KETK – In 2014, the Gilmer Buckeyes played for much more than themselves.
In March of that year, Desmond Pollard, who would-have been a senior that fall died unexpectedly.
The Buckeyes dedicated the season to him, taking the field with his number-eight jersey at every one of their games.
Then Gilmer head coach Jeff Traylor took the team to the cemetery the day before they were to play West Orange-Stark for the Class 4A Division 2 state championship.
Undefeated Gilmer entered AT&T stadium with a wave of emotions and the Buckeyes would have their work cut out for them.
The Mustangs from the Beaumont area scored the first three touchdowns of the game, jumping out to a 19-nothing lead.
But the Buckeyes put on a comeback for the ages. Even after trailing 25-7 at halftime, Gilmer rattled off 28 unanswered points to claim the school’s third state crown with a 35-25 triumph.
“It’s really a story. If anybody wants a good book to write and a great movie, it’s straight out of Hollywood. Desmond, I’ve got my nephew on this team, mu son on this team, it’s a Cinderella story. We’ve won three. This is my most special one. I don’t make those kind of comments often. But this will always be very special to me,” said Traylor.
The game would turn out to be the last high school contest for Traylor, who two months later became an assistant at Texas. He is now the head football coach at UT-San Antonio.
Blake Lynch who moved to Gilmer from Troup before the season started, scored twice in the second half, including the go-ahead touchdown. He was named the offensive MVP.
Lynch would go on to Baylor where he played five different positions, and has now signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. He’ll join fellow Gilmer state championship teammate Kris Boyd, who starred as a cornerback at Texas, in the twin cities.
“When Desmond passed I mean we got even closer. I mean it was a sad thing. But we had to, that happens in life. We have to mature and bond together. It got us closer than we ever been,” said Boyd.
DeMarco Boyd, who made the initial hit in the backfield, in arguably the biggest play of the state title game, garnered defensive most valuable player honors. Tristan Olivares would strip the ball on that play inside the West Orange-Stark five-yard line before Devin Smith recovered it in the end zone to bring the Bucs within four points at 25-21 and create a huge momentum swing that led to Lynch’s touchdowns.
Watch the video to see the highlights and celebration.