MANSFIELD — Gilmer is one win away from competing for its third state title in eight years.
The No. 9 Buckeyes (13-1) meet Graham (13-1) in the Class 3A Division II state semifinals at 7:30 p.m. today from Mansfield ISD’s Vernon Newsom Stadium. The winner will advance to take on either No. 1 Navasota (14-0) or Bellville (11-3) in the title game, scheduled for next week at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
The Buckeyes are in the semifinals for the first time since capturing their second state title three years ago.
Gilmer quarterback Tanner Barr, in his first season in the starting lineup, has carried on the Buckeyes’ strong tradition behind center. The junior has completed 220 of 361 passes for 2,697 yards and 22 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, plus has carried the ball 115 times for 795 yards and five touchdowns.
Sophomore running back Kris Boyd has produced 136 carries for 1,175 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead the way on the ground, while star junior linebacker Josh Walker (Texas A&M pledge) has contributed 82 carries for 532 yards and 13 TDs and sophomore Jamel Jackson has added 67 carries for 585 yards and eight TDs.
All told, the Buckeyes average 255.4 yards per game on the ground and 198.3 yards an outing through the air.
Gilmer advanced to the semifinals with a 41-34 victory against District 16-3A rival Henderson last week at Longview’s Lobo Stadium. The Buckeyes trailed by 17 points in the opening half, but scored the final 14 points of the second quarter to take momentum into the break before limiting the Lions to a field goal in the second half.
Barr completed 21 of 31 passes for 231 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (passing, rushing and receiving). Six different Buckeyes combined to produce 37 carries for 282 yards as Gilmer finished the night with 513 total yards.
Graham has been a pass-heavy team throughout the season and has been led by junior quarterback Ben Davis, who has completed 233 of 331 passes for 3,124 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions. That many yards means the receiving corps has produced big-time stats as well, led by junior Bryce Reeves’ 67 catches for 995 yards and nine TDs.
The Steers have also been productive on the ground, evidenced by junior running back Dillon Gonzales’ 208 carries for 1,323 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Like Gilmer, Graham had to rally in the quarterfinals to keep its season alive. The Steers allowed 28 points in the first half but limited Gatesville to only seven points during the final two quarters to earn a 40-35 victory.
Davis passed for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to finish the night 20 of 24 for 263 yards and five touchdowns.
Navasota (14-0) and Bellville (11-3) play their semifinals matchup at 7 p.m. today in Waller.
Meanwhile, Daingerfield, Elysian Fields and Tenaha will be representing East Texas in the state semifinals today as well.
Daingerfield (11-3) meets Wall (12-1) in 2A Division I at 7:30 p.m. from Waco ISD Stadium. The winner will face either No. 3 Newton (13-0) or second-ranked Cameron Yoe (13-0) in the championship round.
Elysian Fields (11-3) faces No. 4 East Bernard (13-0) in 2A Division II at 7:30 p.m. from Baylor’s Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco. The winner will advance to play either Sonora (11-3) or Corsicana Mildred (12-1) for the title.
Tenaha (9-4), the defending state champion, plays Falls City (11-2) in 1A Division II at the Berry Center in Cypress. The winner will take on either third-ranked Wellington (13-0) or No. 1 Munday (13-0) next week.