Henderson, Gilmer silence doubters with Class 4A DII state title victory

Photo by Jim Klenke

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ARLINGTON – Do you believe yet?

The Gilmer Buckeyes (13-3) believed in themselves, and that’s why they are the Class 4A Division II state champions following a thrilling 28-26 victory over Bellville (15-1), who entered the game heavily favored.

But the Buckeyes were the underdog entering their final three games of the season, and each one ended with Gilmer holding a trophy at midfield. The Buckeyes are celebrating the school’s fourth football state title and first since 2014.

Their incredible run of success began by defeating long-time nemesis Carthage 47-44 after entering the game two-touchdown underdogs. Gilmer was three-point dogs for the state semifinal, a game the Buckeyes won 79-42 over Glen Rose.

Gilmer entered Friday afternoon’s contest a 16-point underdog, according to the computer. Many pundits, including all but one of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football pundits (Mallory Hartley), thought the vaunted slot-T offense of Bellville and the Brahmas' stout defense would be too much.

Instead, the Buckeyes never trailed after taking a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. A significant reason for Gilmer’s success on both sides of the ball was due to the outstanding play from Will Henderson, Brendan Webb, and Ta’Erik Tate.

Henderson was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player after gaining 227 yards and a touchdown rushing while adding 53 yards on six receptions. The senior running back had two big-boy runs to close the game for the Buckeyes. Twice it appeared Bellville had Henderson stopped on fourth down attempts with three minutes remaining. Twice, Henderson broke tackles and willed his way to a first down.

Webb was the Defensive MVP after recording two tackles and one interception, which was the first and only interception thrown by Bellville quarterback Zach Lauschner during the 2023 season. Webb added 15 yards and a touchdown on three receptions and 12 yards on three rushing attempts.

Tate shined as a wide receiver and on special teams for the Buckeyes. The senior totaled 115 yards and a touchdown on six receptions while adding 114 yards on three kickoff returns and 40 yards on three punt returns. His highlight came in the second quarter when quarterback Cadon Tennison dropped a pass in the hands of the streaking Tate for an incredible 69-yard touchdown that gave Gilmer a 28-20 lead.

Bellville was led by Sam Hranicky, who gained 157 yards and two touchdowns on 13 rushing attempts. 

The Gilmer offense will receive most of the headlines, but the Buckeyes' defense shined by holding the dangerous Brahmas offense to its lowest-scoring output of the season. Bellville finished with 287 yards rushing, while the Buckeyes offense produced 462 yards, including 265 rushing.

Nothing is sweeter than silencing the doubters with a ring, or in Gilmer's case, a gold medal.


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