LONGVIEW, Texas – The Gilmer football team and its fans learned Friday night at Lobo Stadium that Pleasant Grove’s playmakers come in all sizes.
Two of the Hawks’ smallest players, K.J. Hicks and Sergio Rodriguez, combined for five touchdowns in Friday’s Region II-4A Division II final. That was more than enough to eliminate the Buckeyes, 55-21. Pleasant Grove (13-1) advances to play Region I champion Midland Greenwood next Friday in the state semifinals at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
The Hawks have now beaten Gilmer five straight times in the last three seasons.
Rodriguez returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown in the first half, and caught a 25-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Ben Harmon. The Hawks’ diminutive cornerback intercepted another Gilmer pass, returning it 93 yards for an apparent touchdown. That score was nullified by a holding penalty on Pleasant Grove.
Gilmer had few answers for PG playmakers
Hicks led the Hawks’ potent ground game with 178 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. He scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter, adding 57 and 49-yard touchdown jaunts in the second half.
“We had a huge game, 55 points against a team of that caliber,” said winning coach Josh Gibson. “We’ve got so much respect for their program, and how well they play, and how hard they play. It happened on both sides, too. We had sacks, interceptions, and popped huge runs.
“K.J. and Sergio are big-time players. That’s what’s special about high school. We’ve got some guys who are big, and some who are great athletes. Sergio is going down in our high school record books as an all-state receiver. You look at Hicks, he’s probably one of the smallest backs who is going to get a collegiate scholarship. He got a couple of offers today. They’re both special players.”
Pleasant Grove’s first possession did not go well. Junior Jaydon Griffin intercepted a Harmon pass at the Hawks’ 24. Gilmer could not take advantage, forced to punt three plays later.
Hawks’ first points come on 99-yard drive
That kick was killed at the Hawks’ 1, Pleasant Grove responded with a 15-play, 99-yard drive for the game’s first points. Junior Landon Jackson caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 11:52 left in the first half.
The Buckeyes needed only 19 seconds to answer. Senior Darrell Bush sprinted 63 yards up the middle of the field for six points.
Pleasant Grove then set the tone for the rest of the contest. Hicks climaxed a 76-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run. Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Rodriguez jumped in front of a Gilmer receiver, racing 45 yards to make it 21-7 in favor of the Hawks.
The Hawks were not perfect against Gilmer. Two plays after a Buckeye punt, an errant pitch was recovered by Gilmer at the PG 16. Bush broke free and scored with 4:08 left before intermission.
Gilmer had left too much time on the clock. The Hawks were able to put together an 11-play scoring drive. Nick Martin plowed over from seven yards with 46 seconds still on the clock.
Pleasant Grove scored on its first four possessions in the second half to blow the game open. The Hawks finished with 511 yards, including 449 on the ground. Bruce Garrett scored once, while rushing for 126 yards.
“The way our kids play together, and how they believe in each other, means the world to me,” said Gibson. “They do it in a classy way. This was a rivalry game, and it was played about as clean as it could be played. I’m just super proud of everyone.”
Gilmer’s sophomore quarterback Brandon Tennison passed for 181 yards. However, he was intercepted three times.