Future is bright for young Buckeyes
By Jimmy Carter email@example.com
Dec. 21, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.
ARLINGTON –– Josh Walker sought out Tanner Barr as soon as the Cowboys Stadium clock hit zero in the 3A Division II state title game.
Walker put his arm around the Gilmer junior quarterback's shoulder and consoled his teammate in the wake of the Buckeyes' 39-3 loss to No. 1 Navasota on Friday.
"Keep your head up," Walker told Barr.
The words couldn't take away the sting of a tough defeat that snapped Gilmer's 13-game winning streak and ended its season short of winning the program's third state title. But they helped.
The offense's signal caller and the defense's playmaker shared the moment, then turned and walked through the postgame line together, shaking hands with their opponents and taking solace in the knowledge that they have another year to make another run at the state title.
"I don't know where I'd be without that boy," Barr said. "Even though we didn't execute, I know that boy's always right there by my side. He's with me through thick and thin. Him telling me to keep my head up, that's what you've got to do.
"You can't dwell on it. You've got to move on."
Gilmer has a bright future to move on to.
The Buckeyes weren't able to get it done against Navasota, but Barr and Walker were key underclassmen who played big roles in a season that included a title in a loaded District 16-3A and five playoff wins.
Barr will be back to lead the offense for his senior year after finishing with 3,811 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns as a first-year starter. Walker will have another year to show the skills that made him a Texas A&M commit after finishing with 129 tackles and 621 rushing yards this season.
They won't be alone, either.
Gilmer will return seven other key starters and 15 more players who were underclassmen on the 2012 two-deep, many of whom were solid contributors this year.
"Yeah, we're excited because we've got a lot of kids coming back," Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor said. "But I feel terrible for these seniors. I've got 26 seniors that have kind of been in the background all year because my skill kids have been getting the ball, but are just fantastic leaders. I'm so proud of them."
It will be up to Barr, Walker and others in the Class of 2014 to take what they learned from those seniors and assume larger leadership roles next fall.
"These guys taught me how to lead," Barr said. "Next year I'll try to do the same job as they do. I just have to push the team, encourage them and be the leader on the field."
(Follow Jimmy Carter: @jicartersports)