GILMER - Surmounting the sidelining of their starting quarterback due to an appendectomy earlier in the week, the defending state champion Gilmer Buckeyes found a suitable understudy and dredged up a defense of denial to traumatize the Tatum Eagles, 23-0, Friday night at Jeff Traylor Stadium.
Gilmer's Desmond Boyd, while handling the pigskin sparingly, hoofed for one TD and received a heave for another from quarterback Brett Rice, making his initial varsity start after first-string field general Zac Spears underwent surgery on Wednesday night at a Longview hospital. Rice had a debonair debut, completing 13 of 20 missiles for 107 yards and a touchdown while sustaining only one interception.
Tatum's offense meantime moved the ball somewhat satisfactorily, only to burn up its motor more than once in Gilmer territory and dispense a deadly three turnovers. The first may have been a game-turning calamity when the contest was still scoreless; Josh Ivy, running from the Buckeyes' 4-yard line, disgorged a fumble into the end zone to defender C.J. Grimmett with 8:14 left to halftime.
Gilmer ambled ahead 13-0 at twirling time, but was beset on the evening by a massive 14 penalties totaling 85 yards, including two infractions which negated touchdowns and another which voided what would have been a lost Eagle fumble.
The visitors opened the fray by holding the ball more than half the first quarter with a 12-play, 58-yard offensive, only to cede the pigskin on downs with 5:44 left in the quarter. Gilmer finally awoke the scoreboard operator by plodding its way to a TD after defender Ryen Lawhorn pilfered a pass by Tatum quarterback C.J. Taylor at the Gilmer 47.
On the sixth play afterward, Boyd screamed 26 yards for the TD and Juan Esquivel airlifted the first of two successful PATs with 3:43 left in the half.
Tatum intruded into Buckeye territory again, only to be forced to punt from the Gilmer 44. From there, the Buckeyes swung 79 yards to tally in only six plays, including Rice completing four of five tosses for 63 yards.
His final throw was a 2-yard TD to Boyd with only 10.6 seconds left to halftime. Esquivel's PAT try hit the upright.
Then a peculiarity on the ensuing kickoff offered the Buckeyes a chance to lengthen their lead. The Tatum kick receiver unaccountably fell down and the kick, which fell in front of him, took a backwards bounce and was recovered by Gilmer at the Eagle 19.
But alas, for Gilmer, Tatum's Denarius Earl filched Rice's heave into the end zone on the next play.
However, the Buckeyes invaded the end zone again in the third quarter when Red Jones took a pitchout to the left 8 yards, writing "finis" to a 57-yard, 4-play offensive that began with a 15-yard penalty against the Eagles and later featured a 5-yard penalty against the Buckeyes.
Rice's beatific 39-yard run to the Tatum 3 highlighted this drive. Esquivel's PAT made it 20-0 with 2:57 left in the third.
Quickly after the ensuing kickoff, turnover tragedy hit Tatum again as Buckeye Kollin Hurt snared a Taylor aerial at the Eagle 42 and returned it to the 11. Gilmer stalled, but Esquivel concluded the night's scoring with a 21-yard field goal with 53. 7 seconds left in the third.
Tatum made one more threat, but surrendered the pigskin on downs at the hosts' 15 with only 2:07 left in the war game. The Buckeyes advanced to 3-0 in copping their 19th straight win while Tatum faltered to 0-2.