GUNTER — There is not a particular model for a Gunter quarterback. In each of the past three years, as the Tigers go undefeated in the regular season and now shoot for a third straight title game appearance, the senior starter behind center has been different each time.
All three have had different skill sets and physical attributes. But there has been one trait that has been passed on from Trey Carr to Daylan Bower to Ethan Everson.
“To play quarterback you’ve got to have some physical traits but you’ve got to have mental traits as well. The mark of a good quarterback is do you make the guys around you better,” Gunter head coach Jake Fieszel said. “I think Ethan has proven that through this year, whether it’s raising their standard of play or putting them in position to be better.”
Everson is looking to help lead the Tigers another step farther in the bracket as Gunter (12-0) faces Comanche (9-3) in a Class 3A Division II Region II semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday at Springtown.
The winner will face either Buffalo or Holliday in the region final next week. If Gunter and Holliday advance, it would be a district re-match.
Everson transferred from Prosper after his sophomore season, has served as the backup and seen time on defense. He led the way to a 7-on-7 state title over the summer.
“It was, yes it was my time, but I wanted to do my part of what was needed to win,” Everson said. “7-on-7 was about competition. We just love to compete. It showed we could still throw but then come the season run the triple option.”
So far this fall he has run 66 times for 409 yards and five touchdowns and also completed 68-of-108 passes for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns with four interceptions. He is less of a runner than his predecessors but more of a passer, nearly equaling their combined yards through the air in 31 games (1,480) in 12 this season.
“Ethan is a gifted passer. It just adds to our offense and our ability to attack the defense,” Fieszel said.
Gunter hung on to beat Lexington, 30-27, in one of the closest games during its three-year run of dominance. Outside of losing to Newton in last year’s championship game, which is the single defeat in this span, Lexington was the only time the Tigers have had a game — regular season or playoffs — decided by single digits.
“More of an eye-opener, knowing how far of a team we can push,” senior lineman Steele Culp said. “It comes down to how we practice and how locked in we are. We’ve been focused.”
Peyton Lowe recovered an onside kick with just over a minute remaining after Dylan Jantz ran for two touchdowns, Everson had what turned out to be the deciding TD run and Evan Gonzalez kicked three field goals. Lexington was down 16-0 at the half and got within three points twice but never took the lead.
“I’m really proud of our kids for hanging in there and getting the win,” Fieszel said. “Lexington’s one of the best teams in the state. For us to beat them that was a huge stepping stone.”
Comanche is coming off its best season in nearly two decades after making the region final in 2017 when it was a Class 3A Division I Region I team, losing to eventual state runner-up Brock and finished with a 12-2 record.
Before that, Comanche hadn’t made the region semifinals since 2000 and in the 17 years in between made it past the bi-district round just once (2009), although the team is riding six straight postseason appearances.
“They are a hard-nosed, physical football team,” Fieszel said. “They’ve won their district three years in a row, dropped down from Division I. They know what they’re getting into.”
The Indians also moved over a region in the latest realignment, winning the 6-3A (II) title with a 5-0 record.
Entering district play saw Comanche sitting at 2-3. The Indians opened the season with a 34-15 loss to Eastland and then a 14-7 defeat to Breckenridge.
Back-to-back shutouts of Clyde and DeLeon were followed by a 42-7 loss to Mason before district action.
A pair of close wins — 24-14 over Jacksboro and 22-14 over Tolar — were sandwiched between a trio of victories that were by at least 24 points.
One of those was a 28-0 win over Millsap, whom Gunter beat 69-21 to open the playoffs. On the other side, the Indians started the postseason with a 42-30 win against Nocona, which Gunter beat 49-0 in district play.
Last week Comanche had a 42-38 victory against Edgewood. Kade Mercer had 23 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns, Zach Rodriguez added 13 carries for 86 yards and two scores as the Indians scored the deciding points with 5:19 left and held on.
Mercer leads the Wing-T attack with 173 carries for 1,419 yards and 20 touchdowns with Rodriguez at 85 carries for 584 yards and nine touchdowns. Zach Foster and Trendon Morin each have run for more than 400 yards as well.
Morin has thrown for just 599 yards, attempting 86 passes, with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Price Odom is the top target with nine catches for 172 yards and four TDs.
Mercer also leads the Indians in tackles with 110, including 17 for a loss, at linebacker and Max Jimenez is next with 87 stops to pace a defense that has forced 21 turnovers and posted three shutouts.