MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas -- Pleasant Grove clashes with foe Gilmer, in their second meeting of the year, this time for the regional championship.
The Hawks (8-5) and the Buckeyes (12-1) play at Sam Parker Field on the campus of Mount Pleasant High School today at 7 p.m. in a in Region II-4A, Division II championship football playoff game.
"We have a really young team and we have gotten a lot better than we were four weeks ago," Pleasant Grove head coach Josh Gibson said. "We have two, Division I players who did not play in that game. Vic Shaw was injured on the second play of the game. Ahkhari Johnson has come back since then. Each week, he has played more and more.
"At that time, we had some guys playing both ways. We are healthier this time around and have a lot more experience. We are going to look like a different team. Our kids and people who have watched us have seen that improvement."
Gilmer defeated the Hawks, 55-14, on Nov.5 to clinch the District 8-4A, Division II title. It was Pleasant Grove's lone district loss of the season.
Sophomore standout Jaylen Boardley leads the Hawks in rushing with 1,128 yards on 162 carries and 20 touchdowns. Jojo Bailey has rushed for 616 yards on 106 totes and three scores.
QB Jarret Halter has thrown for 941 yards on 60-of-134 passing with 19 interceptions and 13 touchdowns for Pleasant Grove. Boardley leads the team with 23 grabs for 428 yards and four TDs.
The Buckeyes are led by quarterback Brandon Tennison, who has hit on 214 of 302 passes for 3,199 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. Tennison has carried the ball 74 times for 417 yards and a pair of TDs.
Rohan Fluellen is the leading receiver for Gilmer and has 67 catches for 1,081 yards and nine scores. Ashton Haynes has 136 carries for 1,117 yards and 22 TDs for the Buckeyes, a team high.
"They have three, Division I players at the skill positions -- a quarterback and two receivers," Gibson said. "Those guys are super talented and score a lot of points. Their quarterback makes good decisions and they don't turn the ball over much. Defensively, they are big and physical. They play with a lot of confidence.
"It's one of those games where there are two great teams playing. We don't want to have any turnovers or a lot of penalties. The team that can create some turnovers is going to have an advantage. We have to control the clock better in this game, which means we have to run the ball better than we did the first time out. We also need to get some steals and stops this time on defense, which we didn't do last time."
LB Reese Elrod has a team-high 123 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss, and 5 forced fumbles. Teammate LB BJ Rayfield has made 117 stops to go with 5 sacks. Kaden McFadden has 79 tackles and Coy Martin has 8 sacks to go with 3 fumble recoveries. Shaw has totaled 65 stops, including 9 for a loss.
Keilin Benton has 3 interceptions for Pleasant Grove with a touchdown, and teammates Colin Manning and Jonathan Ketchum each have 2.
Gilmer's defense is led by Matthew Burton who has 108 tackles, including 25 for a loss, and 15 sacks. Derrick Borda has 84 tackles, including 10 for a loss, and 6 sacks. Omero Orona has made 96 stops.
The winner will play either Aubrey or Celina in the Class 4A, Division II state semifinals next week.