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District of Doom: 16-3A survivors Gilmer, Kilgore, Henderson still alive deep into playoffs

By Jimmy Carter
Dec. 6, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Gilmer's Buckeye Stadium will look a little bare for the next few months. And not just because there are no more home football games this year.

The rickety, wooden press box that overlooked the home side of the stadium from a hilltop since 1953 was torn down following the final home game of the season.

The structure and the home stands will be replaced in an in-depth renovation project.

Late in its existence, the old press box served as a backdrop for games that helped forge the "District of Doom" nickname for a league that included Gilmer, Henderson, Carthage and Pittsburg.

Reclassification shook up the district in the spring, subtracting Carthage and Pittsburg while adding former-4A school Kilgore, defending 3A state champion Chapel Hill and Bullard.

In the final game played in front of the now-absent press box and home bleachers, Gilmer beat then-undefeated Kilgore 20-14 in the regular-season finale to win the District 16-3A title.

The game capped a year that proved the "District of Doom" moniker still fits. Maybe even more this season than in years past, thanks to a lineup of teams that have combined to win five state titles in the last eight years.

Gilmer, Henderson and Kilgore are all still alive in the playoffs, an accomplishment no other district in any classification in Texas can boast this year. Gilmer and Henderson will face off again tonight for a trip to the state Division II semifinals, while Kilgore is a win away from the Division I state title game.

"The 'District of Doom' name might have started on other ones, but I don't think other districts we've been in have been like this," Gilmer coach Jeff Traylor said. "It's even harder than it was last time. With this depth, there's never been another one like this."

Traylor, Henderson coach Dickey Meeks and Kilgore coach Mike Wood bring a wealth of coaching experience to their current schools. None have been a part of a district that has all its teams still alive this late in the playoffs.

Just making the playoffs this season was an accomplishment.

"When you add a four-round 4A playoff team like Kilgore, defending state champion Chapel Hill and a three-round playoff team like Bullard to the district, the district is stronger," Meeks said. "I really feel sorry for a team like Bullard, which probably would have won most districts around here."

Chapel Hill was competitive in a rebuilding year, but finished just 3-7. Bullard went 7-3, but missed the playoffs, a fate Traylor feared entering the fall.

"I was sick," Traylor said. "We were going to be so young. I thought we would be fine next year, but I was really worried about this year. But we're pleasantly surprised."

For good reason.

Gilmer has won 11 consecutive games since an early-season loss to Plano Prestonwood. The Buckeyes beat Kilgore and Henderson by a combined eight points to win the district title.

They'll have to beat Henderson again tonight to advance to the state semifinals.The Lions dropped to 3-3 after their 28-26 lossin the first matchup on Oct. 13, but it was a turning point in the season.

Meeks moved Patrick "Monsta" Brown to quarterback in the second half. Brown nearly led Henderson back from a 20-3 deficit that night and has flourished in the role since, including scoring five touchdowns in a 64-35 win against Celina last week.

"I always tease a coaching buddy that it's my fault," Traylor said. "They put Monsta back there and we couldn't stop it so they kept doing it. We didn't stop him the other night. I'm not sure we'll stop him.

"You know what's going to happen, but you also knew that they were going to give it to Earl Campbell (John Tyler) and Adrian Peterson (Palestine)."

The rematch is at Lobo Stadium, site of the regular-season meeting.

And then there's Kilgore, which will be 150 miles west taking on Stephenville.

The Bulldogs entered the season ranked in the Associated Press top 10 after dropping down to 3A. They haven't disappointed, moving up to No. 4 before the loss to Gilmer.

But the Week 10 defeat hasn't affected the Bulldogs in the playoffs.

Kilgore steamrolled through the first three rounds, winning by an average margin of 26 points to set up a state semifinal clash with the Yellowjackets and star quarterback Tyler Jones, who has amassed 3,993 yards of total offense and 55 touchdowns this season.

"They're probably the best football team we've seen this year," Wood said. "Playing those tough games against Henderson and Gilmer, going through those battles and playing that caliber of team for four quarters, I think certainly does help you prepare for this type of opponent."

If the Bulldogs win, they could face Carthage in the state championship game.

It would be a matchup of old and new in the "District of Doom."

<em>(Follow Jimmy Carter: @jicartersports)</em>



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