Lots of points, lots of yards, and explosiveness. That’s what Gilmer has been known for over the last 17 seasons under Jeff Traylor and former offensive coordinator and current head coach Matt Turner Last season was no exception to that trend as the Buckeyes averaged nearly 49 points and 500 yards of offense per game en route to another run to the Class 4A Division II state semifinals. Despite those impressive numbers, the offense was not what most impressed Turner about his team.
“I thought we had really great leadership,” Turner said of the 2016 Buckeyes, “I thought our guys did a really good job of keeping people focused on being and doing your best. We played some of our best football towards the end of the season because of it.”
It’s a position that the Buckeyes have been able to find themselves in year after year and Turner, entering his third season as head coach, always credits the kids in the program for what they’ve done to establish Gilmer as one of the best teams in East Texas and the state.
“We’ve got some great kids,” Turner said, “You have to have kids that are willing to work and commit to themselves to something and each other, trust their coaches and their teammates. I think we’ve been able to have that kind of a group each year.”
One of those leaders from that group is rising senior quarterback Aaron “Poppy” Brown. Brown was one of the best quarterbacks in the state last year, throwing for 5,013 yards and 48 touchdowns in 2016. He became only the third quarterback in Texas high school football history to accomplish that feat, joining Navasota quarterback Shelton Eppler in 2014 and Levelland quarterback Nick Gerber this past season.
The numbers are historically remarkable, but Brown is about more than the record numbers.
“Poppy’s a guy that really loves the game,” Turner said of his quarterback, “He loves to practice, to play and he’s a guy that always likes to get better. He’s a person that is very motivated to do well and he wants his teammates to do well. He’s created that kind of culture around him.”
On paper, the Buckeyes are lining up for another big year in 2017. Brown is back for the Buckeyes along with several seniors that Turner says are poised to have big years including receivers Red Jones and Qua Heath on offense, Landon Green and Todd Cain up front on the line and defensive lineman Jose Rodriguez and linebacker Garry Orr on defense to name a few.
However, Turner isn’t looking too far ahead to what the season may hold for the Buckeyes as they try to win a fourth state title. He just wants to see the team continue to show the work ethic and commitment that’s helped establish the Buckeyes as a perennial contender.
“It’s always funny to think about because you just never know,” Turner said of his team’s outlook for next season, “It’s all potential. We’ve got a good group of kids and guys who are working really hard in our offseason right now. We’re pleased with that. I think if our guys stay true to the process, we’ll put ourselves in the best position we can.”
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