Sr., 6-2, 210 (36 catches, 623 yards, 11 TDs)
- RB Breelyn Armstrong, Sr., 5-8, 195 (88 carries, 634 yards, 4 TDs)
- WR Junior Castleberry, Jr., 5-9, 155 (21 catches, 472 yards, 4 TDs)
- DB Chance Mapps, Soph., 5-10, 170 (58 tackles, 4 for loss, 5 INTs, 13 PBUs, 1 blocked kick, 2 defensive TDs)
- DL Collin O'Neal, Jr., 6-1, 210 (78 tackles, 20 for loss, 7 sacks, 20 QB pressures, 4 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries)
Just the facts
- Gilmer is in the third round of the playoffs for the 13th time since 2003. The Buckeyes are 11-2 in this round since '03.
- Gilmer is averaging 48.7 points and 528.7 yards per game -- 251.2 rushing and 277.5 passing.
- Gilmer running back Bran Webb has rushed for 1,016 yards and 20 touchdowns in his last eight games.
- Gilmer is allowing 33.8 points per game, and has forced 18 turnovers -- 11 interceptions and seven fumbles.
- Melissa lost to Gilmer in the second round of the playoffs last season, 55-6.
- Melissa is averaging 46.3 points and 537 yards per game.
- Melissa and Gilmer share two common opponents this season -- Argyle Liberty Christian and Caddo Mills. Melissa lost to Liberty Christian, 21-14, in the season opener, while Gilmer scored a 60-7 win two weeks later. Melissa defeated Caddo Mills in district play, 42-15, while Gilmer won last week's playoff game, 63-14.
- Melissa is allowing 23.8 points per game.
Key matchup: Each team's rushing attack vs. the opposing run defense. Both Gilmer and Melissa can burn teams in a number of different ways when they possess the ball. Each team has a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, and a deep and diverse receiving corps. And both teams feature a talented running back that works to compliment the passing attack. Whichever team has the most success running the football could ultimately decide the outcome.
Most of Gilmer's rushing production comes from two players -- junior running back Bran Webb and senior quarterback Aaron "Poppy" Brown. Webb, who transferred in from Class 5A Division II state champion Aledo in the offseason, has been a revelation for head coach Matt Turner's offense in 2017. Webb, who spent most of the first half of the year as a role player on offense, has emerged as one of the Buckeyes' most trusted weapons down the stretch. He enters Friday's regional semifinal with more than 1,300 yards and 24 touchdowns, and most of that has come over the last eight weeks.
Melissa is built much the same way on offense. The Cardinals' top two rushers are also their running back and quarterback -- sophomores Ja'Bray Young and Brendon Lewis. Young has picked up more than 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns so far, while Lewis isn't far behind with 1,021 yards and 14 TD's on the ground.
Gilmer's defense struggled for much of the season, but rounded into shape in last week's playoff win over Caddo Mills. The Buckeyes limited the Foxes to 14 points and 234 yards of offense; the points allowed were the second-fewest for Gilmer all year. No one is expecting the Buckeyes' defense to post similar numbers this week against a much better Melissa offense, but last Friday's effort was a far cry from the previous 11 weeks when Gilmer allowed 35.6 points per game.
The numbers suggest Melissa's defensive unit has been more stable throughout the course of the season, but the Cardinals were touched up for 34 points in last week's playoff win over Rusk. However, Melissa helped turn the tide by forcing six turnovers. This game will be all about offense, but another potential deciding factor could be takeaways.
Don't be surprised if: Friday's game is much more competitive than last year's area-round meeting between Gilmer and Melissa, which was a Buckeyes' 55-6 rout. In that encounter, Gilmer jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter, effectively ending the game before it even began. For Melissa, that was the first time on a big stage for several of this season's impact players like Young and Lewis, who were only freshmen at the time.
Time will tell how much of a difference one year makes in the case of Melissa, but the Cardinals should have plenty of motivation considering how their season came to a crashing halt in 2016.