GILMER, Texas – Gilmer has scored 110 points combined in its last five games with Pleasant Grove. That might be one reason the Buckeyes have lost five straight to the Hawks.
A traditional scoring powerhouse, Gilmer is more accustomed to scoring 110 points in two games, and winning both.
Since 2017 the table was turned when Pleasant Grove handed the Buckeyes their first home district loss in nearly two decades. The Hawks went on to win the school’s first 4A Division II state championship that winter. It could have just as easily been Gilmer according to Pleasant Grove coach Josh Gibson.
The Hawks and Gilmer have played each other twice the past two seasons. Pleasant Grove has won all four by double-digit margins. The district championship is up for grabs again Friday night when the Hawks travel to Gilmer.
“It’s a typical Gilmer football team,” said Gibson. “They’re always in the top five in the state. They’re scoring a lot of points like they always do. They’re a great football program. If we hadn’t beat them the last few years, they were the ones going to state. It’s going to be another dogfight.”
Gilmer, Hawks struggled with Carthage
The best comparison between the two teams this season involves the results against top-ranked Carthage. The Bulldogs beat Gilmer, 42-14, and the Hawks, 35-7.
Injuries have slowed Pleasant Grove’s progress this season. The Hawks lost all-stater Marcus Burris in the preseason. Several players went down early, and all-everything Landon Jackson was lost for the season two weeks ago.
“It hurt losing Landon, but we got four other kids back last week,” said Gibson. “Three of those players are future college players. One was our freshman running back (Jaylen Boardley). We definitely got some game breakers back.”
Hawks’ injured players have returned
Boardley rushed for 193 yards in the Hawks’ season opener against Nashville, Ark. He returned last week after missing five games, rushing for 126 yards and two touchdowns in two quarters.
Pleasant Grove’s wing-t offense has not been explosive like recent seasons. The injuries had a lot to do with it. Logan Johnson might be the Hawks’ only 1,000-yard rusher this year. He has 855 yards and 11 TDs, averaging 10.7 yards per carry. Senior Nick Martin is the defense’s leading tackler, but plays enough offense to run for 510 yards and nine touchdowns.
Junior Jalen Woodside replaced three-year starter Ben Harmon at quarterback this year and has passed for 623 yards on eight touchdowns. His best passing games came against Argyle and Silsbee. He lost one of his favorite targets in Jackson, but Johnson, Sam Bradshaw and Martin are dangerous receivers.
The Hawks have a new offensive weapon in kicker Enrique Rios. He’s converted 34 of his PATs, while kicking five of six field goals.
The absence of Jackson and Burris doesn’t mean the Hawks’ defense is vulnerable. The starters have not allowed a touchdown in district play.
“I was expecting us to play our best game of the year last week against a very athletic Liberty-Eylau team,” said Gibson. “We did just that.”
Gilmer has several offensive weapons
Martin, Gage Stivers, Ahmajay Carter, Cameron Weekly, all performed well in the first half of PG’s 47-6 win over the rival Leopards. L-E’s only score came on an interception return in the second half.
It has been several weeks since the Hawks’ defense has been tested, and Gilmer will do that.
Junior quarterback Brandon Tennison has completed 130 of 212 passes for 2,210 yards and 24 touchdowns. Tennison is also a threat running the ball with 398 yards and six touchdowns. Senior Mason Hurt also plays some at quarterback. Hurt starts at receiver, where he’s caught 22 passes for 426 yards. Davion Smith and Jared Ward are the Buckeyes’ leading rushers. Smith had 494 yards and seven TDs, while Ward averages 11.1 yards per carry with 421 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Dylan and Rohan Flluellen are two of Gilmer’s biggest weapons, combining for 59 receptions, 1,032 yards, and 15 touchdowns. Rohan also leads the Buckeyes’ defense with four interceptions. Middle linebacker Jett Jones leads the defense with 94 tackles, including five sacks.
It does sound like a typical Gilmer football team, and they’re at home.
Regular season ends in Northeast Texas
TEXAS HIGH (5-0) at Marshall (3-2) – It’s an early meeting between the preseason favorites. The Tigers may be on the road, but they’re clearly playing better right now. Texas High wins, 31-21.
Pittsburg (1-7) at LIBERTY-EYLAU (5-4) – L-E is in the playoffs, and the Pirates could be in if they beat the Leopards. The game still has meaning for L-E. They can clinch a winning season by beating the Pittsburg, and they will, 20-14.
Jefferson (3-6) at ATLANTA (2-7) – The Rabbits can still go to the playoffs with a win. If they want it bad enough, they win, 28-19.
Harleton (5-3) at QUEEN CITY (5-3) – It won’t be decided until the fourth quarter. That’s when the Bulldogs secure the victory, 15-14.
Linden-Kildare (2-6) at CARLISLE (5-4) – Home field the difference here. Carlisle struggles before winning, 19-14.
ELYSIAN FIELDS (7-2) at Hughes Springs (5-2) – Don’t like picking against one of the best coached teams in the region, but Elysian Fields is playing well. Expect Mustangs to fall, 27-22.
PAUL PEWITT (6-3) at Redwater (1-8) – Brahmas building momentum going into postseason, 38-7.
White Oak (4-2) at NEW BOSTON (2-5) – Our upset pick of the week. Lions prevail, 21-20.
HOOKS (4-4) at Prairiland (4-5) – Hornets must play one of their best games to win, 27-21.
JAMES BOWIE (6-3) at Maud (3-4) – Can you say district champions Pirate fans. Don’t say it until the end, but we’re picking Pirates in a nail-biter, 20-18.