Fast-break Buckeyes end great WO-S run
LUFKIN — The Gilmer Buckeyes are known as a big-play team.
On Saturday evening, the Buckeyes big-played one of the best defenses in the state of Texas.
Gilmer quarterback completed 17-of-34 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, powering the Buckeyes to a 35-23 Class 3A Region III Division II semifinal win over the previously undefeated West Orange-Stark Mustangs.
The Buckeyes (12-1) stormed to a 28-9 lead at intermission and then held off a third-quarter rally by the Mustangs (10-1) to earn the win.
Gilmer finished with 408 yards against a Mustang defense that allowed a mere 121.3 entering the contest.
The Buckeyes, who were without the services of star running back Jeremy Jackson due to an injury, were pass-happy throughout. They ran the ball just 21 times for 61 yards.
The Mustangs finished with 295 total yards. Standout senior quarterback Ortavious Hypolite wrapped up a stellar career with the Mustangs by completing 11-of-31 passes for 191 yards and two interceptions. He also rushed for 72 yards on 25 totes.
The Buckeyes held WO-S leading rusher on the season in Quintavious Garrett to just 21 yards on 15 carries.
"Give the Gilmer Buckeyes a whole bunch of credit, they have a wonderful football team," said long-time Mustang head coach Dan Hooks. "We knew they were capable of big plays and they certainly had their moments with them again today."
Coach Hooks wasn't surprised that Gilmer would try to air it out.
"With their tailback (Jackson) hurt, we knew they would be throwing it a bunch, but not quite like they did," said Hooks. "They had us on our heels that entire first half. We played well in the second half but never could get over the hump."
WO-S made it interesting early in the third quarter when Hypolite connected with speed receiver Josh Gloston on a 74-yard bomb that went to the Gilmer 9. On the next play Garrett barreled his way into the end zone from 9 yards out to make it 28-15 as the extra-point attempt was blocked with 8:24 left in the third.
Trey Franks set the Mustangs up well just a couple minutes later after a 47-yard punt return that reached all the way to the Buckeye 14. Four plays later Garrett blasted off right tackle for a 2-yard touchdown. Gloston then took a reverse around left end for the two-point conversion to make it 28-23 with 5:35 still in the third.
Gilmer retaliated quickly though when Godfrey hit receiver Hunter Harrison, who played a big role in the first half, on a 52-yard touchdown bomb down the right sideline, making it a 35-23 game with 4:21 still in the third.
The Mustang defense buckled down well the rest of the way, keeping the Buckeyes out of the end zone. However, the Mustang offense struggled as well down the backstretch. Hypolite threw nine straight incompletions in the final 14 minutes and had two passes picked off.
"They (Gilmer) knew we had to put the ball in the air late and they came at us with a big rush and we couldn't get it going," said Hooks. "The thing that stings the most is that we just didn't execute well in certain areas. We had some big dropped passes in the first half that hurt and a big interference call that kept one of their drives going."
Gilmer's fast-break offense moved the ball at will against the Mustangs in the first half via the air, to score four quick touchdowns.
In the first 24 minutes, Godfrey completed 12-of-18 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Using a little trickery, Gilmer also received two scoring passes from receiver Hunter Harrison, who completed 2-of-2 passes for 57 yards.
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard first on the first series of the game, chewing up eight minutes and 55 seconds off the clock while picking up five first downs as Hypolite completed 4-of-5 passes for 35 yards on the 17-play drive.
Hypolite barely missed receiver Mark Roberts on the left side of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 5. The Mustangs settled for a 23-yard Justin Sparrow field goal to grab a 3-0 edge with 3:05 left in the first period.
The Buckeyes wasted no time, navigating 71 yards in eight plays to grab the lead.
Gilmer got on the board when Godfrey tossed Harrison a lateral along the left side and Harrison hit a wide-open J.T. Beecham in stride for a 32-yard touchdown strike. Kicker Adan Olivares' extra-point was good as Gilmer snared a 7-3 cushion with 0:38 left in the first.
WO-S marched from its own 46 to the Gilmer 24 on the next series. On first-and-10 from the 24, Hypolite hit receiver Franks in the back right corner of the end zone but the ball slipped through his grasp. On the next play, Hypolite fumbled the ball away to Gilmer linebacker Gus Osborne at the Buckeye 20 with 9:56 in the half.
Godfrey hooked up with Zach Jones, who had six catches for 135 yards, on a beautiful 42-yard toss over the middle that went down to the Mustang 38. Three plays later Godfrey haded the ball to Harrison, who stopped suddenly and hit Jones on a 25-yard option touchdown pass to make it 14-3 with 8:40 in the half.
The Mustangs struggled on offense in the second period as five straight passes were dropped by receivers.
Gilmer faced a third-and-29 from its own 40 with 6:57 left but got bailed out after a pass interference call on the Mustangs that gave them the ball at the WO-S 45 with a fresh set of downs.
Gilmer struck again on fourth-and-10 from the 27 when Godfrey hit receiver Prentiss Bell on a perfect 27-yard scoring strike down the left side, upping the lead to 21-3 with 5:10 in the half.
The Mustangs responded with a five-play, 47-yard touchdown drive. Hypolite hit receiver James Haynes on a 25-yard pass over the middle that went to the Gilmer. Hypolite then found Trey Franks on a 12-yard dart and then the outstanding senior quarterback bolted up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown blast. Sparrow's extra-point was wide-right as WO-S trailed 21-9 with 1:37 left.
Gilmer didn't let up though. After Bell brought the kickoff back 40 yards to the Mustang 42, Godfrey hit Jones on a short route along the right side and the receiver side-stepped the sideline all the way down to the 3. On the next play Godfrey hit receiver Tristan Holt on a 3-yard touchdown slant, upping the score to 28-9 with 1:17 left.
Gilmer totaled 251 yards in the first half, 246 coming via the air. The Mustangs had 145 total yards. Hypolite completed 7-of-15 passes for 75 yards and rushed 13 times for 47 yards.
Gilmer now moves on to face Carthage in the Region III finals next week. Carthage throttled Rockdale 55-28 Friday night.
Hooks was thrilled with the season the Mustangs had, battling through all the issues of Hurricane Ike and they extended their District 21-3A winning streak to 29 straight games.
"Our kids, they can hold their heads up high and be very proud of what they accomplished," said Hooks. "Today, it just wasn't meant to be, but they'll bounce back. I'm really sad for this group of seniors, who had a whale of a season. We've got some young ones that will be raring to go next year. The Mustangs will be back."