Mount Pleasant - Beset by a tsunami of turnovers, the unvanquished defending state champion Gilmer Buckeyes finally surmounted their stumbles to pillage the Pleasant Grove Hawks, 40-36, in a Class 4A bi-district drama on Friday night at Sam Parker Field.
Gilmer (11-0) landed its 27th consecutive conquest the hard way, disgorging seven giveaways, five resulting in or setting the table for Pleasant Grove scores. Ironically, one of the Hawks' own three turnovers led to the decisive TD - Cambron Granville's 3-yard hop with 4:42 left in the game.
Gilmer opened the wooly Division II playoff with a grand gesture as CJ Grimmett returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Juan Esquivel airlifted the first of four successful PATs with 11:47 left in the first.
After an interception, Pleasant Grove evened the score when Keshawn Jones motored 23 yards with 3:10 left in the first. Dalton Hinton airlifted the first of three successful PATs.
Gilmer reclaimed the lead on Zac Spears' 33-yard scoring sling to Kelton Collier with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
However, a fumble led to the Hawks' next Sunday punch - Logan Wessley's 7-yard rumble with 9:41 left to twirling time.
Then, after Tyler Allen purloined a Spears pass, Hawks quarterback Carson Cox sneaked a yard for another tally with 2:15 left in the half.
Then, Allen filched another Spears aerial and returned it 42 yards to score with 1:51 left in the half.
However, Gilmer sliced the lead to 27-21 on Spears' 16-yard TD toss to Desmond Jones with 41 seconds left to music time. In the second half, the Hawks struck Gilmer a glancing blow on JaJuan Phillips' 76-yard touchdown thrust with 7:24 left in the third. Then, in another Buckeye fumble, Fenton hammered a 39-yard field goal to make it 31-26 with 4:54 left in the third.
But the Buckeyes finally seized the throttle after that. DeMarco Boyd whooshed 8 yards to tally with 3 minutes in the third.
Then, Spears pitched a 7-yard scoring sling to Zod Heath with 7:21 left in the game, but the quarterback's pass for 2 points failed.
Then, Gilmer defender Preston Smith's swipe of a Cox pass led to the knockout punch. Five plays later, Granville pulled off the winning TD.
Pleasant Grove (6-5) nearly fulfilled coach Josh Gibson's prophecy his team would upset Gilmer. But, instead, it's the Buckeyes who will meet Mexia in the playoffs next week.