BY PHILLIP WILLIAMS
The prime puzzlement for the Canton Eagles on Thursday night was that they could not fathom the Barr exam.
Gilmer Buckeyes quarterback Tanner Barr heaved for three touchdowns and 273 yards while hoofing for 103 more as Gilmer cuffed Canton, 51-36, in a Class 3A Division II bi-district ode to offense at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
Gilmer now faces the winner of tonight’s Atlanta-Wills Point rumble in Longview.
Despite dispensing four turnovers to none for Canton, the Buckeyes’ offense simply overran the Eagles defense, scoring on Gilmer’s first three possessions and never punting.
Two of the four turnovers came after the victors had toted up a virtually insurmountable 51-22 lead in the second half.
Canton made the score respectable with a handful of Big Bang scores, including an 85-yard kickoff return, but Barr was like a wood chipper to the Eagle defense.
The son of Gilmer defensive coordinator Todd Barr completed 18 of 26 slings, disgorging one interception and procured his 103 ground yards on only 10 deliveries.
Gilmer took the opening kickoff and steamed 65 yards in nine plays to tally on Barr’s 21-yard toss to Jaidon Parrish. Pablin Olivares airlifted the first of five PATs with 7:36 left in the first quarter.
Canton promptly returned fire, bounding 79 yards in six plays to score on Reece Sumner’s 6-yard hop. Scott Munroe clanged the PAT with 5:30 remaining in the first.
But Gilmer dredged up 22 straight points before Canton could tally again.
The TDs came on Jamel Jackson’s 4-yard zip, Kris Boyd’s 1-yard run, and Barr’s 49-yard airmail package to Slade Morris.
Josh Walker ran for two points after Morris’s score.
Canton narrowed the count to 29-14 with a wow near half’s end. Runner Dakota Hesskew took a direct snap from center and screamed 54 yards to paydirt.
But Gilmer rumbled downfield to tally on Barr’s 8-yard pass to Patrick Finch with only 10 seconds left to in the half and led 36-14 at twirling time.
The Buckeyes then firmly gripped the throttle as Chase Tate bopped 13 yards to score with 8:18 left in the third.
Sumner electrified the Eagles momentarily with his 85-yard kickoff return immediately afterward and ran over a two-point conversion for an encore. That made it 43-22.
Walker ended Gilmer’s scoring with a 24-yard TD trip, followed by his own run for two points, with 5:33 left in the third.
The Eagles gallantly kept up their dukes despite being somewhat hopelessly behind. In the final period, quarterback Chandler Eiland hurled TD passes of 18 and 7 yards to his brother Connor Eiland.
Munroe’s kick failed after the first of those scores. Sumner ran for two points after the last TD with 2:16 remaining.
The triumph by Gilmer (10-1) was vengeance for Canton’s 61-58 upset of the Buckeyes in the 2005 playoffs in the same stadium. The Eagles finished the campaign at 8-3.